This is the fifth in our series about AmaWaterway’s Taste of Bordeaux river cruise. Today is all about the famed city and wine region of Saint-Émilion . Here’s the initial entry.
Wine before noon!
This morning we sail from Bourg en Gironde to the town of Libourne on the Dordogne river. Thankfully this means another leisurely start. And that means there’s plenty of time for another wine lecture. This is the last of three and compares Champagne and Sparkling wine. What makes this one fun is the food pairings. Ever try potato chips with Sparkling wine? How about sour skittles with Champagne. Or barbecue chips (or paprika chips as the crew calls them) with either? They actually pair really well. Which is the point – Shawna our wine host is on a mission to demystify and bring down to earth wine. And she succeeds – the pairings work really well.
Saint-Émilion coming right up
After lunch we take a short bus ride to the town of Saint-Émilion. This ancient town features a monolithic church – meaning it was carved out of a single piece of rock. Well, that’s how it’s billed; the basement and first floor certainly are carved out of the limestone. But upstairs and steeple not so much. Even so, fun to walk around the small city (lots of small galleries and wine shops to poke around). We had an interesting tour of the church and crypt and had time on our own to wander around. Romanesque architecture abounds In town we picked up some Saint-Émilion macaroons at our guide’s favorite macaroon shop. They used the same recipe since 1620 and sure enough tasted very different (delicious) from other macaroons in other towns. To find out more about the town click here.
Wine after noon!
We were then driven a short distance to another wine tasting; perhaps our favorite of the trip. We went to Château de Ferrand, Saint-Émilion Cru. We walked through their facilities which featured large concrete fermentation tanks. These are lined with resin to offset concrete’s porosity. These are used to blend as well after barrel aging. Each Chateau has had their own unique approach to fermentation, filtering, barrel aging and blending. Some of these are technical solutions (concrete vats, stainless steel tanks, barrels, optical sorting) and others are in procedure (which steps to do when, length of time, number of times the French Oak barrels are reused). We sampled vintages from 2016 (too harsh, too young but certainly not undrinkable), 2010 (nice), 2008 (very nice and the highest priced of the group) and 2007 (supposedly a bad vintage but many of us liked it better). http://www.chateaudeferrand.com/
Captain’s table and yes, more wine
Tonight’s dinner was the Gala dinner where the captain hosted a cocktail party before dinner and the meal itself was particularly “fancy”. We were invited to the Captain’s table where we had a very nice talk with a doctor and wife that served as his office manager, the wine host Shawna and husband, the captain and cruise manager and a couple who both were educators / principals that have lived in Mexico, Thailand, and Las Vegas. It’s always amazing how much such a diverse group can have in common; the conversation was easy and flowing. Dinner was very tender lamb.
After dinner we were entertained by Laurent “A Man and his Guitar”. He was fun and engaging and sang French popular songs – both classic pop and current popular songs.
Reflections on Saint-Émilion
Saint-Émilion is a very famous wine region. While the town is more about history, the region is all about the wine. Visiting the vineyard was great as it gave us additional insight into the region. The region’s history is wrapped up in wine but certainly also in the church and military. And as appropriate for France, the food today was great and the conversation even better.