Reasons why I went to South West of France this year were the ocean, the dune, and the winery! Despite of the heatwave week (35-39 degrees), when I made up my mind of going, that means I’m going.
There are a lot of good French wines, but to my taste buds, you can never go wrong with Bordeaux wine. Among the big wineries, Saint Emilion is one of the star of the south west producers of high quality grand cru wines, and I’ve been dying to go there since long. So I packed my bag full with lunch bag, big bottle of water, and put my pretty hat on – I’m prepared to face the heat.
By public transport, you can reach St. Emilion by regional train from Bordeaux (around 30 min, and continue with tuk tuk that will drive you to desired destination), or by auto car (it’s what French refers to the inter city bus..). I wanted to take the train, but looking at the price, I prefer to take the bus. The one way ticket with the train costs around 8 euros whilst the bus costs only 2,6 euros. The trip is less than 1 hour, the bus is quite comfy, and it stops just at the city centre, so no need to take any other transport means to the centre.
But the cheap ticket comes with a little discomfort. I got lost at Place Quinconces, the place to catch the bus Transgironde no. 302. Due to some constructions happening there, they moved the bus stop with not much of information. The officer I asked was just pointing direction “there…..” without any precision. Crossing the place with the size of two football fields under 37 degrees was never pleasant thing to do.
Anyway, the bus was quite on time, and with lady driver who didn’t stop chatting with her colleague, we arrived safely at the city centre roundabout an hour later. To get back to Bordeaux, we can catch the same bus line at the same bus stop. The last schedule is 18h. So I thought, even if I miss the bus, I could always take the train. So I wasn’t that worried!
Arriving at the centre of St. Emilion, just among the vineyards, made me madly excited.
Maybe my past life as daughter of wine producing château owner made me feel like – this is home. Everywhere I looked was just green grape landscape with hanging merlot and cabernet on it.
St. Emilion is also known for its historical medieval city, with its romanesque and gothic architecture, that’s listed as UNESCO heritage, so there’s more to it than just its red wine! I grabbed some information at the tourism office (just right next to where I got off the bus, perfect), and got the detailed city map (not too big city though).
I decided to go to the vineyards tour first, since it was the first thing I wanted to see.If it’s not that hot, I would have opted for 2 hour walking tour. But when I got there it was 40 degrees (just right on the day of the peak of heatwave, and the government warned us to stay indoor), so I bought the little train ticket to get around. Six euros if you just want to have vineyards and castle tours (around 35 minutes), and 9,5 euros if you want to check out the monolithic cellar of one big castle and have wine tasting (1,5 hour tour). I’m in the place of wine and not having a wine tasting at the château? NO WAY. So of course I booked the latter one. Besides, I’m thirsty… :p
It’s quite helpful to get the train tour around the vineyards, since we don’t necessarily know whose propriety and the story behind it (and if you just walk past it, they all look the same). With the help of the audio guide, I could know which propriety and which castle owns the biggest land, who is no.1,and…I know that there’s one big vineyard owned by Chanel family.
My cellar tour took place at Château Rochebelle, and we got to see their grapes (85% of merlot, the rest is cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon), also to visit their subterranean monolithic cellar. We were welcomed by the owner family, and the nice young lady there took us for the visit in their nice and cool cellar (the 13-16 degrees inside is far more pleasant than the hot weather outside! ). She explained a lot on the cellar, how it was close to the ocean (I was wondering if the climate change has been going on since the 19th century), how the family keeps the production going (relatively family size production, not industrial), also about the bottling, how they age the bottle, how much the barrel costs, what they mean by second bottle….etc. I learnt quite much from my 2 hour course at Cité du vin in Bordeaux, but having this kind of information from the first hand is nicer!
Finished with the cool fresh air cellar, we got back to the their boutique, where we had our wine tasting. Our guide explained how to taste wine correctly, the color, the taste, the aroma, etc. It was 2012 red wine – grand cru (they are in the top 4) (and 2012 was a great year for wine), it tasted superb. I’m used to 4 – 15 euro wine (to stock at home, bought at the supermarkets or at the cavistes), so tasting something costs 40 euros per bottle, made a difference! I want to buy the old one for my birthday (there’s one from 1975), but I wasn’t willing to go deep in my pocket during this trip. I could use 100 euros for something else :p. Well I got their contacts, I can ask them to deliver it later. Or maybe just have a nice dinner at starred restaurant, since the wines are only available there….. Something to think about:-)
Finishing the tour with the little train, we ended up at the last ruin of the city. I then continued walking to explore this charming city. Still thirsty, I stopped several times at some places to drink wines. Don’t get fooled with the touristy cafés, they charge 7 euros by glass…. The more I climbed up the pebbled alleys (slippery and quite high…), the more I discovered hidden wine bars, with more choices, and competitive price, of course!
After 6 glasses of red and white wines, it was fun to climb the King Tower (hundreds of steps) and looked down. I wasn’t that tipsy until then! Luckily I didn’t trip over when I got back to the centre, and could hold still in front of the monolithic church. I would have stayed late if I didn’t have plan to go the beach the next day. I’d better save my energy and such heat wiped me out.
So I said goodbye to Saint Emilion, and took the bus back to Bordeaux. Along with the two nice chatty lady drivers (this time it was her colleague who drove), I listened to their conversation on their daily lives and looked over my window, still feeling thirsty, holding up my 2014 white wine bottle, waiting to pop at home!