Wine Tasting 101 – Drop of Bordeaux, Anyone?

Wine Tasting 101 – Drop of Bordeaux, Anyone?

Article and photo By Sarah Williams

Bordelais Vineyard owner, Bernard Coudert, acting as sommelier.

Why will Bordeaux fête le vin à Quebec be a success? For the same reason that the mayor of Bordeaux granted the request of our mayor, Régis Labeaume, to bring this festival to Quebec City; because we Quebecers share some of that same “joie de vivre” for which the French are so famous.  You just have to walk around the site and you’ll see the festival-goers strolling happily from tent to tent, sipping their wine, listening to the live music, and soaking in the atmosphere of the Espace 400e in the old port. This wine tasting festival is not exclusive to connoisseurs; as spokesperson and wine expert, Philippe Lapeyrie says, this is a ”zero snobs” event.  In fact, if you are interested in learning about wine and wine tasting in a relaxed environment, without any scrutiny, this is the perfect place to take the plunge.

Like the name implies, this festival focuses on wines from the Bordeaux region in France.  Why Bordeaux? Lapeyrie explains that Bordeaux is a household name in wine, that by the age of seven even he knew that the word Bordeaux was a reference to wine; “Bordeaux equals grand vin!”  Yet, there are so many wines from the region that are not accessible in Quebec.  This festival gives the public a chance to try wines that we do not normally have the opportunity to taste. 

If you go, hoping to discover a new favourite Bordeaux to take to your next dinner party, you can do that too.  Just be sure to ask the sommelier to serve you a wine that is available at the SAQ.  There are 7 pavilions (tents) to tour through, grouping the wines either by region, taste, or colour (such as the white and rosé wine pavilion). A contingent of Bordelais have also come along with crates of fine wines, and they are ready and willing to answer any questions you have about the region, its vineyards, viticulture and the wines; don’t be too shy to ask. You can get tips on tasting, find out the price, and learn about food pairing.

There are also workshops going on all afternoon that participants are encouraged to attend. The École du vin, as it is called, is led by a wine connoisseur from Savori.  In a half an hour you will learn a little geography, a little history, and even a little science, but the only participation required from you the student, is to taste the wine that is poured in your glass; and don’t worry you won’t be graded on it.  The information is presented in an interesting and dynamic way, as you are guided step-by-step through a real wine tasting.  You’ll learn about the nose, the appearance, and the palate, and other terms associated with accessing a wine’s characteristics.   Food pairing is also covered here, which can come in handy, sooner than you think.  Right next door to the “school” is La Plaza Gourmande. The Plaza boasts a cornucopia of local food purveyors, offering little bites of delicacies ranging from sushi and tapas, to cheese and delicatessen, to dessert.  Take your glass of wine straight over to the food tent and put the expert’s pairing suggestion to the test (using the convenient food tray and glass holder included with the festival passport).

A passport to the event affords you eight wine tasting coupons to be used in the pavilions, and one workshop at the École du vin.  You will also receive the aforementioned tray/holder and a complimentary wine glass (a requirement for the tastings).  A quick tip: there is a glass rinsing station to the right of the ticket booth, try and use it as often as you can between trying different wines, and before you head to a workshop.

Bordeaux fête le vin takes place this weekend (September 6th to the 9th), and the passport costs 30$. There are also some off-site events that involve restaurants and bistros from around Quebec City.  You can find out more about these and more at the festival’s website:


About the author:

SARAH WILLIAMS is a mother of three young children, and a freelance writer.

Sarah had her first experience living in Quebec while earning her bachelor’s degree in Communications at Concordia University (MTL) in the late nineties.

Hailing from Cobourg, Ontario, Sarah moved to Quebec City in January of the year 2000. For her, this city is the perfect balance of the small town feel of her hometown in Ontario and the vibrant francophone culture of Montreal.

Professionally, Sarah has worked a fair bit in the media as a copywriter and researcher; for Global Television, and for a T.V. cooking show (what’s cooking).

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