Abbe’s Wine Tour
Over the early May Bank Holiday, Consultant Editor Abbe Bates visited the French region of Bordeaux for a three-night break with a group of 14 people.Flying from Gatwick to Bordeaux airport, the group was met by their guide, Alex, who’d arranged most aspects of the stay, with great attention to detail.
The party travelled in two minivans to the village of Montagne, near Saint-Émilion, where they stayed in a beautiful and rustic barn conversion owned by the Saby family, prominent winemakers in the region. The house has been available to groups since 2017 in an effort to boost the number of properties in the local area that can cater for more than 10 people, and is set amongst the vineyards.
After a buffet of local food and a chance to taste some of the wines for sale at the house, it was time for an escape game experience from local company Oenanim.
This was cleverly set up where they were staying and was designed to teach the group about the wine-making process through a series of clues. A tuk-tuk tour with Tuk Tour Events around the area’s vineyards, with a talk and wine tasting at Chateau des Laudes followed, rounded off by dinner at the bustling L’Envers Du Décor in Saint-Émilion.
The Famille Saby wine business is now run by father Jean-Bernard and his two sons, Jean-Philippe and Jean-Christophe, and day two began with a walking tour of their Saint-André Corbin vineyard and winery, and a gourmet tasting of the produce, including delicious pate and the area’s famous red wines.
The guided day, which explores the UNESCO-designated area of Saint-Émilion, is new for 2019 and Abbe says, ‘it was great to be able to experience the itinerary as it was being developed and to use bikes to travel to different places on the tour.’
Lunch of duck and sweet potato mash was enjoyed at Table 38, and was followed by a walking tour of the medieval city of St Emilion with Mark, the guide for the day, and included Les Cordeliers monastery.
The group then cycled to the flagship vineyard of Château Rozier, for further tastings in the family home and a talk by Jean-Phillipe on production processes, and on running the business that comprises three vineyards and an annual output of 10 cuvées and seven appellations.
The day was rounded off with another local meal, catered for the group, back at the house.
The last day saw the group sample a virtual reality experience at Virtual Room in Bordeaux before their flight home. Abbe said that this was great fun, with the team split up into small groups that had to work together in their own separate rooms, wearing headsets that transported them into the virtual world they had to navigate to complete challenges.
Lunch was at L’Austra by the river, a good option for a group as the venue has plenty of space, although best to visit in the day, as it is a club at night!
Abbe adds, ‘The break as a whole is a brilliant way for groups to learn more about wine and the technical aspects of its production as well as becoming familiar with the beautiful landscape. And, for hardened viticulturists, there is plenty of scope to create a more in-depth experience. The family is happy to cater for specific requirements and to tweak the itinerary to suit.’
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