Lessons from Bordeaux

Bordeaux.jpgBordeaux. The name itself evokes images of grand châteaus, vast expanses of vineyards, expensive vintages and, of course, a beautiful city that is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its “outstanding urban and architectural ensemble”, writes Rohan Jelkie who was there recently on a wine course at École du Vin. Pictured: LaBRI, Université Bordeaux

To the lay drinker, the face of Bordeaux’s wines lies in its reds. Au contraire. Bordeaux is possibly one of the very few regions in the winemaking world that produces all styles of wine.
Recently, I had the opportunity to pursue a course at the CIVB’s (Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux) École du Vin and experienced for myself the very reason why Bordeaux sits at the pinnacle of the winemaking world. Set up in 1990, the École du Vin (wine school) aims to introduce wine professionals and enthusiasts to the wonderful world of Bordeaux wines through a variety of courses that it offers at different points of time in the year.
Ecole du vin-net.jpgThe courses here are extremely practical and move away from typical presentation-led sessions. Alexander Hall, a Bordeaux-based wine professional and ex-winemaker, was our course tutor. I had quite an eclectic bunch of people as batch mates from as far afield as Hong Kong and China, Jordan, Canada and the Philippines, amongst others. Each day of the course was packed with great learning experiences.
Day one saw us make a trip to the right bank to Pomerol, where we spent one afternoon at Château de Sales, the largest vineyard there, and got to interact with the winemaker and owner, Bruno de Lambert, and tasted and discussed his wines over a superb five-course meal! And if you’re in wine school in Bordeaux, you’d expect to try some of the finest and most expensive wines, right? Fine wines? Yes. Expensive? No. Most of the wines that we tasted as part of the course were priced between €5-€40 and across various styles. Some of the best wines that were to be had were actually quite reasonable.
Of the many that we tasted, a few stood out for me: a Château Nicot 2010, a Sauvignon-Sémillon blend from the Entre-Deux-Mers – an excellent, easy to drink white; a Château Penin 2010, AOC Bordeaux Clairet; and a Château Vieux Moulins de Chereau 2003, a classic right bank blend. And all under €12!
We did taste others that were priced far higher too. But this just goes to show that good wines needn’t be pricey. And our learning didn’t end there. Our lunches were organized at some of the top restaurants in the city, and Alex would personally pick wines that we would taste and discuss over lunch. Then came the last day, when we trotted down to the local chef’s school and prepared our own food, which we later got to pair with a great selection of wines. A complete gastronomic experience is what it was!
It was a week well spent in a city that has defined the art of winemaking over the centuries, and if you really want to see how the French have made wine such an inherent part of their lifestyle, I suggest that you make a pilgrimage to Bordeaux and its prized parcels of land.

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