As many of you know, we’ve traveled to France quite a bit (probably more than our fair share). But when it comes to Bordeaux, we’ve only experienced this region through wine, not physically on the ground. That’s why traveling and tasting through Bordeaux was our #1 choice with a river cruise.
If you’re on the fence about traveling to France (maybe you don’t like amazing food, or maybe incredible wines just aren’t your cup of tea, or maybe industrial parks are more to your liking than century-old villages), I thought I’d give you all a bit more food for thought about this cruise.
Let’s start with an introduction to one of the villages we’ll be experiencing…Saint Émilion.
Situated on a hilltop, St.-Emilion was designated in 1999 as a UNESCO World Heritage site. This charming village is the heart of the Libournais district; gratifying to the eyes and the palette with its world-class wines and gastronomy.
Located on the right bank of the river Dordogne, Saint-Émilion is a must-see medieval attraction. Intriguing Romanesque architecture and ruins are abundant here. The village’s namesake is from an 8th century Benedictine monk who made his home in a nearby forest. Take the opportunity to visit the Monolithic Church, the oldest of its kind in Europe, and the Roi Tower, which dates back to the 13th century.
Merlot lovers must sample the lush, full-bodied wines of St. Emilion with flavors of blackberry, blueberry and hints of chocolate. The secondary top-tier wine choice of Saint-Émilion is aromatic, spicy Cabernet Franc. The two grapes account for about 60% of planting in the region. Imporant wineries such as Châteaux Pavie, Angelus and de Ferrand are here, open to demonstrate and pour their fine selections. The nearby village of Pomerol is home to Petrus, one of the legendary Bordeaux wine estates.
And if you’re wondering if discovering Saint-Émilion is easy or hard, take this into account. The ship carries about 20 bicycles. Cycling through the châteaux amid lovely scenery makes for a memorable day and strolling along ancient cobblestone streets to visit fine wine shops, boutiques and family-run cafes is a must. The one tip is, “Wear comfy flat walking shoes!”
Now, if you’re really interested in what you’re going to experience on our cruise, let’s just look at Day 3, when we visit Pauillac in the heart of the Medoc region. This is home to 60 Grand Cru vineyards alone!
In 1855, Emperor Napoleon III requested a classification system of France’s best Bordeaux wines for the World Exhibition in Paris. Rankings were determined by esteemed wine brokers, factoring each winery’s reputation and trading price. The highest classification “Grand Cru” was also split into five divisions, First through Fifth Growth. Just four wines rated the highest rank of “Premier Cru”: Chateau Latour, Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Chateau Margaux and Chateau Haut-Brion. In 1973 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild was added.
There are 61 wines classified as great. All but one comes from the Medoc region. The lone exception is Chateau Haut-Brion, which lies across the Gironde Estuary in Graves.
We will enjoy tastings at Grand Cru wineries like Chateau de Ferrand, Chateau Rayne de Vigneau (Sauternes) and Chateau Leoville-Poyferre. We’ll also walk through St. Emilion and the daunting Chateau Mouton-Rothschild.
Lastly, if you’re concerned (as we have been) that cruises are confining and limited, that’s where AmaWaterways, our cruise line, is different. All river boat cruises use the same boat, but Ama boats are intentionally laid out so that they carry fewer people. In other words, a more intimate experience. Tours are limited to 20-25 people, and the guides are always educated about the region (generally with a Master’s Degree or more).
And lastly, if you love fine cuisine and world-class wine, the Bordeaux trip has the best quality simply because the expectations are higher. (Wine lovers are food lovers, and we want the best!)
As a winery, we have already exceeded the expectations of our customer participation with the Madroña contingent being 40 strong. There are a few cabins and the suite still available. November is the off-season, usually showcasing mild weather in southwest France. Expanding Horizons, our agent, is extending the $500/cabin discount for our customers for one more week until September 7th.
So if you’re into culture, fine wine and incredible food, come join us for an amazing voyage in Bordeaux, France. You can either experience it first-hand, or you can read about it later in our blogs. You make the choice!
To see complete information and register online visit: www.toursandwine.com/madrona
With questions contact Marie Cradle at our tour operator Expanding Horizons of Tustin, CA: Marie@Expanding-Horizons.com Tel: 1-714-975-9943