by Paige Donner
Bordeaux is the ideal-sized city to just wander around. In this sense, it is a bite-sized city that still offers enough funky and charming little neighborhoods to give you the feeling that you are exploring.
Chartrons is the traditional wine district of Bordeaux where, during the city’s height of its centuries of wine trade with England, the wines were warehoused before being shipped out via La Garonne. Chartrons is now a charming district known for its many antique shops, lovely cafes’ and trendy boutiques. Soon, it will sport a pedestrian zone as well.
Central now to the Chartrons District is the Chartrons Market Square and the covered market. About a 5-minute walk from the city’s expansive gardens, if you turn off the main street and wind your way along smaller, norrower ones, you will stumble onto this covered Chartrons Market made of stone, iron and glass and restored in 1998 from its 19th c. original building.
Its walls are flanked with outdoor chairs and tables to enjoy afternoon and evening drinks and its perimeter is surrounded by delightful choices of Salon de Thes and lunch restaurants, many of which serve dinner as well.
La Bocca was recommended to me and when I saw the line going out the door for its Takeaway Sandwiches, 5 Euro which included a drink, I thought that was a good sign. I ordered a marinated artichoke and “Copa” sandwich (fine italian sausage), both of which were generously heaped onto a whole half baguette. About 10 diners were enjoying their lunch on premises, which is about all this Epicerie Fine can accommodate. With the business school just around the corner from its rue Notre Dame location, it does a roaring takeaway business for lunch. I took my sandwich and softdrink and walked the block down to the riverfront where there was plenty of open space and seating to enjoy my deliciously seasoned sandwich with other brownbaggers on this particularly sunny Spring afternoon.
On Sundays, if you feel like getting some goodies from the fresh market, the Chartrons Market is closed, but just walk down to the riverfront where the Sunday Organic fresh market begins from Rue Raze and along the river for a good several hundred meters. You will find the delightful French cheeses, pastries, roasted chicken and roasting pork, vegetables and crepes if you want a readymade hot lunch to eat on the spot. The other choice includes fresh oysters served with local Bordeaux white wine and crusty fresh, French bread.
The Chartrons District has lots to offer and some of the fellow American travelers I met had the notion that it was outside the city! Back in the 16th c. it was outside the walled city but it has been a bustling local neighborhood of Bordeaux for several hundred years now.
Other corners of Bordeaux city are equally as delightful and if you wander around the streets just past the Opera House you will find lots of beautiful little squares, most of which are lined with fabulous dining options. Just be sure to adjust your inner clock - after all, you are now in the South of France and you are in wine country.
By Paige Donner
Bordeaux’s Musée du Vin et Du Négoce is resplendent in its devotion to the history of this region’s cause celèbre; it is humble in its presentation; and it is welcoming in the way it greets its guests.
A good combination when it comes to museums that, for many of us, can just feel stuffy. The word Wine coupled with the word Museum could simply signal Pretentious Stuffiness.
Not so with Bordeaux’s Museum of Wine and Wine Merchants. In fact, it really lays out just how formative the region’s trade with England was not just for Bordeaux but for the business of wine as we know it today.
The museum is housed in Louis XV’s former Royal Broker’s building located in Bordeaux’s Chartrons district, the city’s traditional wine district. Inside, you will discover three centuries of wine history.
For example, you will learn that it is only relatively recently that wineries began labeling and marketing their wines under their own branding. For many centuries, and certainly at the height of Bordeaux’s wine trade with England, it was the merchants, in French the “Négoces,” who bought the wine in bulk from the growers, warehoused it in barrels in these big buildings in Chartrons, and only when they deemed it ready would they put it in bottles, label it and sell it.
This is how the wine merchants traditionally had so much say and sway over the wine markets. They could say whether a vintage was good - or not. Often, too, they would sell to England directly in the barrels. This is how convenient Chartrons was for trade - from the old cobbled streets they could simply roll the barrels out of their cellars and down to the riverfront, where they would put the oak barrels on ships sailing up La Garonne, out to the Atlantic and finally to make port in England.
For three centuries Bordeaux wine had protected commercial trading rights with England. In certain instances it was against the law in England to buy or sell any wine not originating from Bordeaux. This is how a region that was originally marshland, mostly, became one of the world’s greatest wine-growing regions.
You will learn all about this, about the 1855 designation, and even see lots of cool old wine and grape harvesting paraphernalia in this museum that charges only 7 Euro as entrance fee. And that includes two complimentary tastings after your museum tour. Signs are all in English as well as in French. They even have a decent wine and gift shop on premise. A definite Local Food And Wine MUST!
