Yes, geeks (like me) love the wine making story, but for many, even wine enthusiasts, it’s the passion and the people behind the product that is the most inspiring story. This is why wine tourism is so appealing, yes you will get into the nitty-gritty of how wine is made from field to glass but more importantly you get to the stories behind the product. You find answers to the questions of why here? Why you? and Why now?
Bordeaux has a huge advantage with stories reaching back over hundreds, sometimes thousands of years, to the first vines planted by the Romans in the third century.
The vast majority of Bordeaux properties, even the most prestigious, are family owned. The personal histories of founders, be they new or ancient are fascinating, as is how the land, the architecture and wine making has evolved through the succeeding generations.
The old survival tales and heroes journeys are eye opening, and although we might not have wars and revolutions to deal with in Bordeaux now, there are still modern day wine heroes. A new generation of wine makers have travelled to far-flung countries making wine, or other things, before returning to the fold. The clash of generations, introducing new technology or perhaps returning to ancestral methods. Each of the over 7 000 properties in Bordeaux has its own story to tell, experiencing them first hand makes each wine tour experience unique.
Story telling can be visual or audible, they can be told on a web site, and can be shared by video, social media and videos virtual tours, as so many properties are having to do right now, but nothing can replace walking through properties where the wine makers have walked on the same flagstones over hundreds of years.
Going through a dark cellar, where generations have tended barrels, to emerge blinking into a brand new tasting room reflects the evolution of a property and the dynamism of a new generation. Being in this place tells the story of how each owner or generation has added their layer to the structure of the place and product. The best way to live the story is to visit and share.
And of course there is the tasting. Vertical tastings show the personality of the climate of the vintage but also the signature of the wine maker. How did they cope with the challenges nature gave them? How did they express their own personality through wine making? Can you taste the evolution or the history? There are so many ways to tell a story and so many stories to tell, here are just of few Best Of Wine Tourism stories to experience in Bordeaux.
Go back in time.
Architecture is a visual storyteller from medieval through the 18th century to today’s contemporary styles.
The spectacular architecture of some properties takes you back in time, bearing witness to the history of the region. Visit and stay over night the moated medieval castles of Château la Tour Carnet or in Château Beauregard whose origins go back to the Knights Templar. The Napoleonic chartreuse was so admired by the Guggenheim family that they built their own copy in the US, creating their very own Bordeaux story.
An American influence can been seen at Château Carbonnieux in the Graves, dating back to the 13th century when was managed by monks. In the 1700s Thomas Jefferson visited, planting the 200-year old pecan tree you can still see growing there.
Nearby Chateau de Ferrand has been renovated with respect for the beauty of this historical property. The 18th century Château is surrounded by woodland and the contemporary renovation by the Bic family tells the story of each of the owners over its 300 years.
When you visit Château Gruaud Larose you will see two very different stories; the original 18th century château and tower and, right next door, the 21st century viewing tower and visitors lounge – a striking contrast of old and new.
There is another time traveling story on the edge of the Saint Emilion UNESCO heritage site where old meets new with the neighbouring cellars of Château La Croizille and Château Tour Baladoz.
Both are under the same ownership of the de Schepper family but they tell two very different stories, one anchored in tradition the other looking resolutely forward thanks to the view across the vines from their ultra modern and vibrant tasting lounge.
A family affair.
Families are an integral part of so many of these stories, generations handing down the steward ship of the properties. At Château Cantenac in Saint Emilion, Nicole Roskam-Brunot, runs the property with her fourth generation sons and daughters-in-law and at Château Angludet, the seventh generation of the Sichel family has now joined the property, telling their story of sustainability through wine tourism.
A new generation can mean renewal; Caroline and Xavier Peyromat took over the family estate of Château de Cerons in 2012. Their respect for the family heritage is palpable, they are slowly bringing this listed historic monument back to its former 17th century glory whilst their dynamic wine making includes launching a new orange wine this year alongside their dry white and red Graves, their rosé and of course their flagship sweet Cérons.
Stories are rooted in the past but they are rooted in the soil too, where sustainability is the story. More and more Bordeaux vineyards are turning to organic and biodynamic agriculture and growers are keen to share this story of transformation, and the challenges they have to rise to.
Visiting Château Climens, in Barsac, you spend more time in the field than the cellar but also in the attics above the cellar where herbs are dried for the natural vine treatments.
At Château Smith Haut Lafitte, sustainability is at the heart of the property with their hidden carbon neutral stealth cellar that you discover almost by accident on their five senses Land art tour. Wine, art, nature and sustainability are all part of their on-going story.
Create your own story.
Share in the intimacy of these stories by staying at the properties. Many properties that invite you to create you own story within the walls of their Châteaux.
Local chefs also have their stories to tell, how they experiment with food and wine matches, the classic and the unexpected. At the Lalique restaurant at Chateau Lafaurie Peyraguey at Château Cordeillan Bages in Pauillac, red wine and food matches are the stars of the story.
Choose a story. Will it be families, personalities, history, architecture, sustainability or hospitably? Then, add your very own Bordeaux chapter.
[Post by Wendy Narby]