It is the week of the Bordeaux Wine Festival – Fête le Vin 2018!! Wine tasting, parades, a ferris wheel, tall ships, street artists and more wine! How could you not have a good time!
The festival was open to all, but for wine tasting, you needed to purchase a tasting kit composed of a wine pass, a wine glass, a tram pass and a colorful pouch to carry it all in. We stopped by the tourist office to pick up our kits early to save some money and to avoid the long ticket queues at the event. We were excited to get going.
And we did it right! We spent the entire day both Thursday and Friday enjoying the events, then briefly on Saturday and Sunday for a last few wine tastings. This schedule gave us more time to experience the entire festival. Fewer crowds. Less chaos. More fun.
Stretched along the Garonne riverfront for a mile and a quarter were 11 wine tasting booths, multiple food booths, a number of tall ships moored along the harbor front and an interesting mix of activities including, a first for us, a wine barrel rolling demonstration.
Barrel rolling was a very important skill of the time. During the cooperage (manufacturing) of wine barrels workers had to be able to move the newly made, and empty, wine barrels from cooperage to winery floor. Wines barrels are bulky, weighing in at a typical 50 kg (110 pounds) and not easily picked up. The cooper had to have an easy way to move their barrels around and this is how they did it.
Tipping the barrel up on the “chime” (the beveled edge of the barrel made up of the ends of the staves) they could easily spin the barrel to where they needed it. The performers showed amazing skill and control of the barrel as they perfectly executed numerous tricks.
Even more impressive were the tall ships. Beautiful works of art that bring back the romance of sailing the seas. In total 29 ships attended the Bordeaux Wine Festival. Sadly the river was just too narrow to see any of the large ships under sail. Here is a brief overview of a few of the ones we visited.
Kruzenshtern or Krusenstern (Russian: Барк Крузенштерн) is a four-masted cargo ship that was built in 1926 in Germany and named the Padua. She was surrendered to the USSR in 1946 as war reparation and renamed Kruzenshtern, after Adam Johann Krusenstern (1770–1846). She is now a Russian sail training ship. [Wikipedia]
Belem is a three-masted barque from France. She was originally a cargo ship, transporting sugar from the West Indies, cocoa, and coffee from Brazil and French Guiana to Nantes, France. By chance she escaped the eruption of Mount Pelée in Saint-Pierre de la Martinique on 8 May 1902. After changing hands many times, in January 1979, Belem returned to her home port, once again flying the French flag. Fully restored to her original condition, she began a new career as a sail training ship. [Wikipedia]
The Biche is one of the last surviving Atlantic tuna fishing ketches, hundreds of which were built until the Second World War. Her appearance recalls the golden era of Atlantic sail boat fishing off France’s north-west coast. The Biche was built in Les Sables d’Olonne in 1934 and fully restored in 2012. [Wikipedia]
Hermione was a 12-pounder Concorde-class frigate of the French Navy. She became famous when she ferried General Lafayette to the United States in 1780 to support the Americans in the American Revolutionary War. She grounded and was wrecked in 1793. Luckily in 1997, a replica of the original was constructed and likewise named Hermione. [Wikipedia]
While the waterfront was dominated by the tall ships, nearby the huge ferris wheel loomed over the Place des Quinconce. We wanted to go on it before we leave Bordeaux, but as yet haven’t found the right moment.
Games & Art
Back at the festival there were games from the 17th century available for the public to try their hand at, an artist paper boat installation and dance exhibitions ranging from Swing to Break dancing.
Wine, Wine and more Wine
That was all fine and good but we were here for the wine. When we first arrived in Bordeaux, when either buying wine at the local wine store or at the local restaurant, we found every wine we selected to be above average. We started to think Bordeaux didn’t have any sub par wines. Then came the wine festival.
At the festival we found it was easier to get a taste of unknown wine than it was to sample, and learn about, the various wines offered. During the quieter times, we were at least able to have a short conversation with the person pouring the wine which often also happened to be the vintner. During the busier times it was chaos – get a pour of something, anything, and get back out of the crush. And, as for the wine poured, well, let’s just say that the best Bordeaux has to offer was not widely represented. Bordeaux, like any wine region, has its share of wines that are still green behind the ears, but to be fair, according to the Féderation des Grand Vins de Bordeaux, there are over 8,900 separate wine châteaux in Bordeaux and less than 100 were represented at the festival. As is usual, for quality wines, you must go to the wineries; you aren’t going to find them pouring their best at a fête.
Our trip here wasn’t just for the fun of it, we wanted to learn all about these much touted French wines and the first thing we learned was that the predominant grape of Bordeaux is Merlot. Merlot is the most widely planted grape in the Bordeaux wine region and is one of the primary grapes used in most, if not all, Bordeaux wines. The second thing we learned was that almost all of the wines made in the Bordeaux region are blends. Even the lofty priced Pauillac Château Lafite Rothschild is 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot.
Parades, Street Artists and Musicians
There were parades, musicians, street artists and more all coming to a fantastic climactic fireworks display to finish each hectic day. The fireworks display started with a fire breathing dragon building to a burst of color all choreographed to some very interesting music. Wow, what a party.
Santé from these Bordelais,
Ted & Julia