Days of Wine and Rest . . . and More Wine

The village of St. Emilion

My cold had almost disappeared, and I was feeling better, and then, just like that, I wasn’t. We had a great time on the wine tour to the south of Bordeaux on Friday and I was feeling quite good, but I woke up yesterday morning feeling worse than ever. So, we ended up staying in the apartment all day other than making one short, last trip to the boulangerie for a baguette and pastries, and to the grocery store for some cheese. We rested, read our books, and packed our suitcases. In the afternoon Brett walked over to the Tourist Office and booked us seats on this afternoon’s St. Emilion wine tour, so we finished up our last day in Bordeaux, and in France, drinking wine again and visiting the medieval village of St. Emilion.

The first chateau we visited on Friday was Chateau de Myrat, where we tasted sauterne, a sweet white wine.

Chateau de Myrat’s pressing room, with grape presses from old to new. The gentleman on the right is the former owner of the Chateau; he has passed ownership on to two nieces (most Chateau stay in the same family for generations).

One of the Chateau de Myrat vineyards. Because sauternes are made using partially dried grapes, each vine only produces around half a bottle of wine. The Chateau was still harvesting grapes when we were there.

Traveling requires flexibility. After our aborted effort to get out to St. Emilion earlier in the week, we had planned to try again yesterday. The combination of weather, sickness, and scheduling difficulties had kept us from getting there earlier, and we thought yesterday would be our last chance. We had also thought it would be more affordable for us to go out to the village on our own, but after some research we discovered the senior discount offered by the tourist office actually made a tour the more affordable choice. Although neither of us was thrilled about spending another afternoon on a bus, on our own the trip would have cost us around 45€ each, at a minimum, but with our senior discount the tour was just 36€ per person which included a guided tour of the village and a wine tasting at a nearby chateau. We also remembered that everything (ATMs, stores, etc.) would be closed on Sunday, and all the errands we needed to do before our departure on Monday morning would be impossible, so in the end it made far more sense for us to take the Sunday tour and to take care of errands and chores yesterday.

Brett discovered this Roman ruin, an amphitheater called the Palais Gallien (c. 3rd century CE), on his way to the tourist office yesterday afternoon.

Finally, the tourist office, where the tours began, is only a 20 minute walk from our apartment. To get to the village of St. Emilion on our own we would have to make the same walk to the tourist office in order to catch a tram to the Bordeaux train station, then take a 35 minute train ride out to the village followed by another 20 minute walk (minimum) from the St. Emilion station into the village, with the journey repeated on the way back. It was exhausting just thinking about it! In the end the tour turned out to be a very good decision even though St. Emilion was holding its annual balloon festival this weekend. The village was quite crowded, and the walk would have been very difficult.

The second chateau we visited was Chateau Haut-Bacalan, just south of the city of Bordeaux. This vat of fermented wine was recently moved into oak barrels for the second fermentation; the wine’s tint is still visible inside the tube.

Chateau Haut-Bacalan’s red wine ferments in oak barrels for 20 months. their white wine for just nine months.

I am not a red wine drinker, but I tasted this one – amazing.

Although we are generally not “tour people,” we thought both of the wine tours were very enjoyable and well done, and we learned quite a bit about the French wine industry, its regulations, different wine classifications and appellations, and lots of vocabulary associated with French wine. We were very lucky and had the same wonderful guide for both tours, Brigitte. We were taught how to taste, which made a real difference when we tasted two vintages of the same wine at Chateau de Myrat (a 2014 Sauterne and a 2011), and at Chateau Laniote (a 2016 and 2015 St. Emilion Grand Cru). While Brett and I are both still very much novices, we both feel we can approach French wine now without any fear. We can read a French wine bottle and understand what everything on the label means.

Chateau Laniote is located just five minutes away from the village of St. Emilion.

Vineyards at Chateau Laniote.

We watched the balloons taking off while we were at the Chateau. Seeing them all floating over the vineyards of St. Emilion as we departed was magical.

The wine tours also gave us a chance to view the beautiful countryside outside of Bordeaux, both to the south and the east, and tour the charming village of St. Emilion, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. All three of the chateau we visited were fascinating as well – not just for the wines but for their history and the culture behind them. We learned that many of the chateau in the south are still owned by nobility, and many of them continue to be royalists! Chateau Laniote has been owned by the same family since 1821, with ownership passed down through the women of the family.

