MS Cyrano de Bergerac moored at Pauillace, Bordeaux

Monday’s vineyard excursion from CroisiEurope’s MS Cyrano de Bergerac riverboat into the Medoc region is very good and well worth the 68 EUR. The price includes the coach ride, guided tour and wine tastings. All excursions are extra and most days there’s a choice between ‘leisurely’ and ‘more active’ options.

It’s just a shortish coach trip from our new mooring in Pauillac, and a delightful one and a half hours’ cruise downstream from Bordeaux. It still has a delightful marina for yachts and small boats just inside the harbour wall even though the town itself has halved in size in recent years – and indeed the peninsula region of the Medoc now only supports the wine and forestry industries.

Our very knowledgeable and effervescent guide, Carla, pointed out just a few of the 800 châteaux in the Medoc region, including Rothschild, Lafitte and Palmer.

The morning's grape harvest in Bordeaux, October 2018

We discovered, for example, that the blue copper sulphate sprayed onto the grapes at Château Beychevelle to keep the hands of children off also turned out to be a great preservative. With time it became the Bordeaux Mixture beloved by gardeners.

However, many of the vineyards are turning to more natural ways of producing wine – organic and bio-dynamic. In fact, wine growers are revisiting older methods of controlling pests by planting trees and flowers, and encouraging blue birds and bats, sheep and hens into the vineyards.

Chateau Pichon Baron Bordeaux river cruise excursion

We also learned that it’s very difficult to make money out of vineyards; it’s a precarious living being so dependant on the vagaries of climate and the cost of the land far outstripping income from wine production. These days, many of the prestigious vineyards are ultimately owned by investors. Château Pichon Baron, for example, founded in 1850 and one of the great historic vineyards in Bordeaux, is now owned by AXA.

Bordeaux Wine Gironde Cruise

We stopped to discover wine-tasting at Château Prieuré Lichine with an introduction and tour by Marion. The château has a fascinating history starting with Benedictine monks and the earliest production of Bordeaux wines. Throughout the 20th century it had various owners and many a low point in terms of finances and planted vines. Rescued by Alexis Lichine in the 1950s he began the notion of marketing vineyards and welcoming visitors.

Marion leads the wine tasting at Chateau Prieure LichineDid you know: the Château Prieure Lichine vineyard matures its wines in barrels from many different coopers. Each cooper ‘toasts’ the inside of the oak barrels in a different way, resulting in a different flavour; the barrels are also re-used over the years between each of their 3 different wines. Each barrel stores enough wine for around 300 hundred bottles, so to ensure a consistent taste to the year’s wine, the barrels of wine are re-mixed before bottling. All this, added to the differences in terroir and local rainfall, helps to make a wine ‘complex’ and unique.

Chateau Prieure Lichine vineyard matures its wines in barrels from many different coopers.

Tempted? Let’s look at a Bordeaux cruise to suit you.

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