A barging holiday in the Bordeaux region of France presents the perfect way to enjoy the area from a unique and very relaxed perspective. Combine the luxury elements of a floating hotel and the idyllic French countryside with one of the superb barge-based wine tours that introduce you to the vintages of Saint-Émilion, and you have the ingredients for a wonderful and memorable holiday.
Saint- Émilion: The Appellation
Saint-Émilion is the ‘Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) for the wine produced in this part of Bordeaux. Its 13,000 acres have UNESCO status and account for a respectable 6% of the total area of Bordeaux vineyards. The scenery makes for a beautiful cruising backdrop for a barging holiday.
Produced using several grape varieties, the Saint-Émilion blends are usually a combination of 60% Merlot, 30% Carbernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.
A Brief History of Saint-Émilion
Named after the monk, Émilion, who made his home as a hermit in a rock close by, this town became a place of settlement for many other monks who then set up the commercial wine production in the area. It was, however, the Romans who first planted the vineyards here in the 2nd century.
Steeped in history and justly famous for its wonderful wines, this bustling little town makes the ideal stop off point for many tours in the area. Not only is there ample opportunity to taste the different reds, whites and rosés in the many cafes and bars with your fellow ‘bargers’, but there’s plenty of time to explore the Romanesque churches and other places of historical interest too.
Graves: Another Highlight of Tours to Bordeaux
Graves is considered a sub region of the Bordeaux wine area and is famous for producing the three main types of Bordeaux; reds, dry whites and sweet wines. The Graves AOC covers most of the Graves vineyards.
History of Graves
Many consider Graves to be the place where Claret came to fruition, and other vintages from this region have been regularly produced for export since the reign of King Henry II of England. At the time the wine trade easily rivalled that of coal and iron.
The first named château in Bordeaux, Château Pape Clément, was founded by Pope Clement V in the early 1400s, and Samuel Pepys talks of French Claret produced in Château Haut-Brion in 1663. Every time you try a product on tours in the area, you will learn a little more about its history and significance among the other wines of the region.
Classification of Graves Wine
In 1953 the reds of Graves were classified, with the white s added in 1959. More recently, producers in an area of Graves known for production of its most expensive wines created its own AOC, Pessac-Léognan, devaluing the Graves appellation for a time.
Appellations in Graves
Some of the predominant appellations in Graves include the basic Graves AOC, which is used for reds and dry whites. The Graves Supérieures AOC is the appellation for sweet white wine and the Pessac-Léognan AOC produces both red and white. Cabernet sauvignon and merlot are the main red grapes, and sauvignon blanc and sémillon are the white grape varieties that are barrel-fermented before being aged on their lees.
Lovers of sweet whites will be in their element when they join any of the wine tours in this region, which is also famous for its Sauternes AOC. One of the best is the Château d’Yquem Premier Cru Supérieur.
Any discerning wannabe oenophile who wishes to indulge in the appreciation of some of the world’s greatest vintages should consider combining a barge holiday with a wine tour, where you can meet like-minded people and reap the benefits of group travel.
Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK's most respected provider of all-inclusive, luxury barge holidays. Offering holidays to France and other great destinations, itineraries include wine tours and other cultural and themed activities. Part of a team of experienced barging aficionados, Paul is first in line to endorse the perks of a slow-paced barge cruise to anyone looking for a unique holiday experience.
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