I’ve decided that I’m just going to have to move to the South of France. Bordeaux was absolutely lovely this weekend, and a completely different experience from Paris, Tours, or the rest of the center of France.
Seven girls (four Canadians, two Americans, and a Scot) piled into a train on Friday morning and set out for the land of vineyards and sunshine. As soon as we got to the city, it was obvious that we were in a new region. The architecture, dialect, and general attitude were so much more relaxed than those of the North. Hundreds of people sunbathed in parks and on the main plaza while street bands played and candy vendors pushed their carts up and down the alleys. It felt more like New Orleans than France!
We spent most of Friday exploring the main areas of town and people-watching. We enjoyed a bottle of wine in the city park, and visited the main cathedral and shopping district. We couldn’t have asked for better weather or a friendlier atmosphere-it was a beautiful day.
On Saturday morning, we were picked up by our personal driver and taken on a private tour of the countryside outside of Bordeaux (No, I can’t believe my life here, either). We strolled through the cobblestone streets of Saint Emilion, an ancient village about an hour away from the city, and visited the Christian Gombard Vineyard, where the proprietor himself took us through every step of the red wine-making process, from growing the grapes to bottling it all up. Some of my favorite fun facts:
1. During the growing process, about half the grapes in the vineyard are thrown out for various quality-control reasons. It takes a lot of work to make just a little product!
2. There’s no difference in species between the different types of red wine (Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet, etc.) The grapes are just picked at different times. Merlots are sweeter because the grapes are picked about fifteen days later than the other grapes, allowing for more sugar to accumulate in the fruit.
3. Bordeaux is famous for blending two or more types of wine to create unique flavors. See-sometimes it’s a good thing to mix your alcohols!
4. The wine is stored in huge wooden barrels for several months to finish fermenting, and the type of wood used helps to flavor the wine even more. Each barrel at the vineyard we visited holds about sixty gallons of wine.
5. It takes about two years for a grape to go from harvest to the bottle, but it’s worth it to wait even longer for a more fully flavored wine.
We even got to taste a few of the owner’s personal favorites, and he gave us a crash course on how to properly taste a high-quality wine. It was all very fancy-we spent more time giggling over how ridiculous we looked than anything else-but very fun and informative. Definitely something every French study-abroader should learn!
What a beautiful country and an exciting weekend. After having spent only 36 hours in Bordeaux, I’ve fallen in love. I can’t wait to return someday to see more of what the region has to offer.