12th century monastery cloister in St. Emilion

One of the original gated entrances to the village of St. Emilion.

Tomorrow will be a very full, busy day of travel for us, and I’ve got my fingers crossed on both hands, as well as my toes on both feet that it goes well. We will begin in the morning with the 20-minute walk to the tram station along with our suitcases and backpacks, then take a tram to the Bordeaux train station where we will catch a shuttle bus out to the airport. Our flight to Bologna leaves in the early afternoon. When we arrive in Bologna we’ll catch a bus over to the train station where we’ll buy tickets and catch a train to Florence, a 35-minute or so ride. Finally, a taxi will take us from the station in Florence over to our apartment (hopefully with a taxi driver who knows more than our driver did here in Bordeaux!). Brett and I have joked that all we need is a ship and a donkey and we will have covered every mode of transportation in a day!

We’re enjoying our second glass of Chateau Haut-Bacalan’s white wine – can you tell?

Au revoir, France, and merci – we have had an absolutely wonderful time!

8 thoughts on “Days of Wine and Rest . . . and More Wine

    • Laura says:

      Thanks Sandi! We had a wonderful time in France, and our visit to St. Emilion and the Bordeaux wine country was the perfect way to finish. Both Brett and I would have regretted not going.

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  1. Ginger says:

    Thank you so much for letting me ride along and revisit some of my favorite places in France. Laura and Brett, you have now created a 72 year old (virtual) Groupie! If I weren’t currently tethered to my home base, I would be right behind you wearing a Nomads t-shirt. Your impressions of France have brought back so many fond memories. (And, another trip, another time, we are all going back to Paris together, but this time staying in the 6th.)

    Safe travels to Florence. I haven’t been there in over five years, but It is the perfect place for a longer stay. If by chance you are still feeling puny, the US Consulate there is fantastic. Over the years, they have arranged visits to both doctors and dentists for those of us whose Italian is limited to menu items.

    Can’t wait to hear the next adventures.

    PS: There is an elevator at the Uffizi. Under the right side of the grand staircase. 🙂

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    • Laura says:

      Hi Ginger – so happy you are following along and enjoying our adventures. Both Brett and I still pinch ourselves from time to time that we are getting to do this. But, we both think it’s important to follow your dreams if at all possible, and this has been a long-time dream for us. We enjoyed every minute of our time in France and are now looking forward to our time in Italy. We’re tired today from yesterday’s travels, but ventured out today to the supermarket and so many wonderful people helped us find what we needed, so that was a good start.

      I’ve still got to make reservations for Uffizi and Accademia visits – Brett and I will be sitting down with our calendars this week and getting that taken care of, as well as a trip over to Siena. Thanks for the tip about the elevator at the Uffizi (and the consulate as well).

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  2. Laurel says:

    Looks like a lovely tour! And it would be great to know what the wine terms are on the French bottles. 🙂

    Looking forward to pics of Florence. We were there just less than a year ago and I LOVED it. My DH insisted on finding Bistecca Fiorentina after reading about it online. He’s all about meat (ha!) and the refrigerated beef displays were everywhere. We found a great little restaurant on a back street and, besides the beef (which I loved, too), I had the best tiramisu of our trip. And I tried quite a few. LOL.

    Hope you feel better. Or find some good drugs.

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    • Laura says:

      Both the tours we took were well worth it, especially for all we learned about the wine industry in France. Seriously, I never know what anything meant on the label of French wine other than the percentage of alcohol, but now I can read it with confidence. Learning to be a better taster and judge of good wine will have to come with practice!

      When we checked into our Airbnb yesterday evening, one of the questions we had for our host was “where do you recommend we go for Bistecca Fiorentina?” Neither of us are big meat eaters, but we want to give it a try.

      We’re so happy to be in Florence, although we’re still exhausted from yesterday’s travels. My head was quite stuffy when I got up, but that thankfully seems to have subsided. We got ourselves out to the supermarket so we won’t starve, but the effort wore us both out again. We enjoyed an onion foccacia from the bakery for our lunch though – yum!

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    • Laura says:

      We’re so happy to be in Italy, although we enjoyed every moment of our time in France. Yesterday’s journey was exhausting though, so we’re off to a slow start (which is OK as we will be here a month). The cold is winding down – I woke up with a stuffy head this morning but by this afternoon I was feeling fine again. I am very grateful that for now it doesn’t appear as if Brett caught it – fingers will remain crossed though that he stays healthy.

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