I have been in Bordeaux for two months and just realized that I have not yet mentioned anything about wine. Before I left Birmingham, most people would ask me if I was moving to Bordeaux for the wine. They also usually thought Bordeaux was a region and would ask what city I would be living in. To which I would respond, Bordeaux. Most Americans don’t realize that Bordeaux is an actual city and not just a wine region. In fact, the region (kind of like a State in the US) is not even called Bordeaux but rather is called Nouvelle-Aquitaine and the Département (kind of like a county in the US) in which I live is the Gironde, so again not Bordeaux. But the city of Bordeaux is the capital of both the Gironde and the Nouvelle-Aquitaine in addition to lending its name to many fine wines.
So what about those wines? The truth is I went wine tasting for the first time in Bordeaux this past weekend at the Cité du Vin (http://www.laciteduvin.com/en) or the City of Wine, Bordeaux’s famous wine museum. I have been wine tasting many times. To those of you who may scoff at Michigan’s ability to produce a fine wine, I say come on, why so judgy? Sure they may not be as complex as others in the world but they still are mighty tasty. And Michigan wines have the distinctive honor of steering me away from boxed Franzia White Zinfandel in college to more refined bottled wine. I am not saying I never had bottled wine before those trips to Michigan vineyards because Boone’s Farm certainly made a good bottle of wine (kidding).
It truly was Michigan vineyards from Fennville to the Leelanau that taught me to understand the complex nature of wine and develop an appreciation for different grapes and methods of making wine. From the very beginning my favorite wine has always been the bubbly variety. It’s like a party in a glass. Just a sip of sparkling wine makes me smile. I have gone from the Michigan winery Mawby’s sparkling wine to California sparklers to Italian proseccos over the past few years. But honestly I have not had the opportunity to enjoy many French sparkling wines. You will notice I have not used the word champagne yet. Champagne is a very specific type of French sparkling wine that is produced in the Champagne region of France. Technically if a sparkling wine is not produced in Champagne it can not be called champagne. One can say it was produced in the champagne method but it is not a champagne. Hair splitting, but they are serious about this classification.
So back to my trip to the Cité du Vin. One of my oldest friends came to visit and so we had a excuse to go to the museum. My 10 year old son came too so I spent the bulk of the time in the history section of the museum. He loves history and if he will indulge me in a wine museum, I will indulge him in some history. We also spent some time in the science of wine making section of the museum. There was an opportunity to smell many different scents and try to identify them. He loved that! At the end of the museum tour, there is an opportunity to taste wines from around the world. We went to the roof for a tasting. I had a Crémant de Bordeaux which was a sparkling rose wine from Bordeaux. It was so good that these types of wine have become my obsession. You can find Crémant de Loire, Crémant de Bourgogne, and many others. They are so good and at only 5 euros a bottle, they are a much better price than the champagnes that are closer to 10-15 euros a bottle.
My husband is more a red wine type of person. And he actually likes a fairly full bodied red. We learned that Bordeaux wines are actually made at hundreds of wineries across the Garonne river. There are Médocs, Entre Deux Mer, Graves, and Saint Émilion (https://vineyards.com/country-wine-region/france/bordeaux). Each of these areas within the Bordeaux family has a distinctive wine style based on the grapes that are grown and the method to make the wine. It is so complicated! We are only just beginning to scratch the surface at understanding what makes the different types of wines in this wonderful region. If you think you might want to come to Bordeaux to drink red wine, get ready to be overwhelmed. The good news is they all taste good though so the pressure is off!