Wine Country

0100f7a25ea454fcf3099fc34831339184adb4c8a5 “They work the vines all the time; there is never a time when  there is nothing  to be done in the vineyard”. My hostess was explaining the work I could see going on in the vineyards that surrounded us in all directions as we sped towards St. Emililon. Workers were busy cutting the vines back to one leader and securing that branch to low horizontal tuteurs. Interestingly, vines  did not cover  the entire landscape. “The best wine comes from the top of the hill, that’s why you don’t see grapevines in the lower parts of the valley,” explained our host. Both of them grew up in the vineyards,  and they know wine-making both as a craft and as a business. They impressed on us the difficulties and limitations of the vintners’ life in Bordeaux. All aspects of wine production are strictly controlled. For example, those who exceed their appointed production limit will have their entire  production  for the year seized. So, if there is a bumper year, they have to throw any extra away. Ouch.  The vineyards are ancient, and have been subject to division within families, so many of them are quite small. Making a living on less than twenty hectares is a challenge, I was told, but many of the St.-Emilion vineyards are smaller than that.  Cresting a hill, we stopped. We had arrived at a hilltop village whose entry was marked by the picturesque ruins of a monastery: St.-Emilion.

011e32a191261bd11ebef3559fc80b0e94576cacb6 0136907b9e8489624fc4dc21864e143e46c62e2645 The town is terraced, and offers far views from a number of vantage points.

01e5f8cfa36b465ce4d4bab5469e5782949dfeefd1 Everywhere in the village, there are opportunities to taste and buy wine. 014b6acf7aca81f875cfb78a506bd86a494fc85796 I don’t want to upset anyone too much, but yes, that is a sign on the shutter offering prime bottles of St.-Emilion for 7 euros. Wouldn’t it be great to spend a few days here, tasting, strolling and eating? There is a Relais et Chateau hotel at the top of the hill. I think that it would be a good place to spend my final years, no?01651b9ced82902a7d1ce4db8b4801cc24978bbed0 This fresco image of a devil in the massive church in St.-Emilion seemed appropriate, somehow, as we prepared to indulge the flesh. After all, it was almost noon and we hadn’t tasted any wine.

Our hostess took us to the vineyard of a couple with whom she grew up. The Lamartine vineyard is just outside St. Emilion and has received many prizes of late for its quality Merlots and Cabernets. They greeted us with warmth and our hostess with joy. We toured their set-up.


01c1844364e79d4eafbe1916209342686b814129ca These are the casernes that contain the wine before it goes into the barrels. Our host wanted to buy a case of last year’s wine to put down. “I can’t sell you any”, the vintner explained. I sold it all to the Chinese. Take this as a warning and drink as much Bordeaux as you can now, while you can still afford it. But here, the wine was 36 euros for a case of 6. I know. Why aren’t we ALL living there? In the tasting room, we tried two 2010 Merlots. One had been aged in the barrels you see pictured above, and the other aged outside barrels. I preferred the depth and richness of the former, although given the early hour the latter had an appealing freshness. My host pointed out the long finish and roundness of the wine, which he views as typical of the  St Emilion region. With our cases in the back of the car (we took some 2008’s) we drove on to a light, perfect lunch.0182881309e7adc9ff27a1b88ac1dc6807e001a88b With wine, of course. The restaurant is another spot you can taste and  buy local wines, and  boxes of their top 100  wines are  on display throughout the restaurant. 018a41608573227e99bf4873140b9838af59e606b2

Our last stop for the day was the childhood home of our host, a  chateau and working vineyard about half an hour from St.-Emilion. His parents, although aged, still live there and direct operations. As we met them, toured the chateau and grounds and shared a coffee with homemade cannele, the brioche-like cakes of Bordeaux, we could sense this family’s deep sense of stewardship and commitment to the place.

01006f54a54c115f56897d584b217dd1e3196de470 A corner of the chateau.

01602f37b1e8e1a3c62020db3b55f0fa3c2b14ad4e The date refers to the year one of the wings was built. Above it is one of many wine awards they have achieved, this one for the year 1878. Now, the Chateau no longer bottles its own wine. They sell it to the Rothschilds.

01d8601200bc24fadc0689e6b20b4b89d677e658f5 Opening this bottle at dinner the next night, our host  said that  his family’s wine  was one of the wines selected for the Barons de Rothschild collection.” Voila. A taste of  our chateau.” Legend indeed.




One thought on “Wine Country

  1. Dear Christine,

    Wow, the last few days have been a feast for the eyes. I love what you are doing, it seems so wonderful to have mastered a medium with which to share your travels and delights. What a wonderful glimpse you have had into an ancient and authentic culture. It wouldn’t be the end of the world if Sophie and Hadrian decided to put down roots there…you would adapt, if you must. I am ensconced at my desk in a little bungalow in Miami and haven’t yet had a chance to get any work done today. I am about to though, promise. Looking after 8 boys is a challenge, but they are pretty nice boys and I am mostly having trouble just keeping the fridge stocked! I am so enjoying my reading and writing routine now that I may never go back, well…not for a while anyway. I think I may have to send a couple of cases of wine back too, it sounds so worthwhile. I’m looking forward to sampling some of the local with you both. Miss you, love Al xxx

    Date: Mon, 10 Mar 2014 16:47:14 +0000 To:

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