by Charity Jackson, CrushGlobal Contributor
Initially when I thought of Bordeaux, imagery of a glass of wine situated in front of rolling hills vineyards instantly came to mind. The wine capital of the world: home to some of the most respected wines, impeccable chateaus, and timeless Renaissance-inspired villages that locals call home. What I got from this beloved city in a mere day and a half trip, was more than I could have bargained for. The city of a wine lover's dream, I suspected to be otherwise content, but my heart was swept away by the simple things: enjoying a warm croissant/pastry and a cup of coffee in a hidden cafe next to my flat people watching.
Located in the Southwest corner of France, Bordeaux underwent a major restoration to preserve its classical architecture that dazzles today. Strolling through cobblestoned streets, I was amazed by 18th century buildings, historical landmarks, passageways that overlooked a beautiful waterfront, trendy bars and intimate cafes where lovers gazed into each others eyeing speaking sweet nothings in French. At night, the city is hued in luminous street lights that makes an evening stroll magical. Bordeaux, beyond doubt, captures the true essence of French lifestyle that is often portrayed in movies. However, my fondest memory will forever be visiting Saint-Emilion.
Of course, no one should visit Bordeaux and not take a wine tour to the world-renowned prestigious appellation. Just a short 30-minute train ride from central station through the countryside, the journey there sets the tone for what’s to come. Your eyes are immediately immersed with rolling hills of grapevines that trails for miles on end. Charming homes fit for any wanderlust leaves you wondering what life was like walking around in a petticoat and corset laced gown. There are several means of transportation to get up to this medieval township to access the wineries, but the 20-minute walk, made for more in-depth appreciation of getting to the hilltop. Saint-Emilion is more than wine that meets the palate!
Named after it’s founding father, Emilion, a Benedictine monk accused of being a bread thief, escaped into a forest, fell in love with the location, dug a cave and turned his life over to God. Eventually, he developed a following and became the leader to his fellow brethren, carrying out the life of a nobleman, and performing the works of The Lord. When he died, the town he helped create, was named after him in dedication. At the start of the French Revolution, the town was nearly deserted for 100 years until wine-making sparked new life back into this must-see town via tourism.
I snagged a few bottles of wine to take home for my personal collection and to share with my friends. However, keeping in mind that not all of them are wine drinkers, I resorted to something lighter to sip alone, but could also be enjoyed with a meal; which coincidentally didn’t come from any of the wineries we visited! With wine bars on every corner, I found a great 100% Syrah, locally produced at Le Wine Bar. It carried the perfect medium-full bodied expressions that could be savored in any setting. With aromas of dark berries, plums, and a small hint of chocolate, the senses ignite in preparation for the first sip. Disclaimer: I didn’t have an on-hand aerator, but simply whisking the wine in a glass or pouring it into a blender is a great substitute to help unlock the notes upon tasting.
The transitions in the Syrah were beautiful from start to finish. Immediately, you can taste juicy black plums and sweet, fruit-forward assortment of berries that creates a sensation of eating jam. Next, you indulge in a smoky, rich chocolate middle layer that sashay you into a mild array of soft tannins for a semi-dry finish. Paired with Brie cheese, white snacking grapes, semi-dark chocolate bites, good conversation, and you've created the perfect night in with friends, laughing at French movies with subtitles!
Overall, I could not help but feel emotional and a spiritual aura as I stumbled to keep my balance on slippery ancient cobbled streets while visiting Bordeaux. Peering into alleyways leading to small cottages. Trying caneles, a sweet treat, from Fabrique de Macarons. Zooming in and out of wine shops for tastings displaying their most proud vintages. Touring the inside of an underground wine cellar, where black mold maturates on 50-year old wine bottles not yet sold. In these moments, my heart was full, and as I stood at the hilltop observing some of the most picturesque views in my life from down below, the town of Saint-Emilion instantly became the romantic fantasy I'd always dreamed of.