The suit-clad concierge circled a region on our tattered map and said with a grin, “Just go here. This is wine country. Knock on the doors; you don’t need any reservations. The locals are friendly and will welcome you in.”
And so just like that we set out to explore the best of
France’s Bordeaux wine region. After visiting an overhyped wine museum and
twice feasting at the city's best kept secret, we ventured out of the city and
headed south towards the towns of Sauternes and Barsac.
The country roads took
us past wooden chalets, over winding rivers and alongside sprawling vineyards. At every road crossing, signs decorated with grape clusters listed the
wine-makers in the area.
Parking our rental car in a gravel driveway, we mustered the
courage to walk up to the first chateau and knock on the door. Upon entering the
dimly lit room, we were handed a brochure and delighted to learn that the region was hosting a
seasonal tasting and that forty-some local vineyards were taking part.
The Sauternais region of the Graves section of Bordeaux is known for some of the finest sweet white wines in all of France. Made of Semillon, Sauvignon blanc and Muscadelle grapes affected by noble rot, the wines in this area are distinctively flavored and can be very expensive due to variable production conditions. Often times, the dessert wines from this region are characterized by flavor notes of apricots, honey and peaches, are best served chilled and classically paired with Foie gras.
Over the next few hours, we visited seven
vineyards. The friendly locals invited us into their chateaus walking us through the cellars
and explaining the wine-making process. We were welcomed to sample a variety of wines at each stop, and several even offered multi-course dinner pairings. At many of the chateaus, local vendors set up tables selling homemade goods from artwork and jewelry, to honey, chocolate and cured
What’s better than spending an afternoon hopping from
chateau to chateau sampling some of the finest French wines? Not much, I dare
say, and so this is how we spent one beautiful autumn day in southern France.