Saturday, 11 September 2010

Day 40 - Entre Deux Mers

Entre-Deux-Mers is an appellation situated between the 2 rivers (not really seas, but anyway) of the Garonne and the Dordogne. I was already geographically in the right place, though not quite in the appellation. I decided to make a quick foray north along the east bank of the Garonne to Cadillac before entering E-D-M proper. The morning dawned very misty, but these are the perfect conditions for the sweet wines, so I'm sure there were a lot of happy wine-growers this morning! And they deserve every break they can get from nature, as to make the sweet wine it requires manual picking, on a berry by berry basis, making maybe up to TEN!! passes of the vineyard until the whole harvest is complete.
It had already lifted quite a bit by then!
Anyway, at Cadillac, I tasted 2 of the local sweet white wines and a red:
  1. AOC Premières Côtes de Bordeaux - Château Faugas 2006 - 100% Sémillon with a nose of raisin and dried apricots. To taste, baked apples and apricot jam.
  2. AOC Cadillac - Château Moulin de Corneil 2009 - Again 100% Sémillon with a nose of dried sultanas and apricots. To taste, all honey and apricots, with only a slight blossom.
  3. AOC Premières Côtes de Bordeaux - Château Clos Bourbon 2006 - An 80/20 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend aged in oak for 12 months. Again, as has been typical, it had a nose of cherry and vanilla, though also a slight nuttiness. On the palate, cherries, blackcurrant and a peppery spiciness - still a bit of heat and good tannins. Another year and the alcohol will be integrated, taking away the heat.
I then made my way into the heartland of the Entre-Deux-Mers appellation to a village called La Sauve which is the home to the Abbaye de la Sauve-Majeure.

A beautiful ruined abbey with huge local and national significance, built in the 13th century and on the Route to Santiago de Compostela. I very much enjoyed the walk up to and around it.
However, what I was most delighted by were the carvings at the tops of the columns. Many of them were depictions of stories from both the old and new testaments, but the naïvety of the sculpting really mesmerised me. I loved them all, so forgive me if I am boring you:
Daniel in the Lion's Den
Samson, first with the lion he killed, then having his hair cut by Delilah!
Even some myths are represented... If you zoom into each side of this picture you will see the mermaids or sirens calling on one side, and Ulysses bound to the mast on the other:

Finally, the story of John the Baptist. Salome can be seen dancing and have a look at Herod - he is twirling his moustache, this was a sign that he was seduced by her and of course, the platter with John's head:

Tremendous carvings... there were many more, but I just felt they were more accessible than some of the very fancy 'art' in churches. The simplicity made them more real, more down-to-earth.
Far from the earth, was the very high bell-tower which I felt the need to climb... all 157 steps... but what a view!

Once safely back to the ground, I made my way out of the abbey and straight into the Maison du Vin, which was unfortunately about to shut for lunch, so I only had the opportunity to taste 1 wine. The Entre-Deux-Mers is a dry white only appellation.

AOC Entre-Deux-Mers - Château Sainte-Marie 2009 (vielles vignes) - The blend, which was very typical of the appellation, was 70/20/10 of Sauvignon Blanc/Sémillon/Muscadelle. It was odd to be drinking a similar blend of grapes and it be so dry a wine in comparison to the sweet wines from yesterday. This was fruity, blossomy and minerally on the nose. On the palate, refreshing, crisp grapefruit and orange blossom flavours, and the minerality - a perfect accompaniment to oysters!

I hopped into the car and stopped for lunch at Sauveterre-de-Guyenne, a larger village with a beautiful square and the two arched gates at each end.
I had also hoped to stop and explore the stalactites and stalagmites in Celestine's cave in Rauzan, but despite turning up at the specified time... As there was only one of me, they wouldn't do the tour :-( So I headed a little earlier than anticipated to my stop for the night and the following three nights in St. Hippolyte, just outside Saint-Émilion. Once unpacked, I headed into Saint-Émilion to try to book a couple of tours... Again, the chances of tasting wines on the hoof are likely to be slim, so I had to resort to the Tourist trail!
At 4.30, I wasn't anticipating doing anything more than research and reservation, but I was just in time to join a tour of the underground monuments, which was fascinating...

We explored the cave where the hermit monk Émilion lived and founded his own Benedictine enclave. There are also catacombs and a beautiful chapel, but most impressive is the monolithic church. For those of you unfamiliar, monolithic means from one rock... So this church was not built, it was literally carved and quarried out of the large limestone rock in the centre of Saint-Émilion, an amazing feat. Inside is now stabilised with metal as years of flowing water in the underground springs has soaked into the porous structure, but nevertheless, an incredible achievement.

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