By Rick Riozza

Last time we brought to light the current three-week Tour de France sporting event where almost 200 cyclists race the roads & highways throughout France at record breaking speeds.

Hopefully most of you interested readers have already tuned-in on the USA Network to watch many of the 21 stages of races through the most beautiful countrysides, coastlines, deep valleys, and high mountain ranges in and around France—also did we mention the travel through many of the famous vineyards in the country!

Anyone who loves any type of French wine that includes, white and red Burgundy, Bordeaux, Sancerre, Roses, Beaujolais, Cote de Rhone, Chateauneuf du Pape, Champagne, and Malbec, just to name a few, of course, loves to see, view, and contemplate the regions, appellations, and actual vineyards where some of their favorite wines are produced.


The 7th and 8th stages of the Tour de France, travel in, through, and out of the Bordeaux region of France. Bordeaux is the largest fine wine district on earth. It is a symbol for great wine and the model for the whole world, with over 275,000 acres producing over 880 million bottles of wine every year.

The area’s inventive blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cab Franc, Petite Verdot, Malbec, and Carménère has made for the great wines of history, and, has affected the type of California Red Blend you may be drinking tonight. All of the named varietals just mentioned, originated in the Bordeaux region.

Almost ten years ago, in this column, I related my first venture to Bordeaux during my college years:

Getting off the train at the historic city of Bordeaux, I checked out the famed Port of the Moon where wine commerce has existed for over 600 years. I then ducked into a quiet looking bistro, for a meal and some wine, and soon found myself at a table with two very talkative women, who once they found out I was an American, insisted that they “show me around”.

Little did I know that these women were quite well-known here in these parts, and when they introduced themselves as Bridget Bordeaux and Marilyn Merlot—well, it sure kept things fun. And did they have contacts in this town or what! From many wine-nitch hole-in-the-walls to elegant restaurant bars, these women—and me in tow, seemingly had the carte blanche going on.

Often joining us at the table, the girl’s proprietor friends kept popping up with this “new” rosé or that old Pomerol to enjoy and talk about. For as much as this town has been vino haven for so long, the wine conversations were fresh, enthusiastic with a joie-de-vivre ever present. Everyone here was proud to be Bordelaise.

Needless to state, the scene was cinematic and dynamic, and in a matter of hours we were on horseback traipsing through the vineyards in Cantenac just south of the Margaux commune. My heart was just racing! The girls clearly had a destination in mind as we headed deep into the woods of huge trees and natural ponds. And there we came upon it: Chateau Cantemerle. A perfect Sleeping Beauty chateau of three hundred years past. Riding up to the historic building on horses was like traveling back in time.

It’s one of the oldest properties in the Bordeaux wine region. But of the 284 acres that were planted when the estate was classified in 1855, only 49 acres were in working condition. But the disrepair only added to the charm; plus the careworn staff knew the spirit of the place that was as cherished as ever.

We were welcomed into the chateaux for the weekend as though we were family and were generously poured wine from time to time from their wine cellar. And we had the pleasure of having their newly bottled vintage. Chateau Cantemerle is generally a medium bodied, light, fresh, elegantly styled Bordeaux wine that drinks well young and is usually best enjoyed during the first two decades of life.

At our final meal at the chateau, the amiable and rotund cellar-master spoke poignantly about losing his own small winery across the woods last year, when one of his workers negligently allowed the fire-torches, that lit the wine cellar at night, to catch the whole place on fire. He lost all the wine in his barrels—except for one. But he talked more about the great feast his family and staff went on to enjoy and celebrate with that one barrel of wine—in spite of the catastrophe, stating, “What was done, is done and no one died. We will make wine again. A votre santé!—to life and good health!”

In the year 2000, the vintage in Bordeaux was majestic. I went on the futures market and ordered a couple-three cases of Chateau Cantemerle for about less than $10 a bottle. When the cases were delivered about three years later, you couldn’t keep down the memories of some wild weekend in Bordeaux.

Well—after that little story, you’d bet we’ll be checking in on the current release of one of my favorite Bordeaux wine: 2018 Chateau Cantemerle. ($22) “Deep garnet-purple in color, the 2018 wine leaps from the glass with scents of Morello cherries, raspberry pie, fruitcake and prunes, plus hints of potpourri and unsmoked cigars. The medium-bodied palate is chewy and a little tart, featuring some otherwise pleasant fruitcake flavors, finishing just a little drying and rustic.” 89 points.

Right now, the 2020 Cantemerle is still in the barrel. Wine critic Roger Voss tasted a sample and gives it 93–95 points! “With its 68% Cabernet Sauvignon giving structure, this is an impressive, balanced wine. Firm tannins are integrated with the dark black fruits. The wine has ripe fruits, giving concentration and fine density for the vintage.”

Here’s to Bordeaux–Cheers!