Stage 19: Bordeaux to Pauillac
Let’s put the blinders on and pretend tomorrow isn’t going to happen and just focus on today and the world capital of wine, Bordeaux and the Bordeaux region. The Tour will pass through the greatest vineyards in the world and some of the most beautiful châteaux’s this side of the Loire Valley. Only Paris has seen the Tour de France more than Bordeaux, this year is the 80th visit but has not seen the Tour since 2006.
Bordeaux sits on the banks of the River Garonne and was once the largest port in France and dates back 30,000 years. At the Pair-non-Pair caves just outside of Bordeaux at Bourg sur Gironde remains have been unearthed of Neanderthals living in the area. Around 70BC it was ruled by the Romans and became the capital of Roman Aquitaine. In the 5th century it was attacked by the Vandals, Visigoths and finally the Franks in 498. Bordeaux would come back into power in 1154 when the English took over the city after the marriage of the Duchess Eleanor of Aquitaine to Count Henri Plantagenet who would become King Henry II of England shortly after their marriage. The city would flourish again due to the wine trade and the bustling port. France recaptured Bordeaux in 1452 near the end of the Hundred Years’ War but the English were not so thrilled about it. In October of that year the Earl of Shrewsbury and an army of more than 2,500 men landed on the banks of Bordeaux. The Bordelaise people welcomed the English and ousted the French leadership. In the winter of 1452/1453 Charles VII King of France (no thanks to Joan of Arc) readied his army and by spring they advanced into Bordeaux from three routes at the same time and recaptured Bordeaux for France once and for all. The Battle of Castillon was the last battle to be fought between the French and the English and the end of the Hundred Years’ War.
It wasn’t until the 18th century that Bordeaux really came into its own, most of the architecture is from this period and is home to one of the largest 18th century urban areas in Europe. The Esplanade des Quinconces was once the site of the Chateau Trompette. The Chateau was built after the Hundred Years’ War under the order of King Charles VII to protect the city from any future English invasions. Around 1650 it was destroyed by the Ormee and then rebuilt again under Louis XIV in 1653 but was later destroyed in 1818. The Esplanade des Quinconces began construction in 1818 and was completed in 1828. The Esplanade was built with the Esplande des Invalides in Paris as the example and at almost 30 acres it is the largest plaza in Europe. In 1895 the Colonnes des Girondins was added to the Esplanade, a 141 foot column by Achille Dumilatre. Built as a monument to the Republic and Girondins and topped with a statue of liberty.
The Bordeaux region is the largest wine region in France, in area and production. Four times that of Alsace, Burgundy and Beaujolais and twice as much as the Loire and Rhone regions and grows all three types of wine, red, white and sweet wines. As the Tour leaves the city of Bordeaux it heads through the Haut-Medoc Noted as the most concentrated and greatest red wine growing area in the world. The gravelly hills slopping towards the River Gironde is the perfect terroir to grow some of the most famous names in wine in the world.
The town of Blanquefort is the home of an 11th century chateau ruins said to be haunted. The Chateau of “The Black Prince” Edward of Woodstock, Prince of Wales became his when it was transferred to the most power family in the Aquitaine and he decided to remain there. It continued to pass through many hands over the ages until the Revolution when it became state property and then fell into ruins where it still remains today. It was labeled a historic monument and some excavation has taken place over the years.
The small village of Labarde marks the beginning of the Margaux appellation and the finest wines of the area. The 18th century Chateau Dauzac is located here and named after Petrus d’Auzac who was given the land from Richard the Lionheart, King of England. Growing mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc and produces a fragrant, soft and excellent wine.
The town of Margaux may be small but its jewel is the Chateau Margaux, arguably one of the most famous names in wine. One of only four vineyards to obtain the Premiur Crus status in 1855 and labeled by Thomas Jefferson as “one of the four vineyards of first quality” The estate dates back to the 12th century and once legend has Edward III, King of England living here in a castle located on top of a high mound over the water in the 14th century. Before the Medoc was drained the area would frequently flood so having a castle on high land was a necessity. The domaine would pass through many hands over the years but it was during the mid 17th century when the proprietor d’Auledes planted the first vines. It continued to pass through many more owners until in 1977 Chateau Margot was purchased by Andre Mentzelopoulos a Greek, French grocery supermarket owner. He died three years later and passed through family and other ownership. In 2003 his daughter Coinne purchased shares back and runs it to this day. It was her father that brought much of the glory back to the wine, vineyard and chateau and made it what it is today.
Stage 19 finishes in Pauillac and is the first time visit for the Tour de France. A large port on the banks of the River Garonne and home to three huge names in Bordeaux wines, Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Latour, and Château Mouton Rothschild. Above Pauillac the Chateau Mouton Rothschild rises over the vineyards. Mouton was part of the Jacques de Sequre estate along with Latour and Lafite but was later split around 1750. Owned by Joseph de Brane and remained in the family until his grandson Hector de Brane sold it to Isaac Thuret who in turn sold it to Baron Nathaniel de Rothschild in 1853. Originally called Château Brane-Mouton it was renamed by Nathaniel de Rothschild. Today Mouton Rothschild is still owned by the family by Baronne Philippone de Rothschild.
Chateau Lafite-Rothschild is still owned by the Rothschild Banking Family of France and dates back to the 13th century to 1234 when it was the estate of Gomabaud de Lafite. Purchased by the Sequr family along with the 16th century chateau that still stands today, it was Jacques de Segur that planted the first vines. In August 1868 the Baron James Mayer Rothschild purchased the Chateau and vineyard and it became Chateau Lafite Rothschild.
