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Intoxicated by Bordeaux

Scenic port city in south-western France now enjoys an urban regeneration

Bordeaux, once France's best-kept secrets, is becoming an exciting and vibrant city. It has the glamour of Paris, boasts great shopping and top-notch culinary delights, and has a well-connected public transport system that includes buses, riverfront tram lines and ferries.

Apart from being known as the world's major wine industry capital, the once-sleepy picturesque port city in south-western France has recently enjoyed an urban regeneration, where it now has a hipster neighbourhood complete with bars and restaurants, and an indoor skate park.

Getting there will be even more convenient when the new high speed rail service to Bordeaux starts in July, which means it will take just over two hours to reach Bordeaux from Paris.

The name Bordeaux means "along the waters" in French and makes reference to the Gironde estuary and its tributaries, the Garonne and Dordogne rivers.

The waterways of the region wind their way through some of the most beautiful countryside in all of Europe, with mediaeval hamlets, wine estates and thousands of vineyards scattered across the landscape.

With dozens of prestigious wine appellations lining the rivers, and historic farms producing some of the most acclaimed truffles and creamy goat cheeses, Bordeaux will delight anyone who enjoys fine living.

A paradise for wine connoisseurs, Bordeaux produces around 700 million bottles of wine each year.

Wine production dates back to the Roman times, but it was in 1152 - when Eleanor of Aquitaine married the Duke of Normandy, the future king of England - that England's love affair with Bordeaux wine started.

As a result of their marriage, Bordeaux became the second most populous city under the British monarchy and Bordeaux wine trade began exporting to England in 1302 from Saint-Emilion, which by then had helped cement Bordeaux's reputation as a source of top quality products for wine connoisseurs.

And for a relaxing and informative all-inclusive river cruise, hop on the River Royale (above). PHOTO: UNIWORLD

THREE REGIONS

Bordeaux is primarily associated with the red wine blend from Medoc. Red Bordeaux is a red wine that is always made from blending Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wines together, though the proportion of each depends on the location of the winery that made the wine.

To understand the wines, it would be useful to divide Bordeaux into three regions: Left Bank, Right Bank and the area in between called Entre-Deux-Mers, which translates to "between two seas".

The soil on the Left Bank Medoc region is sandy as a result of its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and is best suited for Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines. The blends use about 70 per cent of Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot. They usually are higher in alcohol and acidity, and are better for ageing, to create blends with distinctive flavours. The wines from this region usually display cassis flavours and when aged, taking on tobacco and truffle characteristics.

Merlot and Cabernet Franc are the dominant grapes for wines from the Right Bank as they thrive well in soil that has higher clay content. As a result, blends tend to be softer, lower in alcohol and acidity, and less tannic. And with Merlot as the dominate grape, they are juicier and often less expensive as they can be drunk much earlier.

Entre-Duex-Mers is situated south-east of Bordeaux and is known for its white Bordeaux wine.

For vineyards to place the name of Entre-Deux-Mers appellation on their label, the wine must be a Bordeaux Blanc. However, most of the region consists of forest land, which is not suitable for growing grapes.

A way to explore the region is with Uniworld's all-inclusive river cruise on board the River Royale where you get to learn about the fascinating history of Bordeaux and its wines.

From visiting the lively city of Bordeaux, to learning about wine pairing or visiting ancient Aquitaine with its charming towns, this will be an unforgettable adventure to experience the joie de vivre in France.

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