Barton & Guestier, Food and Wine Academy, Bordeaux

Words: Kirsten Durward   Photos: Monica Tindall

It’s hard to express in words how excited I was to be included in The Yum List’s recent visit to the Barton & Guestier Food and Wine Academy in Blanquefort, France this summer. The more I eat, drink and travel, the more I learn, but also the more I become aware of just how much there is to learn. This was a wonderful opportunity for us to learn from some of the best in the industry, not just how a good wine is made, but how to appreciate the wine, and how best to match it with food.

Barton & Guestier Wine Academy
Chateau Magnol

As if five days of tasting and learning about wines were not enough, as a bonus we are hosted at the simply magnificent Chateau Magnol, and dine daily on the divine creations of master chef and saucier Chef Frederic. Part of the experience also includes exploring the region and we were treated to trips through Bordeaux, St Emilion and Margaux as well as two chateaux visits.

Chateau Magnol
One of Chef Federik’s Beautiful Creations

The Barton & Guestier Food and Wine Academy is designed for wine importers and other industry professionals to learn more about French wines. We learned so much that rest assured you’ll be reading lots more about wine! On day one I am already impressed and slightly nervous on entering the classroom to find my place at a pretty enamel spittoon with five glasses already lined up in order.

Chateau Magnol
Chateau Magnol Classroom

Marketing Director Petra Frebault takes us through an overview of the company’s history, and the development of wine markets, before developing crossed eyes as we endeavor to unpick the mysteries of the French AOC system. A little wine always helps though, and we brighten as chateau and school director Solange Galan, leads us gently through a superb set of seven wines that are good to drink. Yes I know you think all wines are good to drink, but these are wines that are best drunk on their own, while others fare better with food. After a wonderful lunch of fresh salmon lasagna and an indescribably airy dessert, it is time for a tour of Bordeaux with colourful street guide Bruno. An afternoon walking through the streets of this elegant mercantile city is truly inspiring. And the rain stayed off.

Chateau Magnol, Bordeaux
Let The Wine Tasting Begin
Chateau Magnol, Bordeaux
B&G Cabernet Sauvignon
Barton & Guestier Wine School
Our Delightful Guide Bruno Shows Us Around the Town
Bordeaux City
Bordeaux City

Day two for us was definitively our favourite day, as we were introduced to the delicate art of wine and food pairing. After a little light practice with aromas and tastes, we are set the challenge of deciding the best two wines to go with four different cheeses. ‘Write down the wines,’ insists Solange, ‘or you will forget.’ With five delightful tasting portions ranging from Sauternes, through Rose D’Anjou to Medoc our taste buds are zinging with 20 potential matches. Sometimes I feel the wine overwhelms the cheese and sometimes it’s the other way around. Eventually each of us tremulously makes our suggestions, and it’s clear that we all have different taste preferences. Solange is always kind and she emphasizes personal choices, but recommends we continue to expand our palates and experiment. Her expert opinions will be revealed at a later stage.

Barton & Guestier Wine School
Cheese Plate
Barton & Guestier Wine School
We Are To Choose Two Suitable Wine Mates for Each Cheese – Not As Easy As It Might Seem!

Matching cheese suddenly seems easy when we’re presented with four tiny savoury portions, and six potential wines to match. A lot of nibbling, sipping, brow wrinkling and scribbling ensues. Some of our Spanish co-students also require refills to complete the task… Monica and I are resolutely determined not to spit, but we are trying to sip very very carefully to keep a straight head.  Tasting 11 wines before lunch is heady work for anyone! I’m surprised at how much I enjoy the Côtes de Provence Rose with several of the dishes, and Monica has a new favourite wine – Vouvray – she’s rapt with the lightness of this Loire Valley Chenin Blanc.