And finally Chateaus Latour on the opposite side of Pauillac from Lafite but believed to be planted and created at around the same time. In 1670 it was owned by M. de Chavannes a private secretary to Louis XIV and passed to M. de Clauzel in 1678. An heir to the Lafite house Alexandre de Segur married Marie-Therese de Clauzel in 1675 and became the owners of two of the greatest and biggest names in wine in the world. The two houses were run together for more than 80 years until the son of the couple Nicolas-Alexandre de Seugur died and the estate was passed to his daughters and remained in the family until 1962. Now owned by French retail giant Francois Pinault who has also owned Christie’s Auction House, Converse and Vail ski resort. It is rumored that beloved French actors Gérard Depardieu and Carole Bouquet are also part owners.
Steak with Bordelaise Sauce
1 cup red wine
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 shallots, finely diced
1 bay leaf
6 tbsp. Demi-Glace
4 6-oz. filet mignons
Kosher salt and freshly ground
black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 tbsp. chilled unsalted butter, diced
1 tbsp. finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1. Make the sauce: In a 2-qt. saucepan, combine wine, thyme, shallots, and bay leaf. Reduce wine over medium-high heat until almost completely evaporated. If using a gas stove, tip pan to ignite wine; this will aid in evaporation. Discard the thyme and bay leaf; stir in demi-glace. Cover, remove from heat, and set aside.
2. Prepare the filets: Heat oven to 500°. Season filets with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a 10" skillet over high heat. Sear steaks, flipping once, until browned, 4–5 minutes. Transfer skillet to oven; roast until steaks are medium rare, 4–5 minutes. Place steaks on a plate; let rest.
3. Sauce the steak: Return saucepan to medium heat. Whisk in butter. Remove saucepan from heat; stir in parsley and season sauce with salt and pepper. Transfer steaks to cutting board; add juices from plate to pan and stir. Spoon 2 tbsp. sauce onto each of 4 plates. Slice steak into 1⁄4"-thick slices; divide between plates. Sprinkle with rosemary and thyme; drizzle each steak with 1 tbsp. sauce. Serve with baby lettuces, if you like. Yields 3⁄4 cup sauce.
Pommes de Terre et les Oignons Bordeaux
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 white boiling onions (about 9 ounces total), thinly sliced
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes
2 cups water
1/4 cup crème fraîche or whipping cream
Chopped fresh parsley
Melt 1 tablespoon butter with oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add potatoes and 2 cups water; bring to boil. Cover and simmer until potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes. Uncover and simmer until almost all water evaporates, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add crème fraîche and 1 tablespoon butter. Stir gently to blend, being careful not to break up potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm over low heat before serving.) Sprinkle with parsley.
And finally for some dessert, the little dark cakes known as Canneles are purely Bordelaise. They are caramelized and have a crisp outside and then the inside is filled with rich lushius pudding like wonderfulness. I tried these once before in a mini silicone mold and they did not turn out. Just this week I found this online on the great website “Girls Guide to Paris” and followed all her instructions and they came out great. Next time I will fill the mold more so get a little bit bigger but the texture was great and taste just like the ones I have had at the local French bakery. Merci Doni! Here is her recipe and notes that have to be followed.
Before you begin, there are a few things you should know:
The batter MUST rest at least a full 24 hours before baking, and I actually had my best results with batter that was two full days old. If you bake prematurely, you will get something resembling a popover.
If the exposed tops begin to darken before the baking time is up (and they will), cover the cakes with a sheet of foil to prevent burning.
Finally, don’t be discouraged if your first batch doesn’t come out. Cannelés can throw even experienced bakers for a loop.
2 cups (500 ml) whole milk
2 tablespoons (30 g) butter
1 vanilla bean
¾ cup (100 g) all-purpose flour
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons (180 g) sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons (45 ml) dark rum
A few tablespoons melted butter for the molds (not necessary if you’re using silicon molds)
1. Put the milk and butter into a small saucepan. Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the milk, and add the pod too. Gently heat the milk over medium heat until the butter has melted and the milk is steaming hot but not boiling. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the egg and yolk and whisk until thoroughly combined. Slowly add the milk to the egg and flour mixture, whisking constantly. Stir in the rum. Let the batter cool to room temperature, then cover it and refrigerate for at least 24 hours (and up to three days) before baking. (Leave the vanilla bean pod in the batter but fish it out before baking, obviously).
3. If you are using metal molds, grease them thoroughly with melted butter, making absolutely certain that every surface is thoroughly coated (I use a finger); then turn them upside down so that any excess butter doesn’t pool at the bottom of the molds. Refrigerate the molds until you’re ready to bake.
4. Put an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 400°F (200°C). When the oven is ready, pour the batter into the molds, to about ½" (1¼ cm) from the top. Put the molds on a baking sheet and place in the oven. After 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 375°F (190°C) and continue baking for another 75–90 minutes, depending on how dark you want the Cannelés to be. If the tops start to get too dark before the baking time is up, cover the cakes with a piece of foil.
5. If you’ve used copper molds, grab each mold with a towel and whack it against the counter a few times to loosen the cake. If the cakes don't slide out when inverted, use a toothpick to loosen them from the molds. If you’ve used silicon, wait about five minutes before unmolding—they should pop right out.
Let the Cannelés cool completely before eating. They will hold for a few days in an airtight container at room temperature, though the crust will lose some crispness. Five minutes in a 400° oven will refresh them. Cannelés can be eaten for breakfast, a snack or dessert, with coffee, tea or a glass of wine.
Tomorrow we head to Paris and the Champs Elysees and the 2010 Tour de France will be one for the record books and then I will have to wait the long 3 months until the 2011 route is announced