It’s not the first time that bottles of wine have sailed between Bordeaux and Bristol. The cities are twinned and the history of wine exports to England dates back Eleanor of Aquitaine and the port of Bordeaux was France’s largest commercial port in the 17th century.
The trade continues today, of course. Britain remains the largest market for Bordeaux wines in value if not in volume (China imported 538K hl in 2012 for a value of 338 M€ compared to Britain’s 223K hl for a value of 420M€). The trade is rather less romantic now; containers and trucks leave from out of town warehouses, replacing the old sailing ships on the quays of the city.
However, some enterprising Bordeaux students revisit the tradition each year. 2014 sees the 4th edition of La Route de Cru, when students from the Bordeaux campus of l’Ecole de Commerce Européenne (INSEEC) will sail from Bordeaux to Bristol, via La Rochelle and Lorient. The initiative came from a group of students from the school in 2011 (a good vintage for cross-Channel wine trips as Laithwaites also did a similar enterprise that year). It was born from a love of sailing and the region’s fine wine, combined with a desire to raise money for charity.
The business school is situated on the Bordeaux waterfront, not far from where the boat will set sail. A team of 25 students are organising the adventure, not all of whom will fit on the boat with the wines; some will travel by car. The boat sails tomorrow, 29th April.
Once in Bristol, they will sell their precious cargo of Bordeaux bottles in an auction held to raise money for 2 children’s charities; one in Bordeaux and one in Bristol on Thursday 8th May at The Mansion House. Last year they donated €2100 to the association ‘Rêves’, which realises the wishes of seriously ill children and €900 to ‘Street Child’ a UK charity providing educational opportunities for children in West Africa. This year the chosen causes are both local; Aladin is a Bordeaux based charity that also fufills the dreams of seriously ill children as well as improving their stay in hospital and the Bristol and Beira Link helps inhabitants in Mozambique suffering due to precarious economic and social conditions.
The sponsors of this initiative include France Bleu Gironde, The Bordeaux Town Hall, Rotary, la Banque Populaire, la Vinothèque de Bordeaux, Stenico and l’ECE as well as Bordeaux properties and merchants that have contributed wine for the auction. There’s still time to help. For more information and to follow their travels visit : http://laroutedesvins.wordpress.com