At last! An airline which caters for the wine lover – Monarch will be flying from Birmingham directly to Bordeaux from May. This is probably not earth-shattering news to many of you, but for this particular wine writer (who happens to be a Bordeaux specialist) it means a very great deal. No more stressful drives on traffic-jammed motorways to Bristol, Luton or Gatwick: instead, a short taxi ride to our own lovely, friendly BHX and within a couple of hours I could be in one of these:
Bordeaux is all about vineyards and chateaux in the Médoc, the Left Bank of the Gironde Estuary. Rows and rows of perfectly managed and manicured vines of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes, interspersed with stunning chateaux: sleepy, well-kept villages and views over the estuary; top hotels and restaurants such as Cordeillan-Bages in Pauillac as well as great value French cuisine in places like Le Savoie in beautiful Margaux make people visit time and again. Hop over to St. Emilion on the Right Bank, about an hour away by car, and you are rewarded with the quaint, historic town itself (a UNESCO heritage site), more red wine vineyards and a very different style of wine. Where a Médoc wine is blackcurranty, firm-structured and tannic, a St. Emilion or Pomerol has more plum-like lush fruitiness, softer tannins and a smoother texture. Both areas produce world-class, sought-after and, sadly, very expensive wines.
But Bordeaux isn’t all famous names and stratospheric prices. Most, in fact, are affordable reds, food-friendly and which drink younger than the top names. There are delicious whites and rosés, too. The whites may be delicately zesty 100% Sauvignon Blancs or Sauvignon blended with Semillon and oak-aged, making them serious and complex. This same blend produces the unctuously sweet wines of Sauternes which are marmaldey, honeyed and exquisite. The rosés are mostly pale, dry, fruity and refreshing. To find affordable Bordeaux wines from where you shop in the UK go to www.bordeaux.com/uk/wines/selection
If your curiosity goes beyond the vinous pleasures the area offers, you won’t be disappointed. There are golf-courses, cookery schools, cycling and horse-riding. The beaches of the Bassin d’Arcachon are a short drive away and include Pylat, the largest sand dune in Europe. If you are into French celebrity spotting, (and who isn’t?!), head out to Cap Ferret. Over a plate of mussels, washed down with a chilled Bordeaux Blanc you could do worse than while away a pleasant few hours beside the sea, taking in the views and ogling the rich and famous who holiday there.
You can stay in a fairytale chateau or a working winery amongst the vines (www.bauduc.com) . You can attend classes at the Ecole de Vin, make day trips into the wine areas from Bordeaux booked through the tourist office or taste at the Bar à Vin. If you need to de-stress there are beautiful spas. Les Sources de Caudalie may not offer you a glass of wine to drink but the products they use are based on the benefits of the grape and grapevine. You may fancy a bit of Vinotherapie® in the afternoon and then stay on to eat in the top restaurant, La Grand’Vigne, before rolling into the very comfortable beds of the hotel – wined, inside and out, dined and ready for that early-morning swim and breakfast in the garden, a stone’s throw from the vineyard.
Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans, having recently returned from a visit to Bordeaux full of praise (and wine), said ‘I beg you, if you like wine, take a plane and go to Bordeaux. It’s a dream trip.’ Take his advice and follow in his footsteps – BYWine is going to Bordeaux 2nd – 5th October flying from Birmingham with Monarch. Hooray! Why not join us? http://www.bywine.co.uk/events/4-day-visit-to-bordeaux/
First published in EdgeMagazine, May 2013