So, back to the book. It is the brainchild of the Conseil des Grands Crus Classé du Médoc in 1855. As such, the approach taken is from a positive stance, but the work in no way comes across as advertorial. A large number of contributors are credited in the Acknowledgements section, but the editors credits (Ronite Tubiana/Helen Adedotun) are understated. There is a Foreword by Stephane Bérn. The book is published by Flammarion.
This a delightfully designed, beautifully illustrated and uplifting work. The cover is a tactile, semi-hardback in a deep maroon/purple colour that immediately leaves me longing for a small glass of maturing Médoc, The book opens with a couple of short chapters on the history of the city, region and its wines, including some fascinating information about the relationship with the United States. Did you know that Thomas Jefferson, devised a classification divided into three categories of grand crus? The chapter Bordeaux, An Essential Destination details the 'must see' sites and museums in the city. For the wine lover these include the CIVB (Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux) operated Bar à Vin, where great value Bordeaux wines can be tasted, accompanied by boards or charcuterie or cheese.
The heart of the book comprises short chapters that profile the individual châteaux included in the 1855 Classification which welcome wine tourists. For both the Médoc and Sauternes the properties represent just under a half of those classified in 1855. It is particularly good news that these include some of the most prestigious, most beautiful, most interesting and whose wines are the most exciting today. There are still estates that shy away from receiving consumers generally - indeed at Mouton, little seems to have changed.
There is most helpful practical information for each property, including the types of tour, tasting or other experiences offered, together with contact details and price indication. As well as the 'traditional' wine tastings, some châteaux offer 'hands-on' experiences, such as the blending workshops at Château La Tour Carnet, where participants can blend their own wine from proved core varietal components, and even take away their unique bottle, labelled accordingly! Some properties offer guest rooms or have a restaurant, and these are detailed. There are maps showing the location of the wineries in each chapter, together with a useful loose map. I should stress that it is advisable, and in many cases necessary, to contact a château to arrange a visit!
Towards the end of the book there some 'ad hoc' sections with information such as the terroirs of the Médoc and Sauternes, bottle sizes, and a worthwhile vintage chart. The Chapter entitled Visitors' Guide includes golf, wine excursions, sports events and products from the region of Nouvelle Aquitaine. The short chapter_ Addresses_ gives contact details for some restaurants, hotels, bed and breakfasts at châteaux and wine bars. This list is very selective. The work concludes with a useful directory of all the 1855 Crus Classés.
There are a few errors and typos, which is a pity as the detail is generally very accurate. Importantly, the vineyard area is stated as 29,000 acres - this should be 290,000 acres, although the stated figure in hectares is correct.
This book will prove very valuable to any wine lover planning a visit to Bordeaux, its vineyards and châteaux. Highly recommended.
'Bordeaux 1855: A Guide to the Grands Crus Classés', published by Flammarion. Price: £22