August 9 Day 5 – Bordeaux > Pauillac
Our Freechoice for the day is to travel the scenic Médoc wine route and discover why this region is viewed as the world’s leading red wine producer. Afterwards, sample the region’s finest at the Château Gruaud-Larose estate.
The Scenic Enrich tour in the evening:
Set in spectacular surrounds in the Médoc countryside, Château Agassac is truly enchanting. Dating back to the 13th century, the Château is one of the oldest wine making establishments in the region and is the venue for your unforgettable evening concert. Soak in the ambience of this magnificent property as live musicians perform classical masterpieces for your exclusive enjoyment!
The Scenic Diamond departed Bordeaux at 5:30 am, oops – missed sunrise and missed a mundane walk with the well being coach at 7:00am. We arrived in Pauillac around 8:00 am. So after a well deserved sleep we had our amazing breakfast and were off by 9:15 driving past many Châteaus in the Médoc countryside to the Château Gruaud-Larose estate. Life is Good. Incredible views from the tower at the Château. It was interesting to find out they plant flowers at the beginning of the rows to monitor the vines. If there are issues with the flowers they start looking at the vines to check for disease or insects. After the tour and learning lots of things I didn’t know about wines and promptly forgetting them, we had the wine tasting then were back on the road. After our light lunch with an ice cold beer, we set sail for Fort Médoc leaving at 1:30 arriving by 3:00 pm. What a surprise! We were docked by a ruin! As soon as possible we were off exploring – a totally unexpected bonus. Back on board in time to get ready for our Port talk with Tania, an early supper – the frogs legs may have been a mistake – okay they were a rubbery mistake! At 7:30 we left for the concert at Château Agassac. Back on board and having a nightcap by 11:00 pm. What a long day – but FUN!
Château Gruaud-Larose: “In 1757, Joseph Stanislas Gruaud drafted a new wine estate on the parish Saint Julien. At his death, he left the very well-maintained property to Monsieur de Larose and, from 1781, the château became « Gruaud Larose » and rapidly famous for the great quality of its
From the top of our tower, you will enjoy the unobstructed view
of the Medoc hills, vineyards and estuary. Looking into the distance,
you will plunge into the fabulous history of the chateau, its terroirs
and its wines.” – brochure
(terroirs: the environmental conditions, especially soil and climate, in which grapes are grown and that give a wine its unique flavor and aroma)
Morning drive through the Médoc countryside:
Fort Médoc: Designed by Vauban, the “Bolt of the Estuary” is located on the Gironde Estuary. Built during the reign of Louis XIV, on low lying marshy land on the left bank of the Gironde, its role was to protect the city of Bordeaux 50 km upstream. The ground work started in 1689-1690 was completed in 1721. It was one of three forts used as a defence system that included the Citadel of Blaye (on the right bank) and Fort Pâté (located on Île Pâté in the middle of the estuary). Fort Médoc’s purpose was to block the passage of ships between Île Pâté and Cussac in the Médoc.
The square-shaped fort, perpendicular to the riverbank, consisted of four bastions linked by curtain walls. A demi-lune protected the imposing Porte Royale on the side furthest from the estuary. This vast entity was in turn protected by a covered walkway, a preliminary moat, and a main moat able to be filled with water by locks.
The grand entrance (“porte royale”) tunnels through the guard house. Two rows of barracks were built inside the square as well as a building to house the Major, a chapel, a bakery, and a gunpowder storage area. The barracks could accommodate 300 soldiers.
A garrison was stationed at Fort Médoc from 1691 onward and by 1716 had 300 soldiers on hand to man 13 cannons. It was soon realized that there wasn’t really much to do. There was little or no sign of any kind of attack, the water was relatively shallow close to Médoc so any boats passing tended to sail closer to Blaye meaning that the little action that did take place was out of reach. Other issues were: the structure was difficult and costly to maintain, illness became rife because of the damp, marshy environment and soldiers took to looting nearby properties. By 1789, only a few soldiers, mostly disabled veterans, and three old cannons attested to the fort’s military vocation. After periods of virtual abandonment, followed by a renovation, the site was decommissioned by the army in 1916 and listed World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2008.
Fort Médoc – afternoon bonus site:
Corps de Garde de la Mer: Served as a toll gate and customs inspection station for the ships traveling to Bordeaux. The vaulted armory was constantly flooded until a protective wall was built. The guard room is located through the arches on the first floor.
Powder Magazine: The most dangerous building in the fort, is surrounded by a protective wall. The small barrels with wooden hoops filled with gunpowder were stored in the single room. The 2 meter thick walls were reinforced by buttresses in case of an explosion and people wore wooden sabots into this room to avoid sparks.
The Chapel: Priests from Cussac came to perform mass and military chaplains were sent to give spiritual support to those who needed it. The health care was also sub-standard. They set up a room in the chapel for non-serious cases but sent the more serious patients to the Citadel of Blaye. After the French Revolution the Chapel was turned into artillery storage.
Royal Guard House: was the residence of the commander of the fort (first floor) as well as guard rooms on ground floor.
Barracks: The barracks were dismantled and the stone sold to builders in Cussac between the first and second Word Wars.
The Cistern: is connected to a recovery system of rainwater from the roof of the barracks. The remaining bit of the north barracks wall is attached to the rainwater container.
Château Agassac: “may be named after the Roman, Gassus who owned his villa there. Tradition places its construction in the eleventh century, but the oldest writing speaks of a Guillaume d’Agassac in 1190. This castle depended on the Lord of Blanquefort, itself stronghold of the kings of England since Aliénor of Aquitaine then, during the Hundred Years War. First it was a defense castle, then during the Renaissance it took the form we see today.
It is a quadrangular dwelling, flanked by towers and watchtowers then reworked in the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. The Pomies family owned Agassac for nearly three centuries and influenced the life of the town. The dovecote, the deep moat, the forest and the renaissance style give the site an exceptional cachet.”