Bordeaux Part I: Grand Cru

I have been blogging in parts, partly because it is easier for me to write about our experiences in pieces, but also because adding too many pix in a blog taxes the blog site and causes it to freeze up.

Today is Ethan’s birthday.  He has completed a quarter century of life  and done so admirably.  He managed too grow up with out either of his parents, his sister nor his grand units killing him, finished high school, college and graduate school, struck out on his own in Boston and found full time employment as a teacher.  A big shout out to Ethan and don’t forget to send him an email today wishing him many happy returns!

Bordeaux is a region in Southwest France that encompasses a wide swath of land surrounding the city of Bordeaux, and stretches east to west along the Dordogne river.  Although you can find Bordeaux wine (Merlot to be precise) anywhere in this region, the town of St. Emilion is where to find the most famous of Merlots; the Grand Cru.  Grand Cru refers to both the region (territory in and around St. Emilion), the soil (clay and limestone), and the method of producing the wine.  Only red merlot wines from this region of Bordeaux can be classified Grand Cru which earned its first designation in 1855, even though wine was and still is produced by monk-dom ever since about 1000.  Grand Cru doesn’t necessarily mean “good”, although they are indeed that.  There are entry level Grand Cru wines starting at about $20 and from there, the sky is the limit.  Once the wine is produced, age is often the key factor in what one might pay.  All that said, a decent bottle of Grand Cru will run you about $50 on the low end.  In St Emilion, there are 5400 hectares of grapes and @118 wineries (what they call Chateaus)  Here is the infamous grape:

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We will get back to wine momentarily.  St Emilion is the town and center of the Grand Cru region of grapes.  It is named after the 9C monk that founded the community and monastery.  None of the original buildings survive but the town is remarkably and beautifully intact since the 15C.  The town became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999. The centerpiece of the town is the monolithic church and tower.  It is the broadest base monolithic church in Europe and has 196 steps to the top.  It is so narrow and steep that only 14 people are allowed in at a time.  This is the best view for taking pics, so here you go:

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Above is the town with mono church, taken from one of the towns ramparts.

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Here is the mono church from ground level.  Next are views of the area from the mono:

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That’s the King’s Tower, quite small compared to the mono church.

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Notice the walled roads leading away from town.  Got protect them thar grapes from intruders!

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Everything green you see in the above pics are grape vines.  Here is a pic from in town, along one of the medieval streets (King’s tower in the background):

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Several Caves exist under the town.  We visited two (the Chateaus are in the outlying fields): Maison Galhaud and Clos du Menuts.  The winding caves of stored/aging wine is impressive, and my pix don’t do it justice.  These were all hand dug ( and the limestone was used to build the town) between 1000-1500.

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Temps are naturally kept at about 55F and it is quite damp with all types of growies along the cave walls.  We wine tasted at both Caves and bought a few bottles.  We also walked to Chateau Soutard and bought a bottle of Grand Cru there.  They had really nice Rose wines so we  decided to grab a couple of those too.

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And the bottles we bought!

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Two more pics:  I have to share the Cloister pic (ruins) because the nuns still make a sparkling wine, which you are allowed to purchase and drink right there among the ruins.

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And a shot of the “Great Wall”.  Since the original monastery was just beyond the walls of the town, the powers that be decided it needed to come down.  If they were attacked and the monastery was taken by the enemy, there would be no stopping them from taking the town.  The wall is all that is left:

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I hope that this blog gives you a “taste” of Grand Cru and the Bordeaux region.  Part II will describe the two musical adventures we happened upon and Part III is all about Michelin.  Not the tires, but a restaurant 2 miles from our apartment that we had no idea existed.  And yes, with out reservations,  we ate there.

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Author: euro916

I am a college professor in the music department of Utah State University. I will start my sabbatical on May 1, 2016 and plan to document the year's experiences in this blog. The sabbatical consists of musical endeavors in Europe/UK for 3 months, and half a semester as guest artist in a couple of California universities. Thanks for following!

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