By MICHAEL JOHNSON
BORDEAUX, June 2008 — I got my first taste of œnotourisme recently when I drove up the Médoc to Lynch Bages to sample their Pauillac cru classé and to have a look around this splendid property. The visit was not part of the current Bordeaux drive to boost œnotourisme. I just needed a day out of Bordeaux.
The Château Lynch Bages is well organised for outsiders like me. A group of about 10 Americans, English Spanish and a Brazilian gathered in the château office to await the afternoon guided tour. We all knew that foreigners like to call the place “Lunch Bags”. This is one of the most interesting tours because proprietor Jean-Michel Cazes has invested so heavily in modernisation while retaining old equipment and processing space for its historical value. The 19th century vats, the indoor railway for transporting full loads of grapes still intact, left us all with a better understanding of how wine-making has evolved.
At the end of a one-hour tour, we were assembled for a dégustation – clearly the moment we had been waiting for. Animation among the group suddenly increased. To our surprise, Mr. Cazes wandered past our group. I called out “Mr. Cazes – nous sommes très impressionnés.” He gave me a steely look and retorted “On se connait?” Uh-oh, I thought. I had revealed my brash American ways once more. M. Cazes never slowed down his démarche. We brash tourists had three or four samples of his Pauillac, enough for a treat on the pallet and slight buzz, but just under the blood-alcohol limit for the drive back to Bordeaux. The guide warned us that local gendarmes like to ambush visitors just outside the château.
The season for organised visits has just begun. Bordeaux’s Office de Tourisme is expecting more than 30,000 paying visitors for various daylong trips around the region – to Graves country, St. Emillion and the Médoc. The designation of Bordeaux as a Unesco Heritage site is expected to bring a 20 percent jump in general tourism and the winemakers hope to do better than that. A visitor is a potential buyer.
Michael Johnson is an international journalist based in Bordeaux contributing frequently to the International Herald Tribune. He is author of four books, including “French Resistance: The individual versus the company in French corporate life”, and “Workaholism: The plague of our time”.
Notre “homme à Bordeaux” est le journaliste international Michael Johnson. Auteur de quatre livres, dont « French Resistance » et « Workaholism », il collabore fréquemment à l’IHT.
Three sites describe all the trips available: www.bordeaux-tourisme.com, www.ugcb.net, www.bordeaux-fete-le-vin.com
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