Saturday, May 7, 2011

Saturday 7 May - St. Emilion

The girl at the tourist office arranged tours of two chateaux in St. Emilion today and we went out there by train with Leon and Mandy from Adelaide, who were in the office at the same time.  The train service is sparse, to say the least, and there was some last minute difficulties when they found their credit cards would not work in the TER ticket machines.  In the end Mary used her credit card and they paid her cash.  The train was crowded and lost a lot of time waiting connection with a late running TGV from Paris.  The wild poppies are in full bloom at the moment, they contrasted with the occasional fields with bright yellow flowers that looked like wild daffodils.
The SNCF provided us with our first experience of St. Emilion.
81839 is a dual-mode unit which will run on overhead electricity or a diesel engine, something the City of Ottawa said was technically impossible.
Where the heck is Chateau Fonplegade?
Turns out we could see it from the station.

View from the chateau - vines as far as you can see in all directions, although Chateau Fonplegade is only 18 hectares.
Oak fermentation casks are used
New French oak barrels are used to age the wine.
The Orangerie is a magnificent room for private dinner parties.
We tasted three reds and a rose, a new venture for this chateau.  White wines must not, by law, be made in this appellation. From the Chateau Fonplegade we walked the kilometer or so into town and had lunch - with some St. Emilion wine of course.  The village itself is very interesting although I would imagine it could get a bit ugly in the tourist season.

The local macarons are much different from the traditional ones in northern France.  These are made from ground almonds, sugar and egg white.  Pretty good but I prefer the fancier "sandwich" type from Paris, Chartres, Quimper etc.
The village is built with honey-coloured limestone which was quarried in caves below the village.

St. Emilion from the vine yards.

At the Chateau Villemaurine it was explained that the whole area is honeycombed with ancient caves which were quarried for the limestone.  The quarrying was stopped because of the danger of collapse of both vine yards and the village.  The presentation took place in the caves and we were provided with blankets to keep warm.
Stainless steel casks are used here for fermentation
We left the Chateau Villemaurine and made a mad dash for the railway station.  We arrived with four minutes to spare but the train was about five minutes late anyway.  It was a good feeling arriving at the station to see lots of people waiting on the platform and kn owing that we hadn't missed the train.  A great day with a great introduction to wine making in Bordeaux and St. Emilion.
We returned to Bordeaux in this 1980s vintage diesel thunderbox.

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