This is the second in our series about AmaWaterway’s Taste of Bordeaux river cruise. Here’s the first post. Today we focus on the Sauternes region.
Confusion on the Bounty
The ship is sailing for most of the morning so starting at a leisurely 10 AM the cruise manager provides an overview of all the tours available on the cruise. This is a bit confusing because there’s so many choices: things to sign up for with the cruise manager (hiking and biking), things to sign up on a form and things you don’t need to sign up for now but need to think about. We were provided a booklet ahead of time which describes all of the tours in detail. There’s lots of options – on some days, there’s up to 3 – 4 things to decide on (all at no added cost). So we have our homework and get to choosing.
Our destination is Cadillac in the Sauternes region. We have an early lunch which is a terrific seafood buffet. Fresh clams, mussels, lobsters, crayfish and all many of seafood is ready to be consumed. All locally caught and extremely fresh tasting.
After lunch we head off to visit the Roquetaillade Castle. The bus ride goes through beautiful French countryside. The castle is a fascinating site and dates to prehistory. Charlemagne constructed the first fort and by the 11th century a stone fort (basically a square tower) emerged. Most of what can be seen today, however was built in 1306. The same family has occupied this structure ever since! It was extensively renovated in 1860 by the same architect that renovated Notre Dame in Paris.
We were given a great tour of the property, which includes a small chapel and the interior of the castle. We didn’t know until we left the property that the person giving the tour was actually the matriarch of the family that lives there (her English accent threw us off). Originally only the keep existed but during the middle ages the outer court and towers were built. Eventually rooms were added onto the exterior castle walls. The interior is decorated in all manners of style spanning the occupied 700 year history. Click here for more information.
Sweet white wine of Sauternes
After the castle we headed to the Rayne Vigneau vineyard in the Sauternes region. http://www.raynevigneau.fr/en/ Here we toured the grounds which have a slight slope toward the local stream. This is sweet white wine country. A small stream, the Citron flows into the Garonne river and since the two waterways are at different temperatures, a fog mists the vineyard almost every summer morning. This promotes a fungus which in turn, creates a seepage hole for the grapes juices. The result is a grape that’s very sweet (no water to dilute the sweetness of the flesh). They grow three types of grapes here Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle. Each grape is grown at a different elevation reflecting how much fungus they want and how difficult it is to grow.
We toured their barrel aging room where they also filter (in the barrels) and blend over time. We tasted several vintages of the Premier Grand Cru Classé de Sauternes including a 2009. Very sweet and certainly different than we’ve had before. The classic pairing with this wine, we are told is Foie Gras. But it went great with the raspberry tarts they served.
Dinner and a stroll
We head back to the ship and enjoy a great meal at a table for two. Service is top notch, as is the food. We need to cruise back to Bordeaux since the tides is going out and we will hit bottom if we stay in Cadillac (late afternoon) so off we go. Once we arrive in Bordeaux we opt to skip the DJ playing in the lounge and take a walk along the waterfront. We wanted to see the reflecting mirror in the evening. The city was very alive with a dance festival, a circus and just lots of families out strolling along the river. Finally we strolled back to the ship with the city to our backs.
Surprise historic whites
Today was about history and sweet white wine. Both surprise us – we always associated Bordeaux region with red wine and had no idea how historic the region is. But that’s the fun of traveling to parts unknown – surprises await.