Wine Country: Bordeaux, France Part Trois
In the last essay on Bordeaux, we explored the Blaye-Bourg region. Now, we continue with a route to the east of Bordeaux further upstream along the Dordogne River that the Discover Bordeaux site lists as “The Heritage Road.”
The N89 and D1089 will take you to Libourne, the city that gives the region its name. The city was established as a “bastide” (new city) in 1269 according to plans of Prince Edward of England and carried out by his lieutenant Roger De Leyburn who gives the city its name. The centerpiece of the town is the open-air market that still takes place on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
After exploring Libourne, head east on the D1089 to D22e2 and follow the signs for the Chateau Beausejour. Be sure to call ahead so they can plan a tasting for you. It is a part of the Premier grand cru classes of the region and has grapevines that date back to 1901 with many windmills around the estate that help to reduce blight.
From there, its only 3 miles along the D244e1 and D122 to Saint-Emilion, the center town of its eponymous terroir, the largest in the region and where you should spend most of your day. 92 different chateaus are open to the public and the link allows you to click on the different vineyards to see the cost of tours, bottle prices, open times and links to the websites of the different chateaus. Of all the research I’ve done on different wine areas, this is by far the most comprehensive site with information that you’ll need if you go visit.
What also makes the area interesting is the fact that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its vineyards. Some of the chateaus date back to the 14th century, like Chateau De Pressac (open to the public). Touring this vineyard that looks like a medieval castle complete with a beautiful surrounding wall would be a highlight for both history and good wine. However, even older is Chateau Laroque, part of which was originally built in the 13th century.
But, this isn’t the oldest building in the area. Saint-Emilion is home to a monolithic church, which means that it is a church carved into the limestone. Even further back in the history of the area are the pots in the Underground Pottery Museum that were unearthed when the rock was quarried to build the city in the 12th and 13th centuries. The pots date back to twenty centuries in our past.
After a full day of exploring the history and the great wineries, there’s a big list of restaurants to fill your belly and allow you to sample more wines with a good meal. After that, you might just grab a room and stay around the area, because those 92 chateaus aren’t going to tour themselves.
About Jason McClain Jason is an aspiring novelist, which means there is a lot of time to put off writing and watch baseball or go fly-fishing, hiking and traveling. By "a lot of time", Jason means "procrastination."