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Chinese Bordeaux Guide

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Top Stories


The Climate


Spring time in the Cotes de Bourg


Fishing hut by the bank of the Gironde

Story and Photos By Ch'ng Poh Tiong

Summer in Bordeaux can get so hot that you’d wish you could go visiting the chateaux in T-shirt, a pair of shorts and sports-shoes.  Except that that won’t do.

Bordeaux, particularly in the Médoc, observes an air of formality that, even with the harsh heat, still expects a jacket. You may however dispense with the tie. With very good friends, things can of course be more casual.

Bordeaux lies on the 45th parallel, halfway between the frigid North Pole and the sunny Equator. In that sense, one could say that the climate is ‘moderate’.

TEMPERATE & COASTAL

More precisely, it should be described as maritime and temperate.

This is because Bordeaux is flanked by the waters of the Atlantic Ocean to the west, which helps regulate temperatures. Its climate is also influenced by the Gulf Stream (warm sea current that originates in the Caribbean) and the Landes Forest which shields it from the blustering Atlantic winds.

We must also not forget the tempering effect of the Garonne and Dordogne, nor the Gironde estuary  that these two rivers become.

Bordeaux’s relatively mild climate ensures the weather is not usually subject to wild swings but is instead quite stable. The grapes ripen gradually, the drawn out process vital for producing wines of complexity and longevity.

Summer temperatures are warm to hot although for someone from the tropics such as this writer, they are very bearable indeed. But as I observed at the beginning of this article, it can get intensely hot (approaching 40 degrees celsius). Maybe it’s global warming at work here.

Autumn, I find, is an even nicer season since it tends to be warm and cool at the same time, and with the scenic vineyards ‘on fire’ as a result of the changing colours of the leaves.

Winter is cool to cold although anyone coming from Beijing, certainly Heilongjian, wouldn’t think so. The temperature seldom gets to zero. More importantly to winegrowers, there’s little frost in winter (although in February 1956, for several days, temperatures dropped to as low as minus 15° celsius, and killed many vines).

Spring is an important time of the year both for lovers and the winegrowers (who of course may, or may not, also be in love) for this is when the vine buds. Frost in spring will send a shudder down the spine of the winegrower because, if severe (as was the case in April 1991), it can kill the young shoots in the nascent buds and strangle the entire year’s growth. Otherwise, Spring tends to be mild in Bordeaux. Only human hearts get more passionate.


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