Bordeaux – 10 Essentials in the Wine Capital
Scarcely an hour’s flight away from Barcelona, Bordeaux is the perfect spot for a short getaway. This is an “easy” city to visit – it’s small, pedestrianised centre invites you to stroll among its stone buildings which exude the same leisurely character as its inhabitants. Well-pleased with its wines, its new Herzog & de Meuron stadium, its future venue as the City of Wine Civilizations and the advent of Joël Robuchon (with his 26 Michelin stars, next after La Grande Maison), Bordeaux gives off its touristic charm nonchalantly, in its defining elegant, bourgeois fashion. Here are some gourmet guide pointers:
1. L’Intendant – A Stunning Wine Shop
Four storeys linked by an architectural spiral staircase houses some 15,000 bottles and 600 epitomes of Bordeaux wine. The ground floor contains the labels of small producers, while the most expensive ones are accommodated on the top floor. The dearest of all – Yquem, at €6,000. Here are some good wines for far less – just allow yourself to be guided by the experts.
2. Taste Initiation at Le Boutique Hotel Wine Bar
The bar à vins (wine bar) at this charming, 27-room hotel offers excellent tastings for venturing into the world of French wines, and their sommelier, Martín Santander, speaks Spanish to wit. His “Tour de France” blind wine tasting features five bottles, prompting guests to ascertain the different French types and varieties. This is the only venue in the city that specialises in natural wines.
3. Where to Have Some Wine – the CIVBBar à Vins
The headquarters of the Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bordeaux boasts a wonderful wine bar. The bar counter dates from the 19th century and the stained-glass windows from the 20th, while the design is 21st century. You can only order wine by the glass from the wine list, at very reasonable prices – most average between €2 and €3.50, with the odd €8 option from among the Grand Cru.
4. Alliance in a Fashionable Restaurant – Garopapilles
Designer wines and cuisine in one. The chef, Tanguy Laviale, and the wine connoisseur, Gaël Morand, hold out promise of a great experience in this pretty locale, where food and drink form an inseparable tandem. The wine bar is in the entrance, while the intimate, magical restaurant is concealed at the back. In a sole, surprise, deftly combined tasting menu, the chef deploys his imagination in dishes such as foie gras on a bed of cabbage and shiitake, or velvet crab consommé. Highly recommendable haute cuisine sans tablecloth. The menu, without wine, works out at €32 at lunchtime and €62 for dinner.
5. The Best Fish – Le Petit Commerce
A fish restaurant and genuine bistro, unpretentious but with the sort of French charm that captivates. What’s more, here the lunch menu costs just €14. The cuisine of the restauranteur, Fabien Touraille, has become so popular that, with his three restaurants, he’s taken over Parlament Saint Pierre street. His goal – to popularise fish; his fish is even good on Mondays.
6. Hipster Organics – Darwin
These once derelict barracks have been transformed into a top-notch complex of sustainable, creative co-working firms, a large organic restaurant, a sports centre and soon… an eco-lodge.
7. Tempting Chocolateries – Saunion, Cadiot-Badie, La Maison Darricau
It is worth visiting at least these three vintage localities for their great chocolatier tradition – at Saunion, do try Le Gallien (caramel and praliné) and the Guinettes (fresh cherries with alcohol syrup and fondant). A speciality of Cadiot-Badie is Le Diamant Noir (grape ganache), in addition to chocolate shoes and wine bottles which make the perfect souvenir. At La Maison Darricau, don’t miss out on the Pavé (praliné, wine, sugar and cinnamon).
8. The Canelé Tradition – Baillardran
A typically Bordelais confectionery made of flour, egg yolk and vanilla which is crunchy on the outside and smooth inside. The Baillardran chain, which you’ll come across everywhere, makes them on a daily basis.
9. Hotel, Drinks and Brunch – Mamma Shelter
The affordable design chain, which has the famous Philippe Starck as a partner, features a hotel in the centre of Bordeaux. An excellent choice for accommodation; otherwise, at least drop in and have a drink in this locale at night, or brunch on Sunday – it is very cool and all the rage. Rooms from €69.
10. Street Food – Chartrons Market
This open-air market is held every Sunday on the banks of the Garonne. You have a large choice of food stalls where you can have a casual meal. Our favourite were the oyster stalls, where the price was €6.50 for half a dozen oysters.
The Bordeaux Tourist Office organises excursions to some of the quaint viticultural châteaux, as well as other activities.
Come and discover Bordeaux for yourself! Check out our flights here.
Text by Isabel Loscertales / Gastronomistas
Photos by Isabel Loscertales / Gastronomistasmore info
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Historia y vino en Saint Émilion
Named after a monk –Émilion, a sort of Robin Hood – this locality lies some 38 kilometres from Bordeaux, from which it can be reached by either car or train in about half an hour. By strolling through its steep, cobbled streets, the visitor becomes immersed in history… and wine. The aroma of Bacchus wafts through the whole town, located among vineyards planted with the Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon grape varieties.
You can soak up most of its charms in a single day, but I assure you that you will want to stay there forever. Much of Saint-Émilion’s history lies buried in the earth, conjuring up a past full of Masonic societies and secret grottos swathed in an air of mystery, adding to the appeal of this World Heritage Site town.
A must-visit sight is the Monolithic Church, the largest of its kind in Europe. Carved out of a cliff, you cannot possibly imagine its sheer size from the outside. This architectural jewel also houses catacombs where the ancient nobles were buried. Guided tours are available in various languages and tickets can be purchased at the tourist office. They are well worth getting. The guided tour in Spanish always starts at 12 a.m.
