kathryne goes to france

Wine and Cheese
8 April 2007, 11:12 am
Filed under: bordeaux, exchange student, france, french culture, photos, study abroad, travel

We took a wine tour yesterday through the Chartrons district and the Médoc region. We got to see the whole wine-making process, from the vineyards to the vats to the barrels to the bottles. We went to Château Aney first and then Châteaux Kirwan. Fields were everywhere in Médoc; it reminded me of driving by the wheat fields in Oklahoma. The vineyards looked like weird cemeteries for tree roots. None of the plants are growing grapes yet, and they’re all shaped sort of like the horns on a steer. That’s the only way I can describe them… just look at the pictures. When I get home I can go buy bottles of wine from the vineyards I saw yesterday. How cool is that?!

In between the tour of Chartrons and Médoc, we ate lunch at a French restaurant. For an appetizer, we were served a concoction of sliced chevre cheese in a hot melted cheese/cream dip. I’m not crazy about chevre (goat cheese), but it was stomachable. Our meal was supposed to be roasted duck with potatoes, but I like ducks way too much to eat one, so I got a smoked salmon salad instead. Sick. After the main course, we went into the cold, damp cheese cellar downstairs. There was literally water dripping from the middle of the ceiling. Apparently this is where cheese likes to live, but I grabbed bits of cheese from random plates and got out of there asap. Some of the cheese was okay, but none of it actually tasted good. Dessert was plum pie (yum) with espresso (highly recommended). Overall, the lunch was a good experience, but I think my taste buds are still traumatized. I’ll be sticking to bread, wine, and crêpes from now on.

Random things I learned yesterday:

•The proper way to taste wine goes like this: look, sniff, swirl, sniff again, taste.
•In the past, wine was produced by wine merchants rather than individual vineyards.
•Wine merchants are still around, and they buy wine from 1+ vineyards in a particular region and mix them together before aging/bottling the wine themselves. •You can tell these wines are from merchants because the label doesn’t say “Mis en bouteille par (vineyard name).”
•The Bordeaux region produces red, white, rose and sparkling wine.
•It’s split up into three regions, the Northern bank (North of the rivers), the Southern bank, and entre deux mers (between the two rivers).
•Each region produces different types of wine depending on the soil present. I guess that’s why in France, wines are classified by region (Bordeaux, St. Emillion) rather than type (merlot, cabernet sauvignon).
•Storage barrels have a huge effect on the way the wine tastes after it ages. The type of wood matters, as well as how long the insides of the barrel are burned (toasted?) during construction.
•The room where they store the wine in barrels smells like old grapes. I don’t know why this was surprising.
•French college students can major in wine tasting. Our tour guide did.
•Merlot is good. Cabernet sauvignon is not.

And that’s about all I want to know about wine.


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