First Published in the Irish Times Saturday 6th March, 2016
A deputation of Bordelais officials travelled to Dublin recently to present the Irish press corps with some compelling reasons to visit their city. I am not sure we need convincing. It seems Bordeaux is going to be a very busy place this summer. As every football fan will be aware, Ireland face Belgium here at Euro 2016 on June 18th.
The Stade de Bordeaux has a capacity of 42,000, so tickets will not be easy to come across. The massive Parc des Quinconces will be turned into a fan zone. If the match isn’t going well, you could always meander down to the nearby river, a Unesco Heritage site, and enjoy the wonderful scenery.
The soccer doesn’t end there. On June 21st, Croatia take on Spain and one of the quarter finals will take place here on July 2nd.
In addition to football there are plenty of wine-related activities. From June 23rd-26th, the city will host the annual Fête le Vin, a lively festival that takes place in tents and pavilions along the waterfront.
I really enjoyed the event a few years ago, a great mix of tastings, food and culture. At around the same time, the brand new Cité du Vin will open its doors. This impressive wine cultural centre and museum covers wine from around the world, and promises something for all the family, including children.
It would be shame to visit Bordeaux without paying a visit to a few of the wine producers. At one time, the châteaux of Bordeaux were reluctant to open their doors to the public, but happily this has all changed in recent years.From the offices of the CIVB (Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux) in the city centre, a string of buses leave every morning to visit various regions of Bordeaux and their châteaux. There will also be a jetty beside the Cité du Vin, where you can take boat trips to the vineyards.Given the city is going to be very busy, I strongly suggest you look at Bordeauxwinetrip.com or the more general Bordeaux-tourism.co.uk and make arrangements before travelling.
However, you don’t really need an excuse to go to Bordeaux; the city was rejuvenated under former mayor Alain Juppé and is a wonderful place to visit (although if you are travelling by car the traffic is never great). Many of the fine old buildings along the waterfront have been renovated, the old town is buzzing with activity, and has plenty of food and wine shops, restaurants and other ways to spend your money.If you tire of the city, and of wineries, take a relaxing a trip to the amazing beaches of Arcachon or the nearby oyster beds.
And so to the wines; Bordeaux continues to produce some of the world’s finest. The Grands Crus Classés may be beyond the reach of many, but this is one of the largest wine regions in France, so there will always be plenty of less expensive wines. Don’t worry if you don’t make it to Bordeaux; most retailers here have a decent selection.O’Briens starts its Bordeaux sale on March 1st; I can recommend the seductive, supple Château Sainte Marie (€14.35), and the excellent Château Marsau Arpège 2010 for €15.95, a very keen price.I also really enjoyed the Château Pey-Bonhomme Les Tours 2012 (€20) from 64wine recently. Lidl should still have some wines left from its French wine sale, including the Fiefs de Lagrange below.I would also recommend the elegant plummy Château de Francs 2011 and the ripe juicy Château Clos Fontaine 2010, both good value at €12.99. Greenacres in Wexford has one of the finest selections of Bordeaux in the country, with prices to fit every budget. Mitchell & Son welcomes back Château de Lamarque to its portfolio after a gap of a few years; it also has a mouth-watering selection of good Bordeaux.