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COLUMN: Beautiful Bordeaux plays to France's strength: wine


A vineyard at Château Lynch-Bages in Pauillac, France outside of Bordeaux. With more than 8,000 châteaux, Bordeaux is the largest wine production area in France. Rachel Rosenstock Buy Photos

I may have a distinct opinion on what the French do and don’t succeed at, but there’s no denying they know wine and how to make it.

France is synonymous with wine country for good reason — just a short weekend trip to Bordeaux, France, made me see the industry and culture surrounding it in a whole new light.

Famous for producing red wine, Bordeaux is the largest area in France for production and growth and has more than 8,000 châteaux that produce many different varieties of wine, from Merlot to Sauternes, which makes up most of the very small amount of white wine produced.

My friends and I decided to go straight to the source to find out what the fuss is all about and visited Château Lynch-Bages in Pauillac, a town about an hour away from Bordeaux. The entire wine-growing region centers on the Gironde and Dordogne rivers, and this little town was right on the banks of the Gironde. It was the closest I’ve been to the Atlantic Ocean while in France.

We walked through the vineyard surrounding the winery with beautiful grapes hanging from each plant, toured the production facility with its huge fermentation tanks, saw how wine was produced more than 150 years ago and finished off the visit with tastings of the most expensive wine I’ve ever tried.

The harvest had just started at the château, and the smell of wine in the making was heavy in the air.

We left Pauillac feeling just a little bit more cultured and knowledgeable about wine and headed back to explore Bordeaux. The wine influence didn’t stop there, and we quickly realized nearly everything in the city is somehow connected to it.

A huge fountain in the Place de la Bourse had the water dyed red to resemble wine spilling out the top, huge wine bottle statues popped up on random street corners, and we even saw the huge wine museum shaped like a decanter.

To add to the great atmosphere present nearly everywhere, the Bordelaise seemed markedly happier and kinder than in other cities we had visited.

Each restaurant and coffee shop we went to and each person we encountered left us feeling more excited than when we sat down. The food was amazing, the wine was delicious, the coffee flowed freely, and the conversation came easily.

We all repeated many times throughout the weekend how we could envision ourselves living in Bordeaux. I loved that while it was a big city, it didn’t feel like a tourist trap when it easily could have, and there was a sense that you could really get to know each quarter of the city.

I went for the wine and ended up wanting to stay for the atmosphere. I honestly can’t imagine a better feeling to take away from a visit.

Good thing I’ve got eight more months to make my return.

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