Vins de Bordeaux – Nature has been kind to Bordeaux this year. A bumper crop of grapes, a fine harvest – calculated on the lifecycle of the vine, in other words the sugar content and the ripeness of the grape skins, harvests take several days, or even weeks, depending on the size of the plots. In the Bordeaux vineyards, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are not harvested on the same date, because they don’t ripen at exactly the same time.
The harvests come at the time of year when the grapes are picked, and this determines the vintage of the wine, the harvest year which will be shown on the label: this means that vintage 2016 was harvested in 2016. Most Bordeaux wines are blends that include one or more noble grape varieties. A noble grape is a grape that can produce great wine, without blending. However, the vast majority of Bordeaux wines are produced from blends. Review the map included in our photos for the vast different wine regions in Bordeaux area.
Since we arrived in France we’ve had fresh mornings and glorious days, perfect for cycling — combined with the excitement of the harvest season we really enjoyed cycling the Dordogne River to and around St Emilion; the the Garonne River on the first cycleway in France and the Gironde River and castle hopping in the Medoc Region.
Arriving into St. Emilion by bike is an experience to savor: lush rolling hills, vineyards as far as the eye can see, medieval houses and ramparts, cobblestone streets, picture-perfect piazzas. A photo couldn’t quite capture the amazing beauty of the landscape, so I just stopped along the way to enjoy the experience. The harvest period makes its mark on the wine-growing landscape. In fact, the winding routes down the hillsides are busy with tractors carrying crates of grapes to the presses, while an army of humans moves through the rows of vines.
One day we went castle hunting. The stunning Médoc region, north of Bordeaux, following the left bank of the river Garonne which becomes the Gironde. The south-western French version of the route 66 is known as the Départementale 2. It may have less of a ring to it, and is much shorter (100km), but if you can allow for a long afternoon pedaling – and it takes you though some of France’s most famous winery villages and wine appellations such as Margaux, St.Julien and Pauillac.
One chateau showed us their wine press. They still place grapes into a barrel and hand press the skins for the final juices. They maintain total control over the quality of their product using this final pressing. The intense juices adjust the final product into a satisfying wine experience. One of the many interesting things we learned is that Bordeaux wines are always a red and always blended wine. It is a requirement of their appellation that a winegrower use their unique blend of wines to create a Bordeaux red. With microclimates, microsoils, curing and oak barreling plus winemaker choice on the percentage of merlot, cab sav, and other red grapes, Bordeaux produces thousands of options, all of them great.
We smiled the entire time in Bordeaux. It was exciting to share the wine harvest and this exquisite bicycling area. The wine producers are smiling too, as they start the most exciting time of the year.
We really wanted to explore one more area in this region. A bicycle route that travels down the west coast of France, past a few national parks and the sand dunes of France. However, not all things go picture perfect. The David and Karen Journey requires some quick thinking . . . Fall maintenance on the rail line meant that we traveled by bus to Arachon. Once there, mid week, when summer operators back off the tourist high season — well, we ended up in a tour boat on the Bassin d’Arachon. We forgot, somehow that it would be completely in French, so for three hours we just enjoyed a sunny day, snapped a few pictures, enjoyed some French cuisine and of course, some wine.