The Sky Is Red At Bordeaux

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The Sky is Red at Bordeaux: Photographs

by Natalia Sarkissian

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At sunset, the sky shines red over Bordeaux, the city and its châteaux.

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Right Bank

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Earlier, in the afternoon, the sun gleams golden.

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Then planes fill with wine-drenched tourists from Japan and China—just off the bus from châteaux-touring and Bordeaux-tasting, on their way home via Paris. The cabin fills with their boozy breath. They snooze and dream of arrivals and beginnings and tastings, not of endings and leaving. Their heads bob gently, right, left, then against their headrests as the plane flies off.

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Fountains brimming

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Still earlier, during the day in Bordeaux, fountains flow with 2009 merlot, oxygenating it, readying it for bottling.

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Grooming vines, by hand

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And in the morning, starting early, university students studying enology work the fields. They pull the leaves off vines so that the golden sun swelling in the core of this red-gold summer shines directly on the bright green grapes.

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Merlot in the making

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Then the students break, smoke a cigarette in the sun, glad to be outside, happy to be putting to use the knowledge they’ve accumulated, dreaming of the day they’ll be through with their studies and working on their own squares of land.

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Soon after the students finish, full-time employees sweep the rows free of discarded grape leaves.

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Grooming vines, with treads and brushes

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They wish for lunch, coming up.

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July isn’t harvest time, but activity on the wine-producing châteaux of the region this year is heating up. If the rest of the summer weather is favorable, the yield promises to be earlier than usual, and exceptionally good.

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Greek goddess, standing watch

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One property, Château Carignan, produces some of the finest of the Premières Côtes de Bordeaux wine A.O.C. (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée). The Premières Côtes de Bordeaux was established by the French Government in 1937. It covers 3,400 hectares which are divided among 37 townships along the right bank of the Garonne forming a thin strip, 60 km long by 5 km wide, from the north of Bordeaux to Langon.

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The wine of the Château has won many medals, most recently the gold medal for the 2008 Château Carignan and Prima wines at the 2011 Bordeaux wine fair.

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Control room

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The Château Carignan was first built in the thirteenth century on the ruins of an earlier villa; in 1452 the Château was rebuilt. During its long history, the Château has been owned by Montesquieus and Xiantrailles. Joan of Arc is said to have spent the night.

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Outside the gardens are filled with magnolia trees and roses. Over the years, the interior of the castle has been redone and modernized.

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Hallway

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Beyond the gardens lie over 65 hectares of vineyard where the dominant grape (as with other right bank wines such as St. Emilion and Pomerol wines) is Merlot. And the wine producing parts of the building house state of the art wine-making equipment that turns out 350,000 bottles per year.

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Casks, under the watchful gaze of a saint

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The vats in which the wine undergoes fermentation.

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2009

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Andy Lench bought the property in 2007, after a long and successful career as importer of wine from France to the US. His career began when he and his wife were given, as a wedding present, bottles of St. Emilion (Bordeaux) wine.

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After that first taste, Andy knew he wanted to import and sell Bordeaux, and later, he hoped to make it himself.

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Turret, Gargoyle

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Over the years filled with challenges, he didn’t give up. Now the flag of his birthplace flies over the entrance to this estate of grapes, flowers, gargoyles and stone.

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–Text and Photos by Natalia Sarkissian

An earlier version of this essay first appeared in Numéro Cinq Magazine in July 2011.

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5 thoughts on “The Sky Is Red At Bordeaux

    1. What a lovely thing to say, Vera, and I’m sorry that you are unable to travel at the present time; maybe sometime again soon?

  1. The three topmost photographs are especially stunning, Natalia. I love the light and the water, the feeling in each photo. What a pleasure! Thank you. 🙂

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