We focus on Libourne in this, our sixth blog post about AmaWaterway’s Taste of Bordeaux river cruise. Here’s the initial entry.
One of the nice things about AmaWaterways is the amount tours offered. For example, today some passengers went to Chateau de Vayres, others went on a AMAHike at Chateau Boutinet for a tapas and wine tasting while others (us) did the Libourne Bastide Market walking tour. From talking with others, the hike was great. The hike was not too difficult and ended with home made tapas and local wine.
Something fishy in Libourne
So we toured through the local market in downtown Libourne. This was simply a typical day in Libourne – an outdoors farmer’s market with fruit and vegetables typical of Europe as well as the indoor meat, cheese and fish market. We even got a few tastings in: three different kinds of chocolate, a sliced meat platter and a cheese platter with 3 local cheeses. Next, we were able to explore Libourne a bit as well – very nice little town of 23,000 people with a vibrant shopping district. We have not seen any signs of economic malaise in France, despite the fact that unemployment sits at 9.5% and has been above 8% since 2009. Nor have we seen the impact of a general slowdown in travel to France. Perhaps it’s because we’re in the July / August time frame so the French and Europeans in general are all on holiday.
A Libourne Castle
After lunch we depart for our final wine tasting event in the Fronsac region. We visited the Château de La Rivière, only a 10 minute drive from our ship. Here’s another source which describes the region’s wine.
The chateau is really a castle and was clearly visually the nicest chateau we visited – though the wines were not our favorite. The initial building dates to the mid 16th century. We first toured the grounds and saw the beautiful view offered. We were then led to the front of the driveway where a “hidden” doorway led to limestone quarry. Well, we’ll say quarry because that’s what it original was – 22 km long – which provided the stone for many of the buildings in Libourne. But the quarry has served two purposes since. First it was used a a wine cellar – there’s 500,000 bottles of wine currently stored there! They are in unmarked bottles stacked in marked carved out shelves. It’s a perfect wine cellar temperature year round so why not. There’s even a carved out large table and chairs underground for those that can’t wait.
Hiding in plain sight
The quarry was also used by the French resistance as a hiding place during WW2. It has natural spring water so the soldiers had a ready supply of water during their 3 year effort. Local towns people pretended it was a cemetery and laid flowers in front of the doors every day to fool the Germans who had occupied the castle. The flowers hid food for the soldiers.
Wine in the afternoon
After emerging from the cool cellar, we went to the tasting room. We sampled four different wines – 3 reds and a white. These were among our least favorite of the week. Bread cheese and deli meats were served but really didn’t enhance the wine at all. It was fun to try different vintages but we really never found one we liked. Oh well, we’ve tasted plenty of others that were excellent.
Wine in the evening
Dinner that night was a wine paired dinner. Shawna, our wine host, worked with chef to pair four of her California wines with a serving. Our favorite pairing was Chardonnay with lobster bisque. The fillet mignon and petite Syrah paired nicely as well. Four wines, four servings. By now we know many of the guests and linger after dinner to talk with new found friends. The main topic of conversation today is comparing everyone’s tour. And of course commenting on the wine and dinner.