Day 1: Limeuil (32 miles/51 Km). We’re off, on flat going, passing through the pretty market town of Le Bugue on our way to Limeuil. Just outside Limeuil is a church, built by Henry II as penance for the death of Thomas-à-Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. A fascinating little church. From Limeuil, we cycle through Trémolat with its stunning viewpoint over a vast sweep of the Dordogne. Beware, great views generally means hills, but it’s worth it. The rest of the day is easy, a descent to the river, then riverside paths all the way into Lalinde. We stay at the Hotel Périgord in the heart of this classic medieval bastide.
Day 2: Pécharment - Monbazillac (30 miles/48 Km). Today we enter wine country, on our way to Pécharment, an enclave of real quality within Bergerac. All will be explained by le Comte de Saint Exupéry, the owner of Château Tiregand. After lunch in Bergerac we cycle into the hills of Monbazillac, home of famous dessert wines. Here, as in Sauternes, conditions are perfect for the botrytis cinerea, or “noble rot”. The fungus causes severe dehydration and very high sugar yields. The grapes look disgusting, the wine tastes divine. Vins liquoreux are wines for the connoisseur –difficult to make, tiny yields, and highly vulnerable to the vagaries of nature. They’re expensive…and delicious. We visit Château Fonmourgues, one of the most renowned producers in Monbazillac. From Monbazillac a flat run into Ste Foy-la-Grande, another beautiful bastide. We stay at the Grand Hotel close to the centre, and naturally we eat like Kings.
Day 3: St Emilion (30 miles/48 Km). From Ste Foy we cycle to a wonderful secret, Montravel, where we meet one of the superstars of local wine making, Daniel Hecquet at Château Puy Servain. His dessert wines in particular are exquisite. A wonderful of day of cycling along the Dordogne valley leads to St Emilion. This beautiful town produces some of the finest wines in the world. It’s a great place to visit, and Château de la Clotte is a great introduction to the wines. This evening we’ll eat at their cousins’ restaurant in the heart of St Emilion, and stay at the Auberge de la Commanderie.
Day 4: St Emilion - Libourne (38 miles/60 Km). St Emilion sits on top of a hill, so today starts with a wonderful descent to the old port of Libourne. This afternoon we’re way off the beaten track, so we usually pick up picnic stuff in Libourne. We’re now into Fronsac, after St Emilion and Pomerol the best known of all the right-bank appellations, and we visit possibly the finest producer of all, Château de la Rivière, by repute the most beautiful vineyard in Bordeaux. After lunch we cycle beside the Gironde to Blaye, an appellation with a fast-improving reputation. We spend the night in the Auberge du Porche close to the enormous Citadelle. Think of something huge, and then imagine it a bit bigger!
Day 5: Gironde (25 miles/40 Km). Today we cross the Gironde by ferry to the haut médoc, home of the finest wines in the world including Mouton Rothschild and Château Latour. Sat between the Gironde and the Atlantic, the haut médoc is protected from extremes of climate. The gravel soil releases the heat of the day throughout the night, and represents some of the finest terroir in the world. As soon as we cross the Gironde, the character of the wines changes as cabernet sauvignon replaces merlot as the dominant grape. Heavier wines, designed to last. We’ll visit two vineyards today, Château du Raux, owned by the delightful Bernard family, and Château Lynch-Bages, an 1855 classed growth. Today is a real step-up in class. Enjoy it. Tonight we stay in Pauillac on the banks of the Gironde, the centre of world wine-making.
Day 6: Loudenne - Tour de By(32 miles/50 km). We spend most of today on tiny roads and tracks well away from cars. Before lunch we’ll visit the immaculate estate of Château Loudenne, and our final visit of the week is to a very traditional vineyard at Château Tour de By. I find the médoc fascinating. In some cases separated from the haut médoc by nothing more than a ditch, they cannot command the same sky-high prices, so this is where the connoisseur can search for the best value among some excellent wines. Loudenne and Tour de By certainly won’t disappoint, and we enjoy a great bike ride through some very different scenery.
Day 7: Transfers back to Bordeaux for trains and planes, or to Les Eyzies to collect your car.
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Europe France Outdoor: Land Rambler Bicycle Touring Food & Wine
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