The River Royale docked overnight in Libourne so that we could enjoy the weekly Libourne market and also experience another wine tasting experience. Our local expert guide Sarah collected us at 9am and we walked over the bridge to the market, held in the Bastide town square. Sarah explained that the had been given a small budget by the Cruise Manager so that we could purchase some of the local treats to try at the market but also take to our wine tasting. It’s another grey day, but the colour and bustle of the market continues on regardless.
Sarah skillfully negotiated for bread, cheese, strawberries and chocolate with the local stallholders and the cheese man nearly got the better of her!
Being Easter, the surrounding shops are full of Easter themed windows and the French really take Easter and chocolate very seriously. The fish-shaped chocolate being sold is called “Fritures de Pâques” is the symbol of Christianity and comes dark, milk and white chocolate options – all delicious.
Back on the bus and we are really looking forward to meeting an ex-Parisian couple, Nathalie and Jerome who purchased the ruined Chateau Boutinet and 23 hectares of woodland and vineyard in 2011. Just outside the village of Villegouge, the land is south facing on a clay-limestone hillside, and the thing that you notice first from the driveway, is the large white Yurt that doubles as a function building and tasting room.
They began their conversion to organic in 2017 but because of constraints put on them by the bank, have had to put the Chateau restoration on hold for a time. The forest that was growing in and around the main buildings have been cleared and they are only inhabiting the old ex-implement wing to the left at present in the hope to one day return the Chateau to its former glory and according to the early century photographs they have.Currently selling 2/3 of their Merlot crop to the local co-operative for cash-flow, from the remaining 1/3, they produce their current 3 Boutinet wines – the one we will be trying today is the Clairet de Boutinet. Nathalie had to twist Jerome’s arm to get him to agree to the modern and stylish label she helped design on the Clairet bottle, especially as labelling of Bordeaux wines seems to follow a more traditional path.
Nathalie explained that most people have a misconception when it comes to what is known in English as Claret and that the French term is actually Clairet. Clairet today is similar to the light wine of the middle ages that was exported to England and also called “vinum clarum” and “vin clar” and where the English name Claret actually comes from. The problem is that us English tend to think of Claret as a heavy red wine, which is actually not Claret at all! Nathalie explains that Clairet (similar to a rosé perhaps?) should be a perfect companion to enjoy with a barbecue salad, cold cuts and tapas! It is considered a speciality of the Bordeaux region but Nathalie was still quick to point out that it is not a rosé.
Their other two vintages, the Château Boutinet and Thalie de Boutinet are described as fuller, rounder and more elegant wines, but right now I’m sticking with the Clairet which were enjoyed with the bread, cheese and strawberries bought from the market, while the rain came down outside of our French Yurt!
This hard-working couple deserve to do well and offer a range of add-on aspects to their business such as hiking through the vineyards, followed by homemade tapas accompanied by their own wines – in the sun or if raining – in the Yurt!
Back on the River Royale in the afternoon, we set sail back to Bordeaux and our docking place outside of the spectacular Cite du Vin. Unfortunately when we arrive there, two French Navy destroyers have “taken our dock” but in the spirit of reconciliation, the Captain decided not to argue with them and proceeds a few minutes back down to the Quai des Chartrons for the night.