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Bordeaux - Wine and History in Southern France

Mar 4, 2008
Bordeaux is located on the South-West coast of France, in the region of Aquitaine and the Gironde department. This famous city is traversed by the River Garonne, and it's here that you'll encounter people known as the Bordelais.

Of historical interest is the fact that Bordeaux actually belonged to the English from the 12th century and for the following three hundred years, due to the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine, the former wife of the King of France. During the following years, the city became increasingly prosperous due its emerging commerce with England. Its second burst of prosperity came in the 17th century due to the development of its port for international trade.

Being located on a line dividing northern and southern France, climatically Bordeaux is a bit of a crossover point. The city also exudes a sort of composure or elegance, arising from its previous English domination. Bordeaux is clearly a professional town with regular trade around the world, particularly the ports of Holland. The architecture itself highlights this with its regular classical style and numerous castles made of a typical white stone.

But that's not all there is to Bordeaux... beneath the sophisticated surface of professionalism lies a heart which beats to a rhythm altogether different... a Latin tempo. Doubtless this is due to its close proximity to Spain. And in this lies the other side of Bordeaux one given over to festivals and all manner of frivolity. You've been warned!

Bordeaux's climate is of the Oceanic type, showing little marked difference between summer and winter. Winters are very mild and summers are hot. But you will also encounter rain throughout most of the year. Recently the city underwent a period of extreme dryness during the years 2002-2005.

The majority of the city of Bordeaux is located on the left bank of the Garonne, an area of wide and marshy expanses. There are a few hills, but they aren't high, and they are ideal for wine growing. It is here that you will discover the famous Medoc and Grave wine varieties.

The other side of the Garonne, the right bank, is entirely different, and it is made up almost entirely of chalk. And it's here that most of the world famous vineyards are located vineyards such as Pomerol, Fronsac and Saint Emilion famous around the world, not least for their expense.

Bordeaux is the world wine capital. In the Bordeaux region, a major wine grower will produce several wines, a number of them being amongst the most prestigious in the world, designated collectively as "Vins de Bordeaux", or simply "Bordeaux". Around Bordeaux there are in fact about 14000 wine producers with an annual production of about 700 million bottles. These are both white and red wines, the latter being the origin of the Bordeaux color.

And as for the local Bordeaux cuisine? Indeed Bordeaux cuisine, as the cuisine of the whole of the Gironde department, is justly celebrated throughout the country as one of the finrest local French cuisines. You won't have to go far without savouring the delights of well-known regional dishes such as the local wood pigeon speciality, palombe, or dishes made from the equally famous cepe mushroom. Then of course there are the famous shallot sauces. All of this, obviously, needing to be accompanied by a fine Bordeaux wine!

And what to say about the famous little "canele"? A cake, speciality of Bordeaux, made of soft and tender pastry, perfumed with rum and vanilla, then covered with a thick caramel crust. The Bordeaux canele was given birth to by a convent in the 16th century, with the nuns gathering flour in boat stocks to make these little cakes for the poor. They are also delicious with a white wine. However they do have a tendency to soften the next day (that is if you haven't eaten them already). However it's just necessary to put them back in the oven for a few minutes, and they'll be crusty once again!

Other culinary delights to discover in Bordeaux are the strange lamproie fish (or lamprey), which is exceedingly unusual, possessing neither scales, backbone or jaws... in fact more like a large eel, although nevertheless quite delicious. Then of course there's "sauce d'escargots" (snail sauce), known locally as the "truffe de Bordeaux" (or Bordeaux truffle). Inteestingly enough this incorporates grapes, chocolate and alcohol. Then of course there is the famous Tome Aquitaine (a goats cheese plus Sauterne !) and last but not least the unforgettable local "foie gras", renowned throught the region.

So on that culinary note, I wish you a happy stay in the heart of Aquitaine and the famous city of Bordeaux, doubtless accompanied by all the savours and delights of this festive region in the company of your new friends, the Bordelais!
About the Author
For further information on France, the French lifestyle and Bordeaux in French, please visit Rencontres Bordeaux at Antonio Bonito's QuePourToi.com rencontres coquines web site.
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