The Noble Rot Effect in Bordeaux!

Got rained on today during my ride … which means more fungus on the grapes, which in turn makes them sweeter, more valuable and a perfect match for a chocolatey dessert.

It’s all due to the Botrytis cinereal, a fungus they call the “noble rot.” Ah, the noble rot … sort of sounds like a movie title or what’s going in in Washington, D.C.

I know what you’re thinking: “Steve, you’re such a wine expert!”

grapes1Well, not exactly … but I am here in Bordeaux and you do pick up a few things. For example: about 90 percent of the wine produced in Bordeaux is red.

The white stuff?

They do a big chunk of the 10 percent in the Sauternes region, which is where I rode today … in the rain, surrounded by plump white grapes and lots and lots of fungus. Somehow this particular fungus makes the grapes sweeter. Don’t worry, I took a really good shower when I got back to the hotel. And, I do feel a little sweeter than I did this morning.

My first stop was Chateau Yquem, which is probably the most famous producer of Sauterne. Wow, this place is impressive … and a little intimidating. Some of their wines sell for more than $1,000 a bottle.

I bought two (only kidding … I got a case!).

While I would have loved to sample a few Yquems, drinking wine while I ride makes me groggy and sleepy. Instead I took a few photos … and may have plucked a couple grapes off a vine and eaten them. They may not have been as sweet as I expected.



Then it was on to the town/village of Sauternes … where I think you need some sort of documentations to get a glass of wine at the official Office of Degustation.


On to Budos … where there are the ruins of a medieval castle surrounded by vineyards. The Chateau Budos dates back to the 1300s … and looks it. As you may have noticed if you’re a regular reader of this blog: I love ruins. I think it’s because you get to use your imagination to “see” what they looked like in their prime. Do you think there were vineyards – and fungus – here in the 1300s?



And then it began to rain … a mist at first, and then a steady drizzle. I found some cover in Illats … and waited it out. Unfortunately, the sky was dark and formidable in every direction for as far as the eye could see through my fogged-up sunglasses.

What to do?

I don’t mind riding in the rain. Once you’re wet, you’re wet and you can’t really get any wetter … and it’s not so bad. Decided to cut short my planned route and head back to Langon. And then, after about 5 Ks … the rain slowed and stopped. Was it enough moisture to make the fungus happy? I’m hoping 2018 is the best vintage ever.

Decided to keep riding and explore Sauternes. Rode back to Budos to stare at the old castle, then back to Sauternes to have a snack in the park, then over to the village of Bommes then back to Sauternes and … round and round.

Wound up riding 51 miles within the relatively small Sauternes region and now know this area as well as any American ever. If only I could find and afford a bottle of Chateau Yquem … it would be the perfect ending to a great day of riding.


Back on the Bike: The Bordeaux Loop

I have to admit: I’ve been feeling a bit out of sorts since I got to France. Anxious, jet lagged and sleep deprived, missing Susan, wondering what the heck I’m doing here.

And then, well, I went on a ride today, my first on this trip, and I feel so much better. I remembered why I’m here and why I love biking in France … and, to be honest, this wasn’t even a great ride. Just a good ride. But sometimes good is good enough. And the better and best is yet to come.

So, here we go, my day in photos (and pithy captions)…

Picked up my rental bike, a Cube, at 10:30 in front of one of the many ibis hotels by the train station. I think there are four … I’m at the ibis Styles (a bit of a misnomer, but it’s OK). There were also two Irish women (lasses?) picking up their bikes from 02Cycles and we chatted a bit. They’re headed to Agen. I think. The guy from 02 showed them the tools to fix a flat … and they sort of looked at each other, then the guy … and said they have no idea how to fix a flat. Uh-oh. Hopefully the luck of the Irish holds true for cycling.
Bordeaux is a big city. A really big city. But it’s very, very bike friendly. There are bike lanes everywhere and lots of signs. I was looking for, and found, the sign for Sauveterre and the Roger Lapebie bike path, which takes you all the way to Sauveterre, which is 46 kilometers (about 28 miles) from Bordeaux. I was only going as far as La Sauve-Majeure, where there are the ruins of a big, old abby. Then back the way I came … a sort of test ride to check out the bike. The photo above is the bridge over the Garonne River. There’s another bridge right near the train station and my hotel, but the 02 guy said the train station bridge is “shit” and this one (above) in the middle of town is “beautiful.” He was right. Huge bike lane. 
Here’s the map of the Roger Lapebie bike path. Who the heck is this Roger Lapebie? Well…
He won the Tour de France in 1937. When you win the Tour de France, they name stuff after you … especially in the region where you are born. Unfortunately, a French rider hasn’t won the Tour de France since the mid-1980s. And they’re sure as heck not gonna name stuff after Lance or Floyd around here.
Here’s one of the more scenic stretches of the path. Lots of forests, a few farms and a couple of vineyards. You don’t actually go through any towns/villages, but there are several a kilometer or so away, just off the path.
Got to the abby, locked up my bike and started walking toward the entrance when … two cyclists started speaking to me in French. I kept nodding and saying “oui.” I’m pretty sure the guy was telling me the abby was ferme (closed) and wouldn’t open again until 14 heures (2 PM). Darn, it was 12:15, so I started heading back to Bordeaux.
Saw these two guys laying down new bike/walk lanes signs. There’s fire shooting out the end of their fire hoses to seal in the paint for all of eternity.
Back in my ibis hotel room, where there is a strange green tint … and my bike is taking a well-deserved nap. Think I’ll join him (her?) and take a quick nap if the glare from all this green doesn’t keep me awake.