Saturday, July 23, 2005

Bordeaux, Part One

As promised, I will recap various highlights of our European Adventure. After leaving La Rochelle, we continued down the coast of France to Bordeaux, known for--guess what?--red wine. Actually we tasted some very good white wines from the area as well, which are often sweet and rather unknown in the States. Needless to say, the highlight of Bordeaux for us was, by far, the wine.

Renting a car for a day proved to be too much hassle so, rather than drive out to a few vineyards, we made our own wine-tastings in town, visiting liquor stores with free wine-tastings out front and going to wine bars where we ordered a glass of the highlighted wine or whatever else struck our fancy. The only rule we made ourselves? It had to be from the Bordeaux area.

That proved to be even easier than we'd imagined. The wines of Bordeaux are divided into various sections: The Cotes, which comprise Graves, Sauternes, Medocs, Cotes de Bourg, Cotes de Blaye, Cotes de Castillon, Cotes de Franc, among others.

The best wine-tasting we went to was actually in a cave in center city. To enter, we descended in a tired old elevator to the basement--a dark faintly musty room. We gingerly entered, allowing our eyes to grow accustomed to the light, and looked at the list of tasting opportunities: all comprised of three wines, with each tasting levels relating to the price of the tasting. As we discussed whether we wanted to do this and which level we wanted, we heard a man call in French: "Come in, come in, it's safe. I don't bite."

We walked awkwardly in, asked for the cheapest tasting, chose all reds and entered the cave, filled with battles. The woman in charge of the tasting poured us full glasses of three reds and gave us long descriptions of each, pausing long enough between sentences to allow me to translate to the Boy. In the end, I decided I liked the Haut Medoc best--a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon--perfectly smooth with just the slightest hint of acidity. Unfortunately, our suitcases were too full to pick up a bottle for ourselves.

The other great thing about Bordeaux was how proud of their wines they were and how affordable good wines were in restaurants, at least one of which I'll write up in the next few days...

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