Jul 23, 2008

The Last Weekend In Bordeaux: St-Emilion

St-Emilion is actually located within the fences of Bordeaux it shares the similar fame for its red wines. Unlike the charming Poitiers yesterday, St-Emilion is jam-packed with tourists on Sunday, which took away some of its old-time charm with flashy Americans yakking "I kinda mis'd Noo York in the winter," (it was kinda warm that day); and Britons sharing in the chorus "Do you think it'll be rAther troublesome to ask the lAd to put THese into a paper bAg?"
We visited a château (winery) with a group of tourists like myself. Before leaving we were given approximately 45 minutes to explore the little hamlet on our own. It was quite a deal for €25 for the afternoon tour, organized by the Tourism Office of Bordeaux. Our guide, a French lady who speaks excellent English, went on and on introducing Bordeaux wines and its close relations with St-Emilion. I'm sure with a little attention and understanding of English, tourists would have a clear-cut knowledge about the town. This made me reflect on Taiwanese tourism and tour guides - giving little or no introduction at all, encouraging 'tour harmony' by singing karaoke the entire journey, and last but not least, as the infamous phrase goes - board a bus, sleep; alight from bus, the mad rush for washrooms, take photos, and board the bus again (no pun intended).

Vast vineyards greeted us as we entered St-Emilion

The berries that brought cash and fame to Bordeaux. They have really nice names and they can fruit even when very old. This is a Merlot, I think, and it's over 50 years old, the bush. These grapes will redden in August, and subsequently harvested to be fermented into wine in September-October

The owner of the château (young dude) briefing us over the aging and maturation process of wine, with his excellent English translator (old blond lady) just in front. He is the 5th generation in his family to manage the winery

Barrels rested in the room for maturation. For a bottle of wine, tax-free, priced €5, the cost of the barrel mounts up to €1.50. The barrels, made only using the finest oak, adds flavor to the wine

Vines are trimmed so that they don't overgrow and produce sour grapes, which the fox can't reach and assumed they were sour

Then to St-Emilion Centre - the old clock tower of the hamlet

Land in St-Emilion is expensive (the soil specific for vines particularly), causing an average winery in the area not exceeding 12 hectars. Farmers struggle to keep costs low due to the low cost-to-benefit ratio caused by small plots of land

Gate to St-Emilion, dating back to the 12th century

St-Emilion's ancient side

And its modern side - school of wine

As well as its rustic side

The courtyard of a monastary reminiscent of an era of horse-riding knights clad in armour and handsome kings (and the queens wearing gowns that sweep and collect dust as they go)

Did I mention St-Emilion is another UNESCO World Heritage Site too?

Vines and history - it's not surprising tourists are easily fascinated by these two 

Once again to the great wines of Bordeaux