Bordeaux’s Musée du Vin et Du Négoce 41 rue Borie,www.mvnb.fr
By Paige Donner
Château Smith Haut Lafitte is one of those wineries in Bordeaux that has its own helipad. Likely, it’s one of the only wineries in Bordeaux that has its own helipad, actually. It also has its own weather station and its own cooperage. And, yes, mais oui!, the wine barrels are all made from French Oak.
Château Smith Haut Lafitte’s owners, since 20 years, are Mr. and Mrs. Cathiard, a dynamic “Power Couple” who can count Olympic Team competitive skiing, grocery store and sporting goods retail empires and an international advertising executive career as part of their storied pasts. But that was then and wine is now.
Château Smith Haut Lafitte wines are considered one of the top 20 wines of Bordeaux. That is no small feat. Just look at the company they keep. But having reclaimed the historic Graves AOC Bordeaux Château, which, by 1990 had fallen into disrepair, the Cathiards set about doing things their own way. It worked.
To examine just two facets of their innovative approach, let’s look at the 2009 vintage, both white and red.
Château Smith Haut Lafitte - 2009 Vintage
Fabien Teitgen, the winemaker, and the Cathiards believe in whole grape fermentation. Grapes are not crushed at this winery. To help achieve this, the 2009 vintage saw two revolutions here: one for de-stemming and the other for grape sorting.
Grape Sorting: they refer to it as Optical Sorting and use a Vistalys Optical Sorting machine. This sensitive machine photographs the fruit and sorts it based on color and shape characteristics. A jet of air eliminates all the detritus and unwanted bits such as debris or under ripe fruit.
Destemming: The second revolution is also grace á a “revolutionary” machine. The destemmer vibrates the grapes which releases them from their stems. No splintering of stems results and only whole grapes, then, are released into the fermentation vats. The Château Smith Haut Lafitte winemaking team is able to use “precision and reproducibility” with these machines as well as keep nothing but whole, perfect grapes for their wines.
2009 Reds are: 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc , 1% Petit Verdot, 30% Merlot ”The wines are taking on a lovely fleshiness. They are full and silky.”
2009 Whites are: 90% Sauvignon blanc, 5% Sauvignon gris, 5% Sémillon “Lovely, ripe, concentrated rich wines just like a fine, sunny day. They have nice acidity that reflects the cool summer nights of 2009.”
While the term “bio-dynamic,” is not used by Fabien Teitgen, Château Smith Haut Lafitte’s winemaker, there are practices on the vineyard reminiscent of bio-dynamism. For instance:
On a number of vineyard plots, we have applied the same, gradual, empirical approach, to vine protection and developed a system based solely on copper and sulphur (in homeopathic doses) combined with nettle, chestnut, and horsetail tea and herbal concoctions.
This risky step has paid off: the vines are beautiful and healthy. - Fabien Teitgen
Teitgen also credits the use of organic compost - horse manure, vine prunings, pomace - on the 67 hectares of Gunzian gravel terroir with revitalizing it and helping maintain the necessary equilibrium between soil and vine. They use an innovative (not standard) cover crop between the rows of vines which helps revitalize the soil’s structure, drainage and dynamics.
So why the helipad? Well, maybe it’s for their Rich & Famous friends who have dropped in at the winery, you know, like Mr. and Mrs. Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz.
For the first time this year Independent Wineries all across France will throw open their doors and uncork their bottles to welcome visitors and oenophiles to their wineries for two days of Picknicking in the vineyards.
June 12 and 13, a holiday weekend in France, has been designated the days of Pique-nique by the French Vignerons Independant association. Already a remarkably successful yearly event in Alsace, where it has been drawing 10,000 picnicking participants during the designated weekend for the past 17 years, this year the Association is taking it nationwide.
Participating regions include Champagne, Provence, Bordeaux and everywhere inbetween - a grand total of 550 wineries, 12000 hectares and 31 counties in France are participating.
Why this is a bonanza for amateurs and oenotourists? For one, the wine will be “offered” for your picnic meal and many of the wineries even greet their guests with a glass of champagne or other aperitif such as Muscat (“offered” in French means free).
The real value, however, is in the fact that the winemakers and winery owners have set these two days aside to welcome people from all walks and levels of knowledge, degrees of enthusiasm into their world of wine. This includes winery tours, vineyard walks, in-depth tastings, explanations of what it is to be a winemaker or run a vineyard and more. The doors of the vineyards will be swung wide open, literally and figuratively, to all who wish to stop by on June 12 and June 13, 2011.
You bring your own picnic lunch, of course!
