When I visited Bordeaux earlier this year, I had 3 wine bars on my list, but was able to check out only one - Le Bar a Vin. The other two – Max Bordeaux Wine Gallery and Aux Quatres Coins Du Vin – remained on my to-do list for my next visit in September (as well as L’Intendant wine shop). Furthermore, my friend and Bordeaux Guru Allan Liska just posted soemthing on a wine bar he discovered last week, when he was in Bordeaux, Wine and Soul.
See: Tour de France de Vin: 6 Days, 7 Regions, 3500 km - In 6 Days through 7 Wine Regions of France
The City of Bordeaux
The city of Bordeaux is a jewel, with vestiges from the Roman era and medieval town gates. However, the 18th century was its golden age. Victor Hugo once said: “Take Versailles, add Antwerp, and you have Bordeaux.”
Bordeaux is often referred to as "Little Paris". Baron Haussmann, a long-time prefect of Bordeaux, used Bordeaux’s 18th century, big-scale rebuilding as a model when he was asked by Emperor Napoleon III to transform a then still quasimedieval Paris into a “modern” capital that would make France proud.
The city was ruled by the English for a long time, which is why Bordeaux seems to have an "English flair". After the marriage of Henry II to Eleanor of Aquitaine, Bordeaux came under English rule between 1152 and 1453. It was then that the British first developed their taste for Claret, as the red Bordeaux wine is called in the UK.
The city has recently been classified by UNESCO as an “outstanding urban and architectural ensemble”.Bordeaux has a million inhabitants, including a lively university community of over 60,000.
Bordeaux is a flat city, built on the left banks of the Garonne. The Garonne merges a dozen kilometers below the city with the Dordogne to form the Gironde, which is biggest estuary in France.The two main entertainment spots are: (1) Formerly inhabited by wine merchant warehouses, the docks (les quais) are now home to gardens, bike and skate paths, boutiques, museums, cafés, bars and restaurants. (2) La Victoire is the other area for entertainment: Historical monuments meet student life and bars. Most of the pubs and bars of the town are here. Virtually, all the shops in the surroundings of this area are bars.
See: In the Wine Capital of the World: the City of Bordeaux, France
Le Bar a Vin
Le Bar a Vin is located on the ground floor of the Maison du Vin de Bordeaux, diagonally opposite the Grand Théatre. The Maison du Vin is the headquarters of the CIVB (Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux), home of all the Bordeaux wine professionals, wine producers, brokers and négociants of the Gironde, the Wine School and the Bar a Vin. The Maison du Vin is shaped like the prow of a ship. This is fitting because it's the boats who started their voyage on the river just down the street from the Maison du V in that headed out to the Atlantic and up to England that brought the fame, and its accompanying wealth, to the Gironde a few centuries ago.
Le Bar a Vin, designed by architect Françoise Bousquet, has several comfortable seating areas, including a small outdoor patio in the summer. High ceilings, a wall-sized stained glass picture of Bacchus and a grape-themed Aubusson tapestry set the tone of grandeur, while the modern furnishings and chic décor adds casual charm.
Le Bar a Vin is a great break destination in a hectic day. It is one of the few wine bars open all day. The hip crowd starts streaming in around six in the evening for an aperitif before heading out for dinner.
If you are interested in ultra-premium Bordeaux wines, this is not the place to go. The menu – updated every several weeks- includes about 20 Bordeaux wines, from the Left Bank and the Right Bank as well as from Entre Deux Mers, all served by the glass only. Le Bar a Vin does not showcase the wines of the perhaps 400 producers people talk about in the world, but the wines of the 18.000 or so other producers that also make excellent wines. Most wines are around Euro 3 per glass including tax and service. But Le Bar a Vin also serves one or two ultra-premium wines; we had the 4. Cru Classé en 1855 Château Lafon Rochet 2007 at €8.
The food menu is plates of charcuterie, and cheeses for Euro 6.
Max Bordeaux Wine Gallery
I have not yet been to Max Bordeaux Wine Gallery, but my friend and Bordeaux Guru Allan Liska recommends it highly. See: "Meeting Virginia and Bordeaux Wine Expert and Wine Blogger Allan Liska, USA" It is a sleek tasting bar with an enomatic system containing wines of the 400 producers or so that are known all over the world. “If you want to say you had a glass of Château Lafite or Château Mouton while in Bordeaux, this is the place to go – but it ain't cheap.”
All these wines can be sampled by the glass in portions ranging from 25 to 75 milliliters. If you have questions, a wall-mounted iPad offers fact sheets and wine critics’ tasting notes about every single wine, in English.
Aux Quatres Coins Du Vin
The other wine bar that comes highly recommended and where I have not yet been. Like Max Bordeaux Wine Gallery, wines are also dispensed with the enomatic system and, more like Le Bar a Vin, this cute wine bar offers more affordable wines. Unlike both Le Bar a Vin and Max Bordeaux Wine Gallery, its selection includes also non-Bordeaux wines - 32 different wines: 8 whites, 8 red from Bordeaux, 8 red from other parts of France and 8 red from abroad. In addition, you can always order a bottle from the 130 references wine list. Aux Quatres Coins Du Vin also serves cheese and charcuterie platters.
Address: 8 rue de la Devise
Wine and Soul
I refer to Allan Liska's posting, Wine and Soul.
L’Intendant is a spectacularly designed wine shop, opposite the Grand Théâtre. The centerpiece of it is a spiral staircase that winds up the narrow profile of the shop. Wrap-around shelves with bottles of wine curl up to the top of the building along the staircase. Most of the wine stocked in this store are ultra-premium Bordeaux wines.
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