There can’t be many better city centre locations to dock than Bordeaux. You have a lovely approach to the city down the Gironde, passing by winelands, green fields and chateaux, before you arrive at the harmonious golden stone buildings of what is for me France’s most elegant city – Bordeaux. Then, you’re right in the centre of town, overlooking an attractive park, where young people come to picnic or promenade along this gorgeous riverfront.
This being a gastronomic centre, in the evening, of course we had to go out for a meal, although we chose to go Lebanese rather than French, and a very good choice it was.
But, the next day was the main event, because we had been invited by some very generous friends to join them on a trip to St Emilion for an exclusive vineyard tour. We were visiting Chateau Fonplegarde, which is a Grand Cru Classe vineyard that has been bought by a wealthy American couple who have spent a fortune doing it up and improving their wine.
I don’t think that I’ve ever done a more in depth wine tour than today – we were taken around the terroir, saw the vines, explained their growth cycle, and taken through the processes that turn the grapes into the nectar that we were about to taste. Some vineyards like to pretend that this is all down to a kind of magical alchemy – but, the level of care and science that we were shown at work, prove that this is no magic, but a carefully controlled process from soil, to vine, to pruning, to picking, to crushing, to fermentation, to ageing in barrel, to bottling.
And of course, we had to experience the fruits of their labour, by tasting a 2011 vintage – it was beautiful.
Then, after a bit of a tour of the gorgeous little village of St Emilion, we were treated to a superb meal in a local restaurant. Even though it feels like all I have done is eat and drink over the last few days, I somehow managed to find a little extra space for some more gastronomic gluttony.
I think I have discovered what the phrase “joie de vivre” is all about!