From San Sebastian, we drove to Biarritz, a beautiful beach resort on the Bay of Biscay. This coastal town was highly admired by Napoleon III and his wife Eugenie in the 19th century. Nowadays, Biarritz is famous for its fine sandy beaches and world-class surfing. The Lonely Planet Southwest France by Julia Wilkinson and John King helped us to find the cozy hotel Palym on the pedestrian street near the beach for 50 EUR plus breakfast, 5 EUR per person. It is a family-run hotel that also has a cheerful restaurant.
Floors are sloping, furniture is ancient and the rooms are well kept. I think this was good value for money.
It was really good to be back in France. To celebrate that, we had a delicious gourmet dinner at the beach restaurant. This is amazing, how well the French can cook. Every bite was delicious. In the morning we walked on the beach. Surfers were waiting for the wind, it seemed that some people had spent the night on the beach. I am convinced that San Sebastian and Biarritz are both resorts where it is good to relax and spend more time than a day.
The destination of the day was Bordeaux. The wine area is approximately 260km from Biarritz. After driving 200 km, we thought that it would be a good idea to have some beach time. From the Lonely Planet guide, we read that just some 30 km from the highway there is the remarkable Dune du Pilat (or Dune de Pyla), which is Europe’s highest dune (approx. 115 m) and 3km long. There are stairs to climb to the top, and it is worth it (even on a hot day) because the view from the top is magnificent. From the top, we saw the beach on the other side of the dune. We walked down to it and took a sunbath and swam. Then we realized that maybe this was not a very wise idea, as now it was needed to go back also. But there were no stairs on this side of the dune. The weather and sand were hot, and it was quite demanding to climb the steep dune. We found a way not to climb the whole way back, but still, we were very tired (but happy) and then got back to the parking lot. There are also several tourist boutiques and food points in the parking lot, and most importantly, there is also a possibility for a shower for 2 EUR. This was very relaxing.
After this rough experience at the dune, we drove towards Bordeaux and Chateaus. We did not have any accommodation booked. It seems we were lucky to find a B&B in the Châteaux-Domaine Les Sapins, B&B in Moulis Médoc, Bordeaux. The place was lovely in the middle of the vineyards. It also had a pool in the backyard. The interior of the chateau was antique. The price of the Chambre Petrus for one night (including breakfast) was 68 EUR. After checking in we drove around and saw a lot of vineyards. We also visited a local supermarket to buy some wine and food for dinner. The wine in the shop was high quality but cheap. The beer and wine were almost equally priced. We spent an evening near the pool, tasting wine and cheese. This was a romantic evening.
The plan for the next day was to visit several chateaus for wine tasting. We asked the host where to go because there are so many chateaus that it is difficult to choose. He gave us a map with 280(!) chateaus in the Medoc area and said “Go to any of them!”. Can you imagine! We were confused. We decided to go to the sub-area of Haut-Medoc and chose by eye. I think you can not be wrong here. All the chateaus have a history and we did not try any bad wine. Of course, the higher quality is in chateaus that have Grand Cru Classe. When going there, keep some free space in the baggage room, and usually, it is expected that when tasting, you buy a box of five liters or more.
The last châteaux we stopped by for a longer time was Châteaux Tour du Haut Moulin. Robert Parker Guide says: “Estimate of its current classification: this excellent cru bourgeois ranks as good as 5th Classified Growth for the vintages 1985, 1986, 1988 and 1990.
The vineyards of this excellent cru bourgeois were located directly to the north of Châteaux Lamarque, near the village of Cussac. There is no doubt that the owner, Lionel Poitou, makes one of the most concentrated and aromatic wines in the region.
He is not afraid to let the fermentation temperatures reach the very dangerous level of 34-35 C, and he operates with a long vatting of one month.
Moreover, the low yield (45 hl/la) and the plantation density (10 000 plants/ha) give the wine, when the season is good, an incredible dark and purple-ruby color as well as a wonderful depth and concentration.
This is certainly one of the best Crus bourgeois. “There is no doubt that a blind tasting would put more than one classified growth in a difficult position.”
Next to Versailles and then home