There are a couple of things you should know about Bordeaux, first if you arrive late find food asap after 10:30pm it becomes difficult. Second learn the road signs ahead of time if you are going to drive. I suppose that is true of all places one plans to drive in.
After driving in the city a day I’m still not sure I really know a do not enter this street sign but it seems if you are backing up on a one way street and you give the “I’m not from here” confused look it all works out. Still it was far less hectic than driving in Rome. GPS makes driving anywhere a possible thing.
Mission one was to find some wines to use in my wine classes that I’d be doing throughout the week plus we wanted to gather some wines to sip during the cruise on the rivers. I had looked up wine shops on the internet before leaving and found one that I thought was a must see not because I thought we’d actually shop there but because it was “A Site to See”! From the pictures on line it looked large and magnificent. There were other suggestions but some were too far out of the city others were on the go check it out list. (I’ll give you the local’s secret in a bit) Luck would have it while looking for food at 11pm and having no luck we did discover that the very wine shop I wanted to visit was on the corner not a block away from our hotel. There it was this tiny little corner store with a window we peeked in, with lots of curiosity and the wonder of three kids at a candy store, but it would have to wait until the next morning. Food would come first because we were starving from looking for food in a rain storm the night before and being unsuccessful.
Always travel with snack bars!! (thank you Steve Fisher) Finally the doors were open and in we went. The three of us on a mission! Mike, Steve and myself, the kids had made it into the “candy shop” that we had scoped out the night before. Visual delights were everywhere. The thing that had made me want to come here was as magnificent as the pictures. This little store was one big spiral staircase that goes up four or five floors and the outer walls of the staircase are cubbies that hold wine. As you make your way up the stairs the goodies go from penny candy to handmade chocolate creations by artisans! Actually the chocolate creations were down the street and are just jaw dropping beautiful but here our jaws dropped for the delight of the wonders we found floor after floor. It is a miracle we didn’t slide down the banister in our giddiness.
Floor one: daily delights, the wine that people in Bordeaux really drink. Don’t get me wrong this floor held some great wines and we did most of our shopping on this floor (price will reveal why)
Floor Two: the second labels of the famous wineries. Ahh you have to love a wine shop that has a specific section for second labels. A great way to find bargains (relativity speaking) Second labels are brands that wineries create to use up extra juice they have, or to use grapes that are not the top quality used for their first quality. These wines are made by the same wine maker and are very good and often ready to drink many years before the first label. We purchased Tronquoy de Sainte Anne 2009 the second label of Chateau Tronquoy - Lalande to use at a special dinner on the ship.
Floor three: Hold onto your wallet…the first, second and third growths of Bordeaux are staring at you in all their glory. These are the wines we hear about and the wines that get all the chatter in the wine magazines. Pretty to look at but they stayed on the shelf. They even had older vintages so we couldn’t use “too young as the excuse” Nope price was the reason.
Floor Four: It starts to become difficult to know what floor you are on because of the spiral but the sparkle and glow of this next level was all me. Sauternes!! Yes, choices and choices of Sauternes! The pic of the bunch: 1945 Chateau d Yquem. 13,000 Euro (that isn’t a typo and there were two bottles so you still have a chance) and there is more….
Floor Five: Large formats. There really is nothing like large bottles of wine especially good Bordeaux to make your heart sing. This section was a feast for the eyes magnums, jerobaums, and more.
So back to the first floor and reality. The staff was great they were very knowledgeable and happy to help us in English. We told the young man that we were looking for wines for classes and he call a co worker over who delved right in and helped us pick wines that would show the left bank and the right bank. I asked for a white that had more Semillon than Sauvignon Blanc and he showed us one that was a 100% Semillon (a hard find these days). We asked for a Sauternes that wouldn’t break the bank and he handed us one. Each time his selection came with an explanation about the wine maker, the vineyard or some other reason he made the choice he did. Then we asked him to pick a bottle or two that he wanted us to try. He went to the last of stock row and picked a couple of everyday Bordeaux that were ready to drink and a couple from the regular stock again with reasoning and explanation.
Remember…..we weren’t going to shop here, just look. But the prices seemed fair, more I’m sure than if we were at the winery, but we didn’t have time to tour the country side of Bordeaux, we needed the wines for the next day, the staff was amazing and the selection beyond belief so how could we not shop??? Plus we were there and only a block from the hotel so carrying a case of wine didn’t seem so bad. At the end of our two weeks we stopped back and thanked them and they remembered us and asked how it all went.
2 Allées de Tourny, 33000 Bordeaux, France
Tip from the locals: They go to St. Emilion to shop for wines.
Keep your eyes peeled for my next post about St. Emilion.