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Alternate Routes · Europe · france · Bordeaux · Romāns Komars

Wineries and Castles

Author: Romāns Komars0 COMMENTS

Name of Bordeaux definitely is the most often-mentioned one in books of fine wines and their history. The south-west region of France gives a wider variety of superb wines then some other wine-producing courtiers taken together. To most people it associates with wonderful castles adorned with stately towers, blooming gardens, amiable and hard-working people, warm welcome and wine tasting. Unfortunately, most of about thirteen and a half thousand Bordeaux castles are far from a fabulous splendor. Don't be too surprised if a faded wall of a building, more resembling a shed that contains spades, racks and other vine-growing utensils, proudly holds a plaque with a name of chateau on it. It is quite possible that some chateaus, depicted on elegant wine bottle labels in the reality look exactly like that.
Even so, a super power in the world of wine as France, and Bordeaux region in particular, can pride itself also on castles the beauty of which is not only an overstatement or an illusion. The best recommended time for enjoying charm of these places and tasting wine is spring - when vines are blooming, or mid September - harvest-time. In any case, bearing in mind busyness of winemakers, any visits should be agreed in advance via e-mail but during summer holiday season when heat waves roll over Bordeaux it is better to confine oneself to stock of some previous years.


Foto: Wineries and CastlesFoto: Wineries and Castles

Arcachon, a small seaside town with just eleven and a half thousand population, located about 60 km from Bordeaux, is a genuine paradise for seafood lovers. Any self-respecting restaurant here offers scallops, a wide choice of shellfish, crabs and shrimps and, of course, oysters. In France only a very bad cook would be able to spoil all this wealth. Yet, unfortunately, menus are meant only for French-speakers and from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and after 11 p.m. only a few foreign, especially Russian-owned eateries will save you from starving. And lastly - if it is not a Michelin star deserving establishment, an outstanding service can hardly be expected. Typically to a tourist crowded town, a waiter, at the best, will uncork a wine bottle for you and sneer at your timid attempts of speaking English to him.


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There is no shortage of elegant hotels in this city, although, the number of stars does not always reveal the actual level of comfort and hospitality. Lucky are those, who manage to stay at the Blaye province two-star hotel by name Auberge du Porche. Contrary to French firmness, the hosts of the family-owned establishment upon guest's request are ready to complement the otherwise petite breakfast of croissants and jam with omelet and potatoes, much favored by Latvian stomachs. If offered champagne is not to your taste, take my word, your favorite brand will be on the table the very next day.

Bordeaux Region

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To embrace the whole diversity of Bordeaux wines one should "taste" every single province on the both shores of Gironde River. To lose ones way, however, is out of question here - so many road signs per square meter as in Bordeaux you will not find anywhere else in the world. The most popular is the Médoc wine district, famous with provinces like St-Estephe, Pauillac, St-Julien and Margaux. Château Palmer, Château Pichon Longueville Baron and many others are awaiting wine devotees, being located just ten to fifteen kilometers one from another. On a right-side bank of the river, in its turn, don't miss an opportunity of tasting some fine red wines of Saint-Emilion and Pomerol provinces.

Château Palmer

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Château Palmer is a castle, described eloquently in numerous wine books and, indeed, it matches up with descriptions. This Margaux province castle, dating back to the 19th century, in the eyes of visitors looks just like in paintings - with elegant facade, conical turrets and three flags fluttering in wind. The architect Charles Burguet has fused skillfully Baroque and Renaissance styles in his concept that together with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon vines growing on slopes make the picture complete. The castle prides itself in a modern winery, built in 1995, revealing all the most recent tendencies in wine fermentation.

Address: Cantenac, 33460 Margaux
Phone: +33 (0) 5 57-887272
Fax: +33 (0) 5 57-883716

Chateau Pichon Longueville Baron

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A classic castle located in Pauillac province, with vineyards stretching in the area of about 73 hectares. It is supplemented with a modern extension and a fountain with trout and sturgeon, briskly rushing about in its basin. The amiable host of Château Pichon will not only show you paintings, porcelain and other artwork to be found there but tell about the most advanced way of wine fermentation - in stainless steel barrels, put into use here.

