A Taste of the Bordeaux Region

The Bordeaux region of Southwestern France encompasses two major rivers, the Garonne and Dordogne.  Both rivers flow into the enormous and very protected Gironde Estuary.   This estuary is Europe’s largest, shielded by land from the Atlantic Ocean. Cooling ocean breezes and accompanying micro-climates and soil conditions gave rise to the world’s most prolific wine producing area. During the reign of Julius Caesar Bordeaux wines were shipped throughout the Roman Empire.  Even today Bordeaux wines are considered among the finest in the world.  The University of Bordeaux is one of the world’s greatest viticulture and enology centers of learning.

In France Bordeaux city is second only to Paris in the number of buildings that have historical monument status, Most of the protected structures date from the 18th century. The buildings, once black and sooty, now gleam.  Resplendent arches, towers and facades preside over lovely squares and carefully designed open spaces.  This is a beautiful city.

Nearly 1 billion bottles of wine come from Bordeaux each year.  The varietals Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon thrive here. Red wines from Bordeaux are generally sophisticated blends of Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot.

White Bordeaux wines combine Cabernet Sauvignon Blanc, for its delightful acidity) blended with Semillon for richness and body.  The result is a tasty, refreshing wine sold worldwide.  White wine making in Bordeaux accounts for just 11 percent of production; some 7 million cases annually.  The best dry white wines come from the Graves region.  For you chefs out there lightly oak aged Bordeaux whites pair well with scallops, salads with fennel and chicken tarragon.

Perhaps the world’s best white dessert wine is a Sauterne from Bordeaux.  The legendary Chateau d’Yquem has been making their fabulous wine since before 1593.  Thomas Jefferson was a great fan of this elegant wine, a blend of Semillon grapes with Sauvignon Blanc or Muscadelle.  The Noble Rot (Botrytis Cinerea) shrivels the grapes.  The resulting honey-like taste with a dry finish is extraordinary and highly valuable.  Chateau d’Yquem vintages often price over $1,000 per bottle. Sauterne dessert wines pair well with foie gras, soft-ripened cheese and crème brulee.

Look for specialties such as duck, foie gras, oysters from Arcachon Bay, crispy-fried baby eels and the famous canneles.  Found in local pastry shops, canneles are petite ridged cakes with a distinctive caramelized exterior and creamy soft inside.

Expanding Horizons has three sailings scheduled on the waterways of Bordeaux, each escorted by U.S. winemakers:

Malibu Coast Vintners and Grape Growers Alliance – Malibu CA
Mr. John Gooden – Executive Director and Proprietor of Montage Vineyards
November 2-9, 2017

Seven of Hearts Winery of Carlton OR
Mr. Byron Dooley – Owner & Winemaker
March 22-29, 2018

Le Vigne Winery of Paso Robles CA
July 12-19, 2018