Friday, November 9, 2007

St Emilion

Last weekend, we spent a lovely few days in the quaint town of St Emilion. It is perhaps one of the nicest little towns we have visited. St Emilion is one of the renowned regions within the Bordeaux winemaking region. The ground around the town is composed largely of limestone. This makes excellent caves for making and storing their wines.

St Emilion is about a two and a half hour drive from Pau. As soon as we entered the Bordeaux region, the vines began and seemed to stretch on forever. The vines here are so immaculately groomed that they are all the same height. It is quite an incredible sight when you look down a vineyard.

The tiny town is very well equipped to entertain the tourist in search of wine. The tourist office arranges wine classes and has updated information of which Chateaux’ are giving tours. A Chateaux is essentially what the vineyard is called. They may or may not actually have a chateau on the property. It is said there are over 7000 Chateaux in the Bordeaux region! We were fortunate to visit three Chateaux while there.

While in Calgary we took a French wine class. While we enjoyed the tastings, I am not sure we understood the complex nomenclature used to classify French wines any better than before the class. There are regions within regions, each of which has their own classifications. But last weekend, we started to understand. At least we have a good grasp on the wines from St Emilion, which helps understand Bordeaux wines in general.

We learned many things from each Chateau we visited. It is always a pleasure to see how passionate the vintners are toward their profession and their wines. The last gentleman we visited was at least 70 years old. He spent over two hours with us explaining each step in the winemaking process in incredible depth. He walked us through an extensive tasting process, that included lighting a candle and spitting the first mouthful. One would pay a lot of money to attend a tasting class in a big city. We simply bought two bottles of wine.

We left St Emilion with over a dozen bottles of wine and bad colds. I guess the latter is to be expected after spending a day in damp caves!

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