Le Crunch this weekend in Bordeaux
The French and English might be the best of enemies on the pitch, but they are definitely the best of friends in the Bordeaux vineyards. For this weekend’s France versus England rugby match in Twickenham, infamously dubbed Le Crunch, Vintage is offering a look back at the region’s rich history and a guided tour following the trail of the Franco-British heritage to which the Bordeaux great growths owe so much!
It all began with a wedding. On 18 May 1152, Eleanor of Aquitaine married Henry Plantagenet, who soon after became the King of England under the name Henry II. Legend dictates that Château d’Issan wines were served to celebrate the union. The marriage brought the Aquitaine region under English rule for the following three centuries, and the English market became the preferred destination for Bordeaux wines. This was the first golden age of what was then known as claret across the Channel. As the popularity of Bordeaux wines thrived, vineyards expanded to meet customer demand. King John (known as John Lackland), youngest son of Eleanor and Henry, worked to promote the wine industry. He even abolished the “Grande Coutûme”, the principal tax on exports, thus giving Bordeaux wines a competitive advantage by allowing them free access to the English market. This all went into making the Bordeaux region “the Kingdom of England’s wine cellar in the Middle Ages” as well as the world’s leading wine exporting region.
But the end of the Hundred Years’ War did not mark the end of Bordeaux wines’ English history, far from it. From the 17th century onwards, these wines were much sought after by London’s high society and Bordeaux vintages were sold at a premium in the auction houses of Bristol, Plymouth and London. Later, it was the British merchants (mostly Irish, let’s give them their due!) who contributed to the definitive rise of Bordeaux great growths.
And it is to honour this rich history that King Charles III is planning a state visit to Bordeaux at the end of March. The British monarch is expected to travel down to Château Smith Haut Lafitte. But before this royal visit, Les Bleus are set to take on the Red and Whites at Twickenham in what is always a legendary Six Nations tournament clash. It’s the ideal opportunity to rediscover a rich shared past just a few days before His Majesty heads to the region. Here is the programme concocted by Vintage!
To get a better idea of Anglo-French history, you should first take a tour of the Bordeaux vineyards. Start on Friday with a tasting at Château Talbot in Saint-Julien-Beychevelle, where John Talbot was defeated by the French. Then, why not stop off at Château Angludet on the way back down to Bordeaux? This Margaux great growth is the most British of the Bordeaux châteaux, owned since 1961 by the Sichel family, of British origin.
Le Crunch day! Start the day with a visit to the Chartrons district of Bordeaux. It was here that many Irish, Scottish, German and English merchants settled in the 17th century. Taking advantage of the nearby Port of the Moon, they constructed buildings with remarkable cellars to store the wines before shipping them back to their countries of origin. To learn more about this wealth of history, you can visit the Bordeaux Wine and Trade Museum. Then, head to the Halles de Bacalan for lunch. This gourmet market features 22 local artisans and chefs, offering the perfect opportunity to enjoy a plate of fish and chips and set the mood for the game.
Kick-off is at 5.45pm. Experience the intensity of this France-England match in a number of ways. If you’re a fan of the Red and Whites, you can soak up the English atmosphere with a pint of creamy porter in a pub, The Houses of Parliament for example. Hearing the applause each time Tom Willis – Bordeaux rugby’s favourite Englishman – completes a tackle, you’ll feel a bit like you’re at Twickenham. If you’re a fan of Les Bleus, we suggest a nice glass of Château Angludet 2014 served with an inviting piece of mature Cheddar. Enjoy a taste of England while France takes Le Crunch by storm!