Thursday, November 26, 2015

No such thing as a Bordeaux rosé

Back in October, I was in France again to catch up with my Tours mates. We like to pick somewhere new and convenient for us all to get to, which is not super easy, but Bordeaux fit the bill perfectly. Just a short plane ride for me (Brussels is so much better in terms of air connections than Tours or Metz, unsurprisingly) and a train trip for Liz and Mel. I'd never been, so it seemed the perfect destination for a weekend away.

(As a side note, this is the first blog I'm writing since the recent attacks and "lockdown", although not the first to be published obviously. Words fail me on that subject, so I'd rather just celebrate France the way it should be - full of wine and culture and good times.)

The opera house
Obviously, Bordeaux being Bordeaux, wine was pretty high on our list of priorities. I've got to confess something here, I don't like Bordeaux wines. Or I'm ignorant of and intimidated by Bordeaux wines, I don't know. I like my reds on the light and easy-drinking end of the scale, so shoot me. Bordeauxs always seemed too heavy and tannic for my tastes. But when in Bordeaux, do as the Bordelais do, or at least as the tourists do, so we fronted up to the Maison des Vins on Saturday after lunch, determined to learn some more.

A wall of Bordeaux wine in the Maison des Vins
And... turns out that there are Bordeaux wines I like! The friendly and helpful staff steered us towards Saint-Emilion wines - my favourite was the Puisseguin, which I'd never heard of before (I committed it to memory by calling it "pussy gone", which is the maturity level you'd expect after four hours of drinking). We were drinking "half glasses", which still seemed to be pretty much the size of a full glass if you ask me, plus the occasional full glass when we went off menu and asked for the secret wines. (Not so secret, our first waiter told us about them, but the guy we asked to bring us secret wines seemed impressed by our insider knowledge and daring.) We got through 5 glasses of wine each, so 15 glasses total. And the price came to... around 37€. Not 37€ each, 37€ all up. We nearly fell off our chairs in a combination of shock and having drunk about a bottle of wine each!

By the way, it was a fabulous decision to arrive after lunch, around 4 pm or so. We stayed until we went to dinner around 8.30, and for at least half that time there was constantly a queue of people standing right behind us waiting to get a table. We felt maybe slightly bad to be sitting there laughing and talking and drinking wine under their baleful glare, but on the other hand, we were loving it.

We were finally done with wine and ready for dinner, so we quickly made a phone reservation somewhere nearby, having more than once been in the situation of traipsing around a French city post-9 pm and finding everywhere full or stopped serving. We regretted having reserved, however, when we stepped into the restaurant lobby and discovered it smelled like poo. Not just smelled bad, smelled like actual human sewage. There was a moment of confusion - why was the waiter just standing there in the middle of this stink without a flicker of disgust? Why were there people inside the restaurant, eating? We would have walked out if we hadn't booked, but instead we asked to be moved to a table upstairs, where the poo smell was absent. Later, noticing a similar smell in the lobby of the apartment building where we were renting, we wondered whether this is just a typical Bordeaux smell and the locals don't even notice it (there is a town in New Zealand called Rotorua where this is the case, due to an abundance of sulphorous gases). Has anyone else found that Bordeaux smells like shit? I googled, and apparently it's a thing that the wine may smell that way, but nothing really for the city itself...

Happy diners in our fancy poo-smell restaurant

Service was also slow, by the way

The opera house by night
I dragged the girls home - Liz in particular wanted to keep partying, but I was coming down with a cold, and had to reluctantly turf myself out of bed the next morning for a full English breakfast in a nearby cafe. We were all pretty happy just to relax and walk around the city rather than trying to do much. It's a lovely place to wander around - a very harmonious, largely 18th-century style. Much less higgedly piggedly in its architecture than many old cities.

We found the famous miroir d'eau - literally looks like nothing when you're standing in front of it - it's (not literally) miles away from the buildings it reflects and I've seen shinier puddles. We almost gave up and concluded that the dingy grey atmospheric conditions weren't right for it to reflect anything, but lo and behold, as soon as you look through a camera lens, the effect works a treat.

We walked along the riverbank, where there was a huge food market, and found an antique-y area which was specially open (on Sunday) to celebrate the vin nouveau. Which, by the way, was not at all what I expected - I was thinking Beaujolais Nouveau, whereas this was the colour of cloudy apple juice and tasted pretty much like juice too.

The monument aux Girondins (Revolutionary politicians)

On the banks of the Garonne river

"Do you think this might be a trademark infringement?" "No way, if we call it Mickey *Boy*, no-one will ever know"
Oh, and as for the title of the blog? We went for one last drink at a big chi-chi place on the square by the opera house, and I asked for a rosé. He said there was Provence rosé on the menu, so, confused, I clarified that of course I wanted a Bordeaux rosé. The waiter said there was no such thing as a Bordeaux rosé. I said, "mais, si", since apart from having definitely seen and drunk Bordeaux rosés before, I had been in the bloody official Bordeaux Maison des Vins the day before and seen them on the menu. He snobbily maintained that Bordeaux made clairet (claret in English), not rosé, so I just said fine, I wouldn't have anything. My cold had definitely arrived by this stage and I didn't really want wine that much in any case. Lucky enough, because it turned out in this establishment, a glass of wine cost NINE euros! So for the price of 15 wines at the lovely Maison des Vins, you could have four there, and be patronised by the waiter into the bargain. I'll just leave this thing that definitely does exist here...

1 comment:

  1. My friends and I loved Bordeaux when we visited! You're not alone on your opinion of the wine, though-- others I know don't prefer it. Though it sounds like you sampled enough to find ones that suited you. :) Amazing price! If I could drink more, I would go to the Maison des Vins next time I travel to Bordeaux.


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