St.Emilion – 6.7.11

Taking the advice of several good friends and few locals, we headed to St.Emilion to see the old village and wineries. We were not quite prepared for the amount of vineyards as St.Emilion has over 600 of them! Essentially we spent the day amidst never ending rows of vines.

The first stop was the office of tourism located in the center of the village. A few people had recommended we try the cookies called macarons, which every other shop seems to sell. Instead of waiting for one bakery to finish a fresh batch we opted for one out of the case which turned out to be a pure sugar cookie, think sugar with sugar on top, and as hard as a board, just how mom likes it. We clearly should have waited for a fresh baked batch, but didn’t have the time, think of a Krispy Kreme doughnut, great fresh and hot out of the oven, but a sugar ball after they cool down.

After dropping into the tourism office, we learned that most of the vineyards with underground quaries are located in the village center which makes sense as the town is cut into a hill. From where we parked to where we spoke with the tourism office we had to descend down a cobblestone hill with 15% gradient and to boot it was raining! This hill had accident written all over it but we made it out with our ankles and elbows intact. Unfortunately others were not so fortunate and we witnessed a spill.

We decided to do a tour of a vineyard, but since it wasn’t till later in the afternoon we had about an hour to kill and embarked upon a self tour of the surrounding vineyards to look at various grand chateau’s. After the first few stops we realized the word chateau has a loose definition as some didn’t look quite as grand as the word implies. We’ve decided that we can easily call our next house Chateau Lapierre. The prettiest chateau we saw was Chateau du Pressac. It’s perched up on a hill and gives sweeping views of the valleys below. Here’s a quick video and some photos, loving the red accents!

From there we headed to Chateau Soutard for our tour. We learned about how they make their wine, took a tour of their facilities, and had a tasting. Here are some facts that we still remember:
– they produce 60,00 bottles a year of their first run wines.
– the grapes are harvested in August by a family of gypsies, about 50 people total. This is the way of life for that family as this is the 4th generation to work on this chateau.
– each vine takes 6 minutes to harvest and there are 6500 vines per hectare, with Soutard owning 19 hectares. 1 hectares is 2.5 acres.
– one barrel of wine fills approx 300 bottles. The barrels are all French oak, they tried American oak, but it apparently tasted like shit.
– while the chateau dates back to the 16th century, the facilities were very recently renovated and are now state of the art. It’s owned by an insurance conglomerate which is common for the region.
-we also learned that each region of France has a particular grape or set of grapes that are optimal to be grown there. If you don’t grow that grape, you have to use the more generic Bordeaux name on the label rather than St. Emilion which is more prestigious. For example, St. Emilion only produces red wine. Although you can grow white wine in that area, you wouldn’t be able to have St. Emilion on the label, your label would say Bordeaux (and you wouldn’t be able to charge as much).

From St. Emilion we headed back into Bordeaux and went to dinner at Brasserie Bordelaise, which was recommended by a friend of a friend. Afterwards we did a little bit more sight seeing heading to look at Girondins monument and the fountains. Simply stunning!!

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