Our second day of touring in Bordeaux took us to the Left Bank, home to D’s favorite wines. The Left Bank is on a peninsula, jutting up between the Gironde River and the Atlantic Ocean, and includes the famous wine appellations of Margaux, Pauillac, and Saint-Julien.
As we drove, Henri pointed out the very flat land (unlike the Right Bank) and the many marshy areas, where poplar trees grow in neat rows. They help prevent erosion, and are harvested to make those thin wooden boxes for Camembert and other cheeses.
Onwards to our visits!
We started at Talbot, one of our favorite chateaux, where we had a private tour out to the edge of the vineyards and into the recently renovated vat and barrel rooms. The barrel room was strikingly modern, with angled columns meant to evoke trees or vines, and an faceted metallic ceiling speckled with lights, like stars in a misty sky.
We tasted the 2011 vintage – the year most commonly poured across our visits.
After Talbot, we had a wonderful lunch that I’ll write about separately, and then headed to Chateau Gruaud Larose. This is another wine that we’ve really enjoyed over the years!
The property is beautiful, and has a special surprise – a very modern metallic tower that provides a panoramic view of the chateau, its impeccable grounds, and surrounding area.
After enjoying the view, we headed down into the cellars, where we saw the racking process underway. Racking is the process of moving the wine from one barrel to another to filter it and remove the hydrogen sulfide gas that can be produced during fermentation. The man working over the barrels was wearing a mask; we quickly moved to the other end of the cellar to avoid the rotten egg smell!
We also got to see the cellar where they keep an archive of bottles going back decades – these are used when people bring in wines for re-corking (so that if I were to bring 6 bottles of Gruaud 1962, they could be topped up with the same vintage).
Gruaud Larose was the only chateau to pour older vintages for the tasting – 2008 for the second label (Sarget de Gruaud Larose), and 2003 for the main label. I preferred the slightly younger second label.
We did a bit more touring before our next visit, and came across a bottling truck at Chateau Beychevelle. It’s more efficient for most wineries to contract with one of these trucks to stop by for a couple of days, instead of investing in their own bottling facilities.
I liked seeing the fairy-tale like chateaux set back in vines or gardens, closer to what had pictured in my mind than the smaller, close-together houses on the Right Bank.
Our final visit of the trip was to Chateau Pédesclaux, owned since 2009 by a real estate billionaire who put quite a bit of money into the property. The chateaux has been encased by glass wings on either side (making for a really distinctive look) and an entirely new cellar building that’s completely modern, down to its “wine elevators”. They’re just what they sound like, motorized vats that carry the wine up several stories to use gravity rather than pumps.
We tasted the 2014 vintages of their first and second labels in the glass room on the right side of the chateau.
All in all, a wonderful exploration of Bordeaux!
See our day on the Right Bank here.