It’s also suggested to bring a dessert that you can share, if you wish, with the other gathered guests and families who have chosen that winery to spend their pique-nique at that day. As you wish…
As Jacques Legros, of French main television channel TF1 explained at the recent press conference, Wine is like a treasure. It is at the heart of French culture. We are very proud for people to discover our wines.
The website devoted particularly to this event is easy to navigate and when you hover over the numbered indications on the map, all the contact info of the wineries pops up. Check it out here: http://pique-nique.vigneron-independant.com.
is doing something unique - it is recogizing the essential contributions of French women to their cusine, the cuisine of French terroir. This May’s Salon Saveur
“Creators, muses, accomplices…the Salon Saveurs des Plaisirs Gourmands is honoring the - women - producers and artisans who are exhibiting in the salon. Singled out for recognition are the owners and directors of the companies, yes, and also the wives, mothers, sisters and collaborators who dynamically participate in the running and establishment of a ‘Grand Maison.’ Some of the women and their creations you can expect to meet at the May 13 - 16th salon taking place in Paris are:
|CLAUDIE VARDELLE, à la barre de la Conserverie de poissons vendéenne Le Confiseur de la Mer avec son associé Philippe Gendreau. C’est elle notamment qui imagine les recettes et les superbes écrins des sardines millésimées, filets de maquereaux, rillettes de thons « La Perle des Dieux », en forme de poissons, coquillages et sirènes glamour !|
|BRIGITTE MAZARS, a repris La Roselle, l’exploitation de production laitière de ses parents. Aux côtés de son mari et de deux fromagères, elle élabore des fromages dans la tradition aveyronnaise, tout en innovant avec des créations originales, telles le Crémalou, Le Rond du Ségala ou encore l’Ensoleillade, un fromage à pâte pressée dont la croûte est colorée avec des graines de rocou.|
|PASCALINE BRISSET, productrice des vodkas Dragon Bleu… à Cognac! Pascaline a lancé il y a quelques années des vodkas élaborées avec des céréales de son domaine et de l’eau de source de Charente. Depuis, ces vodkas au poivre de penja, à la rose et au gingembre, remportent régulièrement toutes les médailles, dont les fameuses « best in class» aux Concours international de spiritueux.|
|CAROLINE HUBERT, fondatrice avec son mari Nicolas de Lambr’1. Tous deux cuisiniers-pâtissiers-confiseurs, ils se sont rencontrés dans un prestigieux hôtel avant de créer leur maison, spécialisée dans les caramels au beurre salé artisanaux. Des douceurs fondantes déclinées au piment d’Espelette, yuzu, thé, chocolat blanc, orange cannelle et mille autres merveilles…|
By Paige Donner
There’s a new sandwich shop in the shadow of the Louvre and it’s called 144. Very catchy name considering it is at 144 rue St. Honoré. I half suspect that its young owner, Italian-French “Tony,” is internet savvy enough to realize that this is the way to rank high in a mobile search. Name your shop the address. Simple.
Well, it’s good thinking, because on a hot, dusty summer afternoon after you have been traipsing through the priceless halls filled with magnificent artwork that is the Louvre, the last thing you want to do is scurry your way past all the souvenir shops on Rue Rivoli in hopes of finding an affordable place to rest your weary feet and quench your parched throat.
Just one street up from Rue Rivoli and close to Metro stop Palais Royale, 144 is the coffee shop-lunch café that serves up comfort not just in its decor but also in its choice of menu items. Want a bagel and cream cheese? (the real kind, the Kraft Philadelphia kind), you have come to the right place.
Want a slice of cheese cake? The NY kind. You can have it. There is also a small salad bar that you pay for by the gram. (A gram is sort of like an ounce but smaller - in case you’re new to the European thing. Think of it like miles and kilometers. Or Fahrenheit and centigrade. Same thing just different.)
Also in the glass lunch counter are delicious Focaccia including a salmon and cream cheese with thin slices of red onions foccaccia that Tony or his staff will toast for you on the spot. There is also the California Bagel, cream cheese and avocado, the Miami Bagel and the Bagel 144.
It’s not all American, however. There’s also a good selection of Italian choices. And you can have cupcake or a cookie to go with it. Wash it all down with an Orangina, Smartwater or our favorite, Pulco, Les Recettes Citronnade. Very refreshing and no added sugar, coloring or preservatives.
Tony just opened up 144 rue St. Honoré mid April. So give a guy a break and go get your cupcake. Wi-Fi complimentary.
144 Rue St. Honoré, Paris 75001 M. Palais Royale or Louvre Rivoli