For 91 days my wife and I have drunk on a budget from New York to France. Finally, we reach Bordeaux: home to more of the most expensive, collectable wines than any region in the world (as well as many thin, cheap, ones). Here we can fulfill our dream, forged in the fire of the Advanced WSET exam. We will smell the soil, try the food, and revel in the wines of this unique terroir. And it’s my birthday.
The rub? My wife’s flu has hit with full force. The sniffles have also begun to muddle my mind, and worse, my palate.
So there we stand, inside one of the most posh tasting rooms bequeathed by Bacchus:
We ogle the wine list. Bottles grand, obscure, and expensive fill its many pages. Soft jazz, tourists sipping, and loquacious waiters echo about the hall. But my runny nose says leave.
But we’re not quitters. No! Illness be damned. If we can’t drink, at least we can exhaust ourselves exploring.
So we hit the wet cobbles and quickly get lost in Bordeaux’s limestone maze.
Chic shops and brands now pack the main boulevards. But it is the grape that built this city. The array of glittering bottle shops seems endless. They even have shops just for grape spirit:
Many negociants (wine merchants) have left the port’s old center. But their imprint abounds.
Every building has cellars, ramps, and gates for wine barrels, even if they now hold car collections. When not making, shipping, or selling wine, Bordeaux’s Opera House fed it’s competitive, aspiring merchants with magnificence.
Bordeaux’s countless churches speak of these patrons buying their way to heaven. An amalgam of increasingly elaborate construction phases, and restorations, reflect unabated waves of patronage.
Spool back to antiquity, where Ausonius describes the Garonne River overgrown with vines (75 acres of which he proudly inherited). As retired archaeologists, we find the only ancient survivor of this port’s surge:
While we usually trip over ruins in most European cities, Bordeaux only kept its amphitheater (the Revolution almost dismantled even this for an apartment complex).
The churn of commerce reigns supreme.
Everything, even the brothels, look tidy, manicured. Fall’s riot of colors seem constructed, perfected in city parks.
It’s a marvelous place: tailored, serious, yet showy, much like its wine.
The next few Monday posts will explore Bordeaux and its vines in depth. For now, we feel horribly sick, and will have to suffer sober through the unsurprisingly gorgeous sunset from our rooftop home stay.