Bordeaux is world-famous for its wine. But the French, even the Europeans really, have been keeping a secret. Bordeaux isn’t just fabulous because it produces some of the best wine in the world. It’s a city well positioned and a stone’s throw from several of France’s most beautiful natural wonders, including one of our favorites: Dune du Pilat. And one of our new favorite ways to experience Europe’s largest sand dune is on an Arcachon Bay cruise that drops anchor for a wine tasting right in front of the dune.
Bordeaux has hot, dry summers and aside from the vineyards being lush with the leafy green vines, it’s our favorite time to visit châteaux because the barrel rooms are the perfect place to escape the heat for a bit. There’s only one better place to be for a bit of respite from the heat and that’s on a boat with the sea breeze cooling you down.
Since we’re not yacht owners, Millésime Privé is the next best thing.
There are various Arcachon Bay tours available, but none quite like the private wine tasting cruise Millésime Privé offers. Croisiere Jouvence’s boat is especially designed for navigating Arcachon Bay, allowing the captain to sail up to 10 guests right up to the Dune du Pilat. There’s comfortable sunbathing decks in both the front and back of the boat, plus a covered lounge area in case you need to escape the sun for a bit.
Arcachon Bay is lively and we zipped past oyster fisherman fishing the oyster beds, kite surfers, jet skiers, other leisure boats and the various villages dotting the bay.
As we reached Lège-Cap Ferret, one of the flat oyster boats made its way toward us. There was no need for us to pull up to Vivier de Jacquet’s oyster hut; owner Christian Lapègue tied up his oyster boat along side ours to deliver several dozen of the freshest oysters.
Not long after, we made the crossing to the calm, sheltered channel between the Dune du Pilat and the Banc d’Arguin National Nature Reserve. There couldn’t be a more beautiful setting to drop anchor and have a wine tasting of the various wines produced in the Bordeaux wine region.
We started with a Château de Rouillac 2014 Pessac-Léognan Blanc, which our guide Aurélie explained is a blend of 70% Sauvignon Blanc, 16% Sémillon and 14% Sauvignon Gris and aged for 10 months in French oak barrels. She also told us a bit about this family owned estate as we sipped the white Bordeaux and paired it with the shucked oysters.
I casually tossed my empty shells overboard back in to the bay where they came from barely an hour earlier. This way no one could keep count of exactly how many I ate, which might just have been an entire dozen all on my own!
Next, we discovered a new-to-me wine, a Château Boutinet 2016 Clairet de Boutinet. Back in the 14th and 15th century when Bordeaux was under British rule, Bordeaux wines looked much different than the dark, rich wines that they are today. Bordeaux was, in fact, much paler and closer in color to a rosé.
Derived from the Latin word for clear, Eleanor of Aquitaine declared the wines to be called claret. It’s not really the color, but a style of wine that immortalizes a style of Bordeaux wine from an important part of its history.
Château Boutinet’s Clairet de Boutinet is made from 100% Merlot grapes with a fruity taste heavy influenced by the soil and position of the plot where these grapes are planted. I thought it was delicious, especially paired with a charcuterie board that included a Salamanca jamon Iberico. I may have eaten just as many pieces of that salty cured ham as I did oysters.
Of course, you can’t have a wine tasting without a Bordeaux as we know it today. We tried a Château Guibeau La Fourvieille 2012 Pusisseguin Saint-Emilion.
The history caught my attention since this estate is still owned by the same family that established it in the 19th century. I feel like that’s pretty rare among Bordeaux châteaux, that often have long histories of changing hands.
To finish, we enjoyed a Château Caillou Grand Cru Classé 1855 Barsac Sauternes. This is Bordeaux’s sweet dessert wine and it’s paired with orange and almond cakes by Les Délices d’Envin. With notes of honey, almond and apricots it’s perfect with the cakes as we sail back to Arcachon.
Aurélie Lombange is Millésime Privé’s owner and she is Level 2 and Level 3 WSET qualified, as well as a French Wine Scholar. In addition to wine tastings you can arrange at your home or event, Aurélie has teamed up with Croisiere Jouvence to offer a private wine tasting cruise on the Bay of Arcachon.
We’ve chartered boats before, like when we chartered a boat to hop around the Venetian Lagoon and visit Poveglia. Boat charters can be a lot more affordable than you might imagine. Millésime Privé offers the wine tasting chartered boat cruise for €700 for up to 10 people. The oyster, charcuterie and Les Délices d’Envin pairings are extra.
Know Before You Go
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