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At first view visiting the Bordeaux vineyards in winter may not seem very appealing; the weather isn't always great, the leaves have fallen from the vines making landscape look a bit bleak. But I would encourage you to think again.
Why? Two main reasons; firstly you will have the place to yourself. As there are fewer visitors in the winter, the chateau have more time on their hands to offer up a warm welcome, and get into the nitty-gritty of wine making. Perfect timing for wine geeks who want to ask lots of questions. Don't be frightened of the cold, the chateaux will offer a warm welcome often with open fires, and you always have the wines to keep you warm - bottled sunshine.
It's a great time to start your Christmas shopping too. Bottles of course but the boutiques in the chateaux have lots of other gift ideas and wine paraphernalia. Call in to Château de Cerons to see their Christmas decorations and buy some local foodie specialities. Relais and Chateau hotel and Michelin star restaurant Cordeillan Bages offers 'secret Box' gift vouchers valid 12 months; you can offer a lunch, a diner or night at the hotel. Even better offer it to a partner and you can share the perfect gift that keeps on giving.
The sweet white wines of Bordeaux are classic festive drinking, a trip down to the South of Bordeaux to sweet wine country will get you in the festive spirit. These wines are traditionally paired with seasonal specialities such as foie gras but also go brilliantly with turkey with cranberry sauce and of course blue cheese and Christmas pudding. What could be more seasonal than sipping a glass of Sweet Bordeaux by a roaring fire? Go and find out for yourself at the Restaurant La Chapelle of Château Guiraud.
On the theme of food and wine matching, how about taking a cooking class to discover some regional and seasonal specialities? Chateau Gruaud Larose offers cooking classes on the left bank in Saint Julien as does Château Soutard in Saint Emilion. Practise your cuisine skills in the run up to Christmas and understand how to match the chateau wines with Christmas fare.
The vineyards, in spite of their lack of foliage, can open up some very special vistas. Spring frosts can seriously damage vines but at this time of year, when vines are dormant, frost is a friend killing bugs and creating beautiful wintery scenes. Enjoy the sight of the white hoar frost across the vines in the morning with plumes of smoke rising amongst the vines as workers prune their way through the winter landscape.
While in the Médoc, call in at Chateau Lanessan. Bordeaux may not have any reindeer, but you can wrap up warm and discover the joys of visiting the winter vineyards in a horse drawn carriage.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a trip to Bordeaux in the New Year.
By Wendy Narby