Address: 33250 Pauillac
Phone: +33 (0) 5 56 73 17 17
Fax: +33 (0) 5 56 73 17 28

Chateau Cos d'Estournel

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Wine produced at Louis Gaspard d'Estournel comes from its vast vineyards - of about 173 acres, but the entrance arch of the castles is adorned by a lion and a unicorn, carved in stone, symbolizing strength and clarity. Chateau guests can satisfy their curiosity not only by visiting the winery, producing some of the best Saint-Estèphe vintages, but also a Museum de Cos, devoted to the history of this fantastic estate.

Address: 33180
Phone: +33 (0) 5 56 73 15 50
Fax: +33 (0) 5 56 59 72 59

Chateau Pichon - Longueville - Comtesse De Lalande

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This Pauillac province castle features a wonderful blend of traditional and modern - hundreds of people each year gather here to harvest grapes with their own hands, while fermentation process is trusted entirely to the newest technologies, using stainless steel barrels instead of wooden ones. The castle features also an impressive art collection.

Address: 33250 Pauillac
Phone: +33 (0) 5 56 59 19 40
Fax: + 33 (0) 5 56 59 29 78

Chateau Malescot St. Exupery

Chateau Malescot St. Exupery offers not only some of the best grand cru classé Margaux wines but also its hospitability and friendly, welcoming disposition. The landlord of the chateau and its chief supervisor Jean-Luc Zuger kindly shows guests around the magnificent mansion, telling also about the current wine-making tendencies, incorporating traditional values and the most recent innovations.

Address: 33460 Margaux
Tel.: +33 (0) 5 57 88 70 68
Fakss: +33 (0) 5 57 88 35 80

Chateau Leoville-Las-Cases

Another Cru classé wine, regarded as one of the best of St-Julien province, is produced since the mid-20th century with Delon family, owners of de Léoville-Las-Cases, being in charge of it. History of the castle dates back to the French Revolution time when being part of Chateau Leoville it was considered as one of the largest wine chateaus in the Médoc district. It is a worthy destination also nowadays for its fantastic architecture and, of course, its wine!

Address: 33250 St-Julien-Beychevelle
Phone: +33 (0) 5 56 73 25 26
Fax: +33 (0) 5 56 59 18 33

Useful Information

- Unfortunately, not all the Bordeaux district winemaking castles accept visitors. Moreover, the most refined ones open their doors only to select and privileged ones, that being the case particularly in Pomerol province. Not being on the guest list, you risk to be stopped in a driveway by a gardener with a gun in his hands.

- A high-class wine testing event includes a delicious lunch or dinner with champagne on arrival, usually served by elderly waiters coming and going almost unnoticeably. Guests are met also by an owner/winemaker of a chateau himself. In the end of a meal he usually surprises guests with some of his finest vintages, price of which can reach thousand or even more Euros per bottle.

- An average wine connoisseur will need just 60 minutes to visit vineyards, a chateau itself and its soul - a wine cellar, to taste some of the best red wines as well as to purchase some valuable and some not so valuable souvenirs. Among them will be bottles of wine and glasses with the castle's emblem, ladies scarves of the same style and some books, too. At some castles, valuing tourists as part of their business, French principles are put aside and, depending of guests' nationality, also English and even Russian languages are put into use.

- Be it silky Margo wine, vigorous and full-bodied Paulillac and St-Julien, or St-Estephe, with its characteristic earthy character and aroma, it tastes the best in Bordeaux region - not at home, hundreds of kilometers away. Enchanted by winemaker's stories, wine seems to have absorbed a very ambience of each castle, its history and traditions, and it vanishes away when a bottle is opened at a restaurant or in your office. Therefore, before ordering several cases of wine, it is advisable to purchase some samples of the tasted wines and try them again at a habitual environment of your home.

Posted in 2007.

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