Festive fun in Bordeaux

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You will receive a warm welcome too; properties aren't as busy as in the high season leaving more time to spend with visitors. There's things happening in the cellars such as vats being run off into barrels and in the vines, on a clear day, you may see the beginning of winter pruning with columns of smoke rising up as workers burn the vine clippings. Then there's the joy of sitting by a roaring fire with a glass of Bordeaux.

In December, Julien Lefebvre, the Michelin star chef of Cordeillan Bages in Pauillac, works his magic at neighbouring Café Lavinal, so call in there for some local seasonal fare. Cordeillan is also a great place for Christmas gift ideas, treats such a 2-hour (electric) bike ride through the vines, including either a buffet breakfast, a gourmet picnic or lunch at Café la Vinal. Or perhaps a chateau visit and lunch with wine at Cordeillan Bages can all be bought as packages. Perfect treats to pop in an envelope under the Christmas tree. You can wait until the warmer spring weather to redeem the bicycle ride, the gift that keeps on giving all year!

Some of the 'Best Of' vineyards are the perfect place to do your Christmas shopping and not just for their delicious bottles to accompany your roast turkey but all sorts of gifts. Chateau Haut Bailly has a boutique with a wealth of great wine and food themed gifts, books and chocolates made especially to match with their wines.

Visits at some properties are perfectly adapted to the season, Cru Bourgeois, Château Lamothe Bergeron in the Haut Médoc offers guests an entertaining and interactive visit, starting in the living room of the beautifully restored 19th century château, it takes you around the park and into the cellars for a unique animated explanation of the wine. From 5th December to 5th January you can try a surprising wine and food pairing: three vintages of the Château Lamothe Bergeron with three Christmas themed macaroons, foie gras and chocolate, red pepper and chilli, (the regional chilli from Espelette) and dark cherry.  

Some chateaux with their fairy tale architecture make for a romantic seasonal visit. Château de Pressac in Saint Emilion is a perfect example and they are open every day over the festive period (except the 25th and the 1st) for visits and tastings.

If you want a more hands on experience try a workshop at Château La Tour Bessan in Margaux, where you can discover the skills needed to blend a Bordeaux wine. You can leave with your very own bottle of the blend to share with friends and family. A tasting workshop also makes a great Christmas gift for the wine enthusiast in your life, perhaps someone who has ambitions to become a wine maker in their New Year resolutions? 

Children are not forgotten either, Christmas is often about the younger members of the family. At Chateau de Reignac 'Once Upon A Time On The Planet' is a visit designed to help children and their parents discover the world of wine making together. The visit explains everything from the vineyard and the importance of protecting the natural environment, looking at the animals and insects that live in the vineyard. They will use all their senses: closing their eyes to 'hear' nature in a tepee in the garden, using their sense of smell in the aroma garden, their sense of touch with feathers and tree bark in the Gustave Eiffel greenhouse and tasting in the dovecote. The tasting dos not include wine for the children but will help them identify the differences of sweet, salt, acid and bitterness.  Local school children will join the fun too with Christmas stories told in the tepee.

Sauternes is always a festive wine; it makes any meal feel like a celebration and is a great compliment to winter cuisine. Château Guiraud is the perfect place to test this out at their Restaurant La Chapelle. In front of a roaring fire, the chef Djordje Ercevic creates dishes that perfectly complement the wines. And not only dessert. For the festive season he has created a special recipe to accompany the 2005 vintage of Château Guiraud: veal sweet breads with seasonal mushrooms, squash and a perigord sauce.

If you really can't make it to Bordeaux, some 'Best Of' members have festive treats they can deliver to your door.

Christmas always includes chocolate, and red wine and chocolate is one of my favourite combinations. Château Kirwan has had the brilliant idea of creating a Christmas gift box with local, and very talented, chocolate maker Haasnâ Ferreira. They have paired the 2016 vintage of Chateau Kirwan with a 72% Cocoa Piura Blanco Peruvian chocolate - a match made in heaven! You can order it for delivery directly from their web site.

Also in Margaux, something completely different, neighbouring Chateau Marquis de Terme has created a unique Christmas present. Yes, there's a bottle of the 2006 vintage Château Marquis de Terme, but also a 2006 rum from Martinique. The 36-month aged rum was finished for 10 months in barrels that previously held wine from the Grand Cru Classé. Sold as a pair in a special Christmas box, hurry while stocks last they have only produced a limited edition of 50.

Here or afar, Bordeaux offers a treat for every age and every palate in the run up to Christmas. Happy holidays.

by Wendy Narby