People come to Bordeaux to pay homage to the unparalleled Bordeaux wines and the estates that produce them. While we may have done our fair share of chateau visits, sipping wine here and there, we have found that Bordeaux has a lot more to offer citizens with severe case of wanderlust residing outside of La France. And what a great discovery that was!
We came to Bordeaux from Avoriaz, where we parted with our dear friends after a week of ski fun (too short!). The Vimards drove back to Fribourg, while Team Altaie took the bus to Geneva where we made full use of our 40-minute ‘layover’ by walking over quickly to the famous Lake Geneva, snapping a quick selfie, sprinting to the train station with our luggage, and grabbing a cup of coffee before boarding the train bound for Basel, where we would take the flight straight to Bordeaux. At 8pm, we finally arrived at our destination and a few minutes later, I was already having my first (of numerous) sip(s) of wine.
We stayed in Bordeaux for three days and it’s clearly far too short a time to really enjoy life like a real Bordelaise. But, I accumulated a bagful of happy memories to keep me intoxicated until our next trip, and that’s good enough for me…for now.
After recovering at home for one day, we made Château Guiraud our first stop (Merci beaucoup Pap!). Château Guiraud is a sweet white wine ranked as Premier Cru Classé (French, “First Growth”) in the original Imperial Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855, so ordered by Emperor Napoleon III. Belonging to the Sauternes appellation in Gironde, Château Guiraud is considered the oldest and one of the largest estates in Sauternes with over 100 hectares of vines, producing around 100,000 bottles per year.
Château Guiraud used to be known as the ” Noble House of Bayle ” when it belonged to the Mons Saint-Poly family. The property was later on sold to a Bordeaux merchant named Pierre Guiraud, then passed on to his son until finally, in 2006, it was sold to four business partners namely, Robert Peugeot, Olivier Bernard, Stephan Von Neipperg and Xavier Planty.
What most people don’t know – and they should – is that Château Guiraud is the only1855 Premier Cru Classé to be certified for organic agriculture in 2011. Château Guiraud and its owners are fully committed to growing grapes the organic way. When we were doing the tour, we noticed this very colourful small wooden structure just in front of the accueil. We were told that it’s an insect hotel and they have seven of those scattered around the massive property. Interesting piece of information: Before going organic, they had around 200 insect species and today, they have around 600. Amazing, right?
Fee: You pay 10 Euros/person for the tour which already includes tasting of their wine. You can also buy bottles directly from them after the tour and the wine-tasting. And if you purchase a bottle, they will waive the tour fee. If you can’t understand and/or speak French (like I do), fret not, because they can also explain everything to you in English. The wine itself is nothing like any other sweet wines I have tried. I’m usually not a fan of sweet wine, neither am I an expert when it comes to wines, but I usually go with how my senses respond to the first sip. Petit Guiraud’s aroma rises up to your nostrils, not aggressive but gentle like the swaying of the hips of a samba dancer, carrying with it a cacophony of wondrous scents, with a hint of caramel and maybe something very fruity as well. And it is exquisitely smooth. Seductive, in many ways. You absolutely must visit Château Guiraud when in Bordeaux!
The beauty about being in this region is that you are literally surrounded by vineyards, from small to massive estates, from the lowest to the highest Classification rating like Premier Cru Supériur Château d’Yquem.
In the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855, Château d’Yquem was the only one in Sauternes given this rating, solidifying its perceived superiority and higher prices over all other wines of its type. French luxury goods giant LVMH Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton is the majority owner of Château d’Yquem. In July 2011, an 1811 bottle of Château d’Yquem sold for £75,000 ($117,000) at the Ritz in London to a private collector, Christian Vanneque, making it the most expensive bottle of white wine ever sold.
It is said that unlike most of the châteaus in Bordeaux, you cannot simply walk into Château d’Yquem for a tour. Nope, it doesn’t work that way. You need to make reservation way in advance and they only open for public visits very few times a year. But you can drive up to the entrance and admire the expanse of their vineyard, breathe in grape-scented fresh air, while telling yourself that you are standing amidst some of the most expensive grapes that produce some of the most expensive wines ever…and take photos. Guess what I did?
We did not visit any more wine estates after that because we had a 12th century French castle on our itinerary in the afternoon which I will tell you all about on my next post. So stay tuned. Or don’t. It’s entirely up to you. On hindsight, it’s probably good that we have kept the rest of the chateau visits for our future trips because, baby, Bordeaux has got me hooked. xoxox