Cruising through Bordeaux: Wine & Fun with Bishop’s Cellar

This past November eight wine-loving customers accompanied Jason MacPhee and I overseas to eat, drink, and float through the most celebrated wine region of the world: Bordeaux, France. For one beautiful and relaxing week, our group sailed upon the Viking Forseti up and down the Garonne and Dordogne rivers.

Pre-Cruise Supplier Visit

The day before the cruise, Jason and I arrived early to head over to meet Alexander Sichel at Maison Sichel in the Chartrons district, overlooking the Garonne. The Sichel Family have been selling wine in Bordeaux since 1883 and today are both negociants and winemakers, a rarity for this region. The business remains family owned and operated.

After a short drive, we arrived in the heart of Margaux and met with Benjamin Sichel, winemaker at Chateau Angludet.  Benjamin explained to us how the Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend gives the wine power, the Merlot softens the wine’s tannins and gives it a nice expression of fruit, and the Petit Verdot gives it aromatic complexity and depth. We were lucky enough to be standing amongst the huge cement vats in which each portion was slowly being vinified. Benjamin was kind enough to offer us a taste of each grape separately which we quickly and enthusiastically accepted.  We ended the tour by sampling the finished blends of the ’10 and ’11 vintages, both delicious on the day but would be rewarded with a few years in the cellar as well.

We ended the day back in Bordeaux where we met with our friend James Sichel who represents Maison Sichel in the Halifax/Eastern North American market and Yvan Meyer, owner of Chateau d’Orignac who produces the Pineau de Charentes that we sell.

It is always a pleasure to meet with the people behind the wine that we sell. The Sichels, in particular, are gracious and hospitable hosts. I can’t wait to return with a future wine tour group to witness their charm firsthand as well.

Smooth Sailing

The first official day of this trip is spent docked in Bordeaux, leaving us to our own devices.  We met up with a few of our Bishop’s Cellar Travel guests and took them to  the CIVB Wine Bar which is located inside Maison du Vin de Bordeaux, the headquarters of the Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bordeaux (Bordeaux Wine Council). This is a must stop on any wine lover’s itinerary who finds themselves in Bordeaux.

After meandering through the streets of Bordeaux, we arrived back on board to join the other 190 cruisers where we met the ship’s crew, everyone from the housekeeping staff to sommelier Franck (our favourite visitor to our table night after night) to chef Pascal. I can honestly report that the food on board matches the wines of this prestigious region. From the welcome dinner on the first night to the Captain’s dinner on the final night, each meal was prepared using ingredients from the specific area that we  were travelling in. For me, the most memorable meal took place at Chateau Kirwan in Margaux, where the ship’s crew served a five-course meal paired with the Chateau’s wines.

Special Wines, Unique Experiences

As the week went on, Jason and I were able to enjoy the best of the Viking accommodations and tours while providing one-on-one education, tours and special experiences for our Bishop’s Cellar Travel guests. For example, the highlight of our stop in Blaye was a guided tour of the 17th century citadel followed by an unguided tour through one the local wine shops. We were able to sample a few wines from this lesser known appellation and each one of us walked away with a few delicious bargains.
There were one or two Viking-led excursions offered daily. Docked in Cadillac, we spent that afternoon sampling Sauterne’s famous desert wine in Chateau D’Arche’s sun-drenched vineyards.  Another day was spent exploring the steep streets and Romanesque architecture (and wine shops!) of St. Emilion, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  In Libourne, we were given a guided tour through a bustling marketplace with enough time to shop for cheese and snacks to enjoy on the deck of the ship as we shielded ourselves from the sun, sipping glass after glass of rose wine.