If you are an enthusiast of underground worlds, you can also visit a number of wine cellars, notably the Chateau Cardinal Villemaurine, Clos des Menuts and Maison Galhaud, to name but a few. In all, there are over 100 châteaux where you can taste all kinds of wines with the DO Saint Émilion. A word of warning – during the tastings, remember to spit out the wine from time to time, to avoid it going to your head and having to regret something you did the day before.
Strolling Through the Town
The area surrounding the town offers picture postcard scenery and romantic walks. Strolling up and down the steep streets holding hands with your partner makes for what feels like an obstacle race over uneven cobblestones, as if it were a metaphor of love.
Your stroll will lead you to the Gate de La Cadène, an archway separating the upper part of the town, home to the wealthy classes, from the lower part, inhabited by the peasants.
In the Middle Ages, Saint-Émilion was defended by a fortified enclosure, the wall stretching some 1,500 metres. Access to the town was via six gates – the Porte Bourgeoise in the north, Porte Brunet in the east, Chanoines and Saint-Martin in the west, and Porte Bouqueyre or Bouquière and Sainte-Marie in the south. The Porte Brunet, which leads into the vineyards, is the only one which has been preserved virtually intact. It is well worth coming to this side of the town where all you can hear is the sound of bird song.
Another monument visible from most of the town is the King’s Tower. You can visit the top for €1.5 and soak up the views, which leave you speechless.
Macaroons For Afternoon Tea
Before Ladurée reinvented the formula, making them double and in various colours and flavours, macarons had long existed as a spongy almond biscuit with a great tradition in towns such as Saint-Émilion. In the 17th century, the Ursuline nuns in this locality were tasked with harvesting the almonds and using them in their pastries, which is how macaroons were created. They are still famous throughout the region. You can purchase them in two shops with a long-standing tradition in the town – Matthieu Mouliérac and Fabrique des Véritables Macarons. If you are really sweet-toothed and still require a further injection of sugar, try their canelés, small pastries typical of Bordeaux. The recipe was also developed by a monastic order, this time in the 16th century. Absolutely delicieux!
Brasseries, Foie Gras and Cheese For Dinner
There are numerous restaurants offering traditional cuisine, as well as brasseries, the ideal venues for having canard (duck) and entrecôte. If you fancy eating typical French cheeses, some foie gras and even some oysters while tasting a selection of wines, the restaurant L’Envers du Décor is the ideal spot. They have a small patio for warm summer evenings and their wine list is as long as a Cervantes novel. Let the waiter recommend what to order and abandon yourself to the aromas of Dionysius.
Discover the joie de vivre, book your Vueling to Bordeaux and have a good time!
Photos by Antonio Caballero
Wine and Classical Music
Not for nothing is the small town of Saint-Émilion a veritable magnet for wine lovers. The surrounding farmland is blessed as one of the leading red wine producing areas in Bordeaux, along with the Médoc, Graves and Pomerol. Celebrated worldwide, each year it attracts wine connoisseurs, tourists and passers-by who roam from one chateau to the next in search of the best local wine. But, that is not the only reason they come here. They are also drawn by the magic enveloping this town of steep, narrow streets, Romanesque churches and picturesque ruins which, alongside the vineyards, make up an irresistibly charming ensemble. No wonder, then, that Saint-Émilion and its environs are listed as World Heritage by UNESCO.
Saint-Émilion is named after the monk Émilion, who settled here in the 8th century and was credited with performing a number of miracles. The monks that were gradually drawn to the area were instrumental in getting the wine-marketing business off the ground, based on the vineyards which have been tended in Saint-Émilion since Roman times.
A must-visit destination for wine connoisseurs, the town features numerous landmarks well worth visiting. Its Monolithic Church is one of these. Carved out of a cliff from the 12th to the 15th century, its interior is surprisingly spacious and the complex is crowned with a lofty tower. Other highlights of Saint-Émilion include the Collegiate complex and the Cordeliers Cloister.
And, needless to say, there are always the chateaux, which can be visited as part of tours offered by the Saint-Émilion Tourist Office. But, why not strike out on a different kind of visit. Here’s how…
Les Grandes Heures de Saint-Émilion
When planning your visit to Saint-Émilion, we suggest you factor in one of the leading local festivals, Les Grandes Heures de Saint-Émilion. What makes this festival so special is that it is the only way to visit some of the region’s magnificent chateaux where this splendid, popular wine is made, in a unique, out-of-the-ordinary setting. The programme features classical music concerts accompanied by wine tasting sessions, endowing a visit to the wine cellar with a wholly different dimension. The festival opens in March and runs until December, when the last concert is held. This year, the first concert is scheduled to take place in the Château Fombrauge on 29 March.
The sites where you can enjoy this experience include the Château Soutard, Château de Pressac, Château Angélus, Château Cantenac, Château Fombrauge and Château Cheval Blanc, known for being one of the few producers whose wine is designated Premier grand cru classé A.But the programme is not limited to the wine cellars dotting the area; some of the concerts are also held at such emblematic sites as the Monolithic Church of Saint-Émilion. Be sure to book your ticket in advance.
Book your Vueling to Bordeaux, which lies just 40 kilometres from Saint-Émilion, and get to know one of France’s leading wine-producing areas.
Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS
Image by Tim Snell