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Wine Wednesdays With William: Bordeaux’s Wineries Are Now (Really) Open For Business

'saratoga living' and Putnam Market wine expert William Roach on the French city's "new" way to boost its economy—via wine, of course.

Bordeaux
Bordeaux's La Cité du Vin first opened in 2016. (Anaka)

The news that Domaines Barons de Rothschild (DBR), owner of fabled Bordeaux wineries, Château Lafite Rothschild and Duhart-Milon, has begun construction of a state-of-the-are tourist center at the latter, representing a considerable about-face.

While tourists have long been welcomed across the river in St. Émilion, the coldness of the proprietors in the Médoc was legendary. Back in the 1950s, when Alexis Lichine, whose son, Sacha, has spun Whispering Angel into the world’s most fashionable rosé, opened the Prieuré-Lichine winery to visitors, he was openly ridiculed. It wasn’t until the ’80s that this part of Bordeaux, home to the most famous group of wineries in the world, even had a hotel.

Apparently, they’re making up for it now. La Cité du Vin opened its shimmering doors between the river Garonne and the city of Bordeaux in 2016, and it’s quite a sight to behold (you can learn more and take a virtual tour here). At the same time, France’s high-speed rail service, the TGV, has cut the time from Bordeaux to Paris down to two hours, while the airport at Merignac has been modernized and expanded, making the whole region a credible tourist destination.

That Bordeaux turned to wine to boost its economy shouldn’t be that big a surprise to Upstate New Yorkers. A 2017 report prepared by John Dunham & Associates for Wine America set the annual economic contribution of the New York wine industry at $13.8 billion, of which $1.8 billion comes from the 4.5 million tourists who visit the state each year. All of which generates jobs—over 100,000—and $2.2 billion in taxes. No wonder the prize for the New York State wine of the year is called the Governor’s Cup.

William Roach

William was born in London, England, where he wrote and produced TV programs. He's married to Catharine Hamilton who, with her sister, owns Putnam Market on Broadway. William runs The Wine Room at Putnam Market where he teaches wine classes for The Wine & Spirits Education Trust.

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