Bordeaux’s Urban Vineyards

ou might be surprised to learn that Bordeaux has some pretty unusual vineyards. The harvest is underway at the Airport – yes, you read that right. The Airport.

BordeauxMerignac Airport serves over 3 million passengers and it also has 15 acres of vines growig right up to the entrance to Hall B. The vineyard was planted in 1996 and the Airport is the only one in France to have a vineyard within itsw enclosure.

The vines are 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 60% Merlot and around 1200 bottles are produced. You might not think that wine from an Airport would be much sought after but when you consider that the vineyard is maintained by no less than Olivier Bernard of Domaine de Chevalier you might change your mind.

The vineyard soil is composed of black sand, fine white gravel and clay and the grapes are symbolically harvested by hand by dignitaries from the world of wine.

The wine is named La Croix de Guyenne (the Cross of Guyenne – Guyenne being the old French name for Bordeaux) which referrs to the two runways of the airport. Sadly we are not likely to come across a bottle as the wine is distributed only to the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce.

The City of Bordeaux also makes wine from a vine planted at the turn of the 18th century in La Place de la Victoire, one of Bordeaux’s larger squares.

This ancient vine was planted by the Duverger family in 1789 and a descendant of theirs still tends the vine. Originally there were 6 vines in La Place de la Victoire, but today only one remains.

It is protected at its base by a metal structure and is situated between the Chez August café and a MacDonald’s. The vine bears 8 to 10 kilos of red grapes, suspended, pergola-fashion, from the 1st floor level of adjacent buildings.

This year the grapes will be collected in the presence of experts Michel Duclos and Jean-Claude Berrouet (former winemaker of Petrus). The grapes are vinified by INRA (National Institute for Agronomic Research) with the help of Chateau Dillon Blanquefort.

I can’t find out what variety the grape is . . . I have read that it has been identified as Txakoli – but this is a type of white wine produced in the Spanish provinces of the Basque Country, Cantabria and northern Burgos and not a grape! Does anyone know what the grape variety is?

Bordeaux City Hall has its own vineyard in the grounds of the park Jardin de la Béchade that produces 300 bottles a year. This park was formerly a private property which was bequeathed to the City. It opened in 2001 and school children from the neighbourhood planted 550 vines.

The grape varieties are Cardinal, Golden Chasselas and Muscat Hamburg. The following year the red grapes Cabernet Sauvignon (40%) and Merlot (60%) were planted.

I was quite suprised at the choice of Cardinal, Golden Chasselas and Muscat Hamburg as these are not traditional Bordeaux varieties.

Cardinal is a table grape first produced in California in 1939, Golden Chasselas has its home in the Loire and Muscat Hamburg is used both as a table grape and to make wine.

Both the wines from the vine at La Place de la Victoire and from the Jardin de la Béchade are used for various local public events and the bottles are held in the cellars of the Palais Rohan City Hall.

I would love to hear from anyone who has tasted these wines so please let me know if you have!

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