Bacchus, God of Wine in Saint-Emilion, France

Back to stories from our trip. The last town on the itinerary in Europe was Saint-Émilion, France. I scheduled it at the end of the trip because I figured it would be a small town where we could slow down a little after the craziness of Barcelona and San Sebastian (and it turns out we did need to slow down).  We stayed at the very beautiful Château Franc-Pourret, with a lovely French vintner couple who have been making organic wines for I believe around 20 years (but winemakers going back many generations). When we arrived, Madame was not at home, and a portly man who spoke zero English answered the door. Unfortunately we did not get an actual photo of this friendly couple, but imagine Monsieur as a big jovial French winemaker wearing a heavy hand-knit sweater. (It was too cold for his toga, pictured to the right.) He welcomed us heartily but then told us that his wife deals with all of the guest-room business and he couldn’t really check us in. He showed us which of the two rooms would be ours and invited us to wait for Madame in the breakfast room. Then, sort of sheepishly, he left.

“What’s going on?” Sherpa asked. I explained, and we waited.

We found a hand-made paper calendar with a spinning wheel and symbols on it. Neither of us had any clue what it was. Monsieur popped back in to check on us and explained that it was some sort of astrological/organic winemaking calendar. He went into great detail about how it works and it all went right over our heads. Monsieur left again.

“That guy is like Bacchus!” Sherpa said. And thus his nickname was coined.

We kept waiting, which was kind of nice because there was a fire in the fireplace and it was freezing outside. I asked Sherpa to take my photo and as he was taking it, Madame walked into the room behind him. The next photo is the result, because I was making a “she’s heeeeeere…” face.

Madame was much more professional, showing us our room and giving us maps of the town. The professionalism waned when she offered us a tasting of their wine.  She opened a bottle for us by the fire in the breakfast room and explained that they were one of the first organic winemakers in Saint-Émilion. She asked Sherpa if he could understand her, and he said, as long as you keep speaking slowly. But with each sip of wine she spoke faster and faster until even I couldn’t understand her. It was great.

Madame came to me again the next day and told me that Bacchus had some questions for me. A little confused and nervous, I went downstairs and he was waiting for me with books and papers. Turns out he just wanted my American woman perspective on everything he could think of, from lymphatic massage to Native Americans. He even brought out an atlas to talk about China.  Sherpa was pretty lucky that he decided to stay in the room, because he would have been lost again, but despite the challenge of talking about difficult topics in a foreign language, I loved it.

I have to mention the breakfasts that Madame made for us – we wrote to her ahead of time about needing a gluten-free breakfast, and she said it was no problem. She went ALL OUT! She bought gluten-free cereal and she even made homemade gluten-free cookies. Everything was amazing. Homemade yogurt, fresh-baked bread and fresh crepes (!!!!, for me), an unending array of jams. We were in heaven.

To top off the Bacchus story, we stopped overnight before our flight home in Fontainebleau, just outside Paris. And the name of the restaurant on the lobby level of the hotel? Bacchus, of course.

(Image from this post via Dining with Bacchus.)


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