When King Henry II of England wed his French cousin, Eleanor of Aquitaine, in 1152, Bordeaux was a part of the association – and so started the British love affair with the area’s wine.
For 300 years, the town was beneath British rule, till the French gained the Hundred Years Struggle.
Though there’s little proof of Anglo-Saxon affect in Bordeaux as we speak, the British are nonetheless the world’s largest importers of its wine.
Many vineyards within the Bordeaux area, corresponding to Chateau Palmer (pictured) might be visited by prior appointment
As an Irish movie producer, I’ve come right here to analysis a movie concerning the ‘wine geese’ – Irish landowners dispossessed by William of Orange.
They fled to Bordeaux and established such illustrious vineyards as Chateau Phelan Segur, Chateau Lynch-Bages and Chateau Leoville Barton.
And so my first port of name in Bordeaux is the magnificent new museum, the Cite Du Vin, designed to appear to be a swirling glass of wine. Costing greater than €eighty million (£70 million), it pays homage to the thrill of wine from each area on the earth.
It has been described because the ‘Guggenheim for grape lovers’ – or, extra mischievously, a ‘wine theme park for adults’.
The focus of the town’s historic centre is the Golden Triangle, with its confluence of three lovely boulevards and their beautiful honey-colored stone buildings. The roads meet on the Place de la Comedie, the place the Grand Theatre stands.
It’s house to the Bordeaux Nationwide Opera, the place tickets can be found for as little as €5 (£four.30).
The Medoc Marathon runs by means of Bordeaux, a race which proudly combines ‘wine, sports activities, enjoyable and well being’. Fancy gown is obligatory and there are 23 wine stops
The fashionable (and fairly priced) restaurant on the bottom flooring, La Quatrieme Mur, is operated by Philippe Etchebest, the French equal of Gordon Ramsay and the host of the nation’s model of Hell’s Kitchen.
Appropriately maybe, throughout the sq. Ramsay has opened Le Pressoir d’Argent restaurant contained in the grande dame of Bordeaux resorts, the 5-star Belle Epoque-fashion Intercontinental Le Grand. The lodge, which is steeped in historical past, is ideal for a romantic getaway.
However it’s time for me to go to some chateaux with Irish connections, and shortly I discover myself within the lovely drawing room of Chateau Phelan Segur in St Estephe, which overlooks a tapestry of inexperienced vineyards.
Bordeaux is ten occasions extra compact than Paris, so it’s straightforward to stroll all over the place
The route of the Medoc Marathon runs by means of right here. The race proudly combines ‘wine, sports activities, enjoyable and well being’. Fancy gown is obligatory. There are 23 wine stops, handouts of foie gras, cheese, steak and ice cream and, on the 23-mile mark, oysters!
No marvel race organisers have extra medics on obligation than some other marathon. A few years in the past, it acquired so scorching that runners jumped into Chateau Lafite Rothschild’s lake to chill off.
Again in Bordeaux, the useful concierge at Le Grand recommends the closest winery to the town centre. A mere ten minutes later, I’m on the Chateau Pape Clement within the suburb of Pessac.
It is among the oldest Grands Crus on the planet – the primary harvests occurred within the thirteenth Century. In 1305, its proprietor, Bertrand de Goth, turned Pope, taking the identify Clement V.
After a wine-tasting session beneath a scene-stealing chandelier within the drawing room, guests can comply with within the papal footsteps and stroll by means of the pleasant gardens to admire the glasshouse designed by Gustave Eiffel, and even keep the night time in one in every of 5 historic rooms.
Chateau Kirwan (pictured) dates from 1751. It’s named after an Irishman, Mark Kirwan, and presents a free tasting to everybody who shares his surname – or any resident of Kirwan, Australia
Guests also can take a soothing minibus tour with native firm Bordovino. It provides two chateaux visits and tastings, and its web site even boasts that a tasting class will make you ‘an skilled in 20 minutes’.
Many vineyards within the area, reminiscent of Chateau Belgrave, Chateau Palmer and Chateau Lascombes, could be visited by prior appointment.
But when a winery go to looks like an excessive amount of hassle, some of the in style wine bars within the metropolis centre is Aux Quatre Cash du Vin, which presents greater than 200 wines, 32 of which might be tasted from automated dispensers. Its glamorous proprietor, Chloe Allano, sources a scrumptious choice of charcuterie, cheese, foie gras and bread regionally.
Bordeaux’s Garonne river supplies a terrific gateway to discover the vineyards.
Corporations similar to Viking River Cruises supply itineraries the place visitors can disembark at picturesque villages reminiscent of Pauillac and have a romantic dinner on the pretty Chateau Kirwan, which dates from 1751. It’s named after an Irishman, Mark Kirwan, and presents a free tasting to everybody who shares his surname – or any resident of Kirwan, Australia.
Bordeaux is ten occasions extra compact than Paris, so it’s straightforward to stroll in all places – there’s additionally a superb tram system – and its whole historic centre is a Unesco World Heritage website.
The Bordelais have to be the friendliest and most welcoming of all of the French, and the town is just a ninety-minute flight from the UK, or simply two hours by TGV from Paris.
As for the wine, you’re positive to be tempted to ship a case or two again residence.
However it’s unlikely anybody will ever match Edward II’s order of over one million bottles for his wedding ceremony in 1308. Now that was a celebration.
A votre santé!
Voyages SNCF (voyages-sncf.com) presents return fares from London St Pancras to Bordeaux from £111.
The Intercontinental Le Grand Lodge (bordeaux.intercontinental.com/en/) provides rooms from £218, together with breakfast.
Frank Mannion’s film, Marie Curie: The Braveness Of Information, opens on November 7 to coincide with the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of her delivery.