A Brief History of Bordeaux

The history of the Bordeaux region revolves around its wine production and trading. Many nations have been involved in Bordeaux’s most famous industry, from the Romans to Henry II of England. In the latter case, when Eleanor of Aquitaine married the future Henry II of England in 1152, part of her dowry was the large area of Bordeaux!

Geography, Climate and Soil

The bodies of water that surround it help define the geography of Bordeaux. The rivers Dordogne and Garonne come together north of the city of Bordeaux to form the Gironde, a broad estuary that reaches northwest to the Bay of Biscay.

Vines surround both rivers with only patches of fertile alluvial soil left unused. Being so close to the coast has advantages as the Gulf Stream raises the temperature as it flows northwards. This generally results in long, warm summers and mild winters.

In a wet climate, a vital aspect of the soil is its drainage. The gravel found in some areas of the Médoc, and the limestone of St. Émilion, Blave, Bourg and the Premières Côtes have excellent drainage and are therefore very successful in producing quality wines. The well-drained soils encourage the vines to send their roots deep into the soil for nutrients and moisture, resulting in richer, more deeply flavoured wines.

Bordeaux, The City

Since the 18th century, the city of Bordeaux has assumed a majestic air and prided itself on an elegance that it has never lost. Rich in history, culture, arts, music, and legendary wines, Bordeaux is not only the wine capital of the world, but a thriving city of trade, industry and business. Lying along a broad bend in the Garonne, the site of Bordeaux is crescent-shaped. From the centre of the city to the north, Bordeaux has wide streets, spacious squares (especially the Place des Quinconces), and many imposing buildings, most of which were constructed during the 18th century. In contrast, the southern part of this area is older, made up of narrow, crooked streets and many wooden buildings in 15th century architectural style.

One of the main highlights of the city is the Porte de Burgundy, an arched gate dating from the 18th century, at the end of the bridge spanning the Garonne River. Distinguished churches include the Cathedral of Saint André (consecrated in 1006), the Church of Sainte Croix, a Romanesque basilica of the 12th and 13th centuries, and the Church of Saint Seurin, dating from the 11th to the 15th century. Other points of interest include the Hôtel de Ville, former residence of the archbishops, and several art museums.

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