Published on August 13th, 2015 | by Amy Lynne Hayes0
The Key to Unlocking Bordeaux Wine Country
Bordeaux is supposed to be the capital of wines. With more than 7,000 chateaux, the region has carefully cultivated a reputation for being among the best of the best. And yet, the public is not able to access many of the top names without having an industry connection.
Enter Pierre-Jean Romatet and his team, at your service, offering a solution to this little inconvenience. Romatet, a native of Paris, first moved to Bordeaux a decade ago after accepting a position with the prestigious Château Mouton Rothschild in the Médoc region. It was during his six-year tenure with Rothschild that he noticed a demand in the area’s tourism industry that needed to be filled. “Family and friends would visit, and needed help with wine,” Romatet says, explaining how he became the go-to source for information. The Bordeaux Tourist Office offered larger group tours, and private drivers were available for a far greater cost, but there was nothing to cater to the in-between.
Using the tourism industry of California’s Napa Valley as inspiration, Romatet sought to address this gap by founding a business of his own. Bordovino, a boutique luxury wine tour operator, was launched in 2010, with its first tour occurring in 2011. The venture was met with immediate approval and enthusiasm.
Bordovino now provides visitors with a choice of more than a dozen small group tours, private tours and specialized corporate events. “We sell small group experiences,” Romatet smiles, obviously excited about what his company has to offer. Priority is placed on the quality, ensuring tourists not only get a taste of the wines, but also gain a sample of the famous French joie de vivre. “We spend a lot of time interviewing and choosing our guides,” he explains, highlighting the care that goes into creating a complete experience. Wine knowledge is important, naturally, but only a portion of the criteria for hiring a guide. An engaging personality and the ability to make guests feel at ease rank above all else.
If wine is the gateway to the culture and history of Bordeaux, then Bordovino holds the key. Now in their fifth season of tours, they have developed relationships with a number of prominent chateaux in the region, providing their guests with an exclusive glimpse into the world of Bordeaux wines.
It was a gorgeously sunny Wednesday when we took our trip out to Saint-Émilion, with Romatet himself as our guide. Our first destination: Chateau de Ferrand, a 17th-century chateau of the Grand Cru Classé. We toured, we tasted, and we participated in a special tasting class in which we learned to identify the aromas common in those robust Bordeaux reds.
From there we headed to the medieval city of Saint-Émilion, a tiny village and UNESCO World Heritage Site. We meandered down the cobblestone streets, soaked in the sun and snapped photos before setting our sights on our second chateau for the afternoon, this one in the commune of Pomerol.
“We partner with several chateaux in each region,” Romatet explains to me as we leave the rooftops of Saint-Émilion in our rear view mirror. This ensures that there’s a rotation of properties for guests to experience. The one we would be visiting, Château Siaurac, has been producing from three terroirs since 1832. We sampled three of their gorgeous great wines – the Château Vray Croix de Gay, Château le Prieuré and Château Siaurac – complimented by cheese and saucisson before sauntering back to our (thankfully) chauffeured ride.
The mood was convivial as we traveled back to Bordeaux, Romatet entertaining us with more stories and details of the region. He answered questions, and made recommendations for restaurants for that evening, even offering to sort out any reservations that may be needed.
The sun was just beginning to set as we arrived in town. A cool breeze promised ideal conditions for dinner sur la terrasse. With perfectly paired Bordeaux wines, bien sûr.
In this part of France where wine reigns supreme and fermé au public seems to be the name of the game, the once-exclusive industry has become a little more accessible.
Thanks, Bordovino, for opening the doors.