Barton & Guestier Wine School
Four Savoury Items
Barton & Guestier Wine School
Again, Our Task Is To Match Two Wines For Each Food Item

We graduate early (its usually on the third day, but our fellow students have to leave) in a dramatic ceremony with oath taking and vintage wine drinking. All begowned in blue velvet, we ceremoniously receive our certificate and personalised bottle of Chateau Magnol from an impressively bedecked Solange. Monica is beside herself and I promise you that Caning’s grin has rarely been wider. The afternoon sees us visiting Chateau Franc Mayne and enjoying the charms of Saint-Émilion, surely one of the most delightful villages of France. Then it is dinner, with more wine. The week is truly all about wine.

Barton & Guestier Wine School
Graduation Day!
Barton & Guestier Wine School
Receiving Our Certificate and Personalised Bottle
Barton & Guestier Wine School
Saint-Émilion Vineyards
Barton & Guestier Wine School
Saint-Émilion Town Centre
Top chefs in Bordeax
More Delicious Food and Wine for Dinner

Solange is a very patient teacher, who has a great depth of knowledge, and as she listens to our questions and adds to our understanding, slowly, on the third day I finally begin to understand how French wine is classified and labeled. I wouldn’t term myself an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I know a lot more than I did last week. We’re also taken through all the steps of ‘proper’ wine tasting and enjoy sipping on a few of Barton and Guestier’s wonderful Passeport range. This range has been specifically created as an introduction to the wines of France, and apart from being delicious and very easy to drink, each bottle is clearly labeled with varietals, and has tasting notes with suggested food pairings on the back. We are all three in agreement that we’d love to see more of these in Kuala Lumpur and are seeking out the suppliers.

Barton & Guestier Wine School
Some of the Wines from the Passeport Range

For the afternoon it is once again out to the countryside, this time to the iconic wine village of Margaux. A name that conjures up fine wine to anybody’s ears, Margaux is an AOC or Appellation in the Medoc, it is also the name of one of the most famous Bordeaux Chateaux of all time; Chateau Margaux.  Our appetites have been whetted at dinner last night with the Thomas Barton Margaux, which matched rather too well with the melting chocolate cake that chef served up. Today we visit the 4ème cru classe Chateau Prieure Lichine and enjoy tasting their wine before returning for our final dinner with Solange.

Barton & Guestier Wine School
Vineyards of Chateau Prieure Lichine
Barton & Guestier Wine School
Chateau Prieure Lichine
Barton & Guestier Wine School
Perhaps The Most Famous Chateau in the World – Chateau Margeaux
Barton & Guestier Wine School
Of Course Our Final Night Ends with More Delicious Wine

This has been an indescribably special visit, a real highlight of my time with The Yum List and I hope that in the weeks to come, you will enjoy reading more details about the wines we enjoyed and the experiences we had. Interested parties may inquire about the Food and Wine Academy through the Chateau Magnol website.

Chateau Magnol
87 Rue du Dehez
33292 Blanquefort Cedex
+33 556 95 48 60


  1. Yay more cheese and wine! Both of you look great!

    • Thanks Ken! We brought back plenty of souvenirs of the wine and cheese with us to KL – all around our hips. 😉

  2. Green and greener, Kirsten and congratulations on your “honorary” academic
    degrees. I can just envisage young El Caning Cordobes even wearing his new
    attire behind a speed boat as he does his checking of the Malacca Straits.
    Might be a bit much on his trusty Andalusian steed as he rounds up the cattle
    on the Pampas of Argentina????
    Well done and a really magnificent food, drink and history tour of the vineyards
    of La Belle Bordeaux region of France.
    I really enjoyed your efforts and naturally would have loved to have been with you
    as the “mature” ( I refer MATURE to AGED) critic of the region.
    El Colin Cordobes of Brisbane town where there are NO vineyards or Chateaux.

    • Thanks Colin! You know we drank and ate a little extra just for you. If we had the chance we’d also bring back an extra robe – although I dread to think of the antics you and Jr. would create together. 😉

  3. You look very cute in your graduation outfit! 😉

  4. The food looks exquisite! The presentations are lovely and the surrounding area is gorgeous! You look very happy and lovely in the cap and gown, Monica! 🙂

  5. bruno looks like someone we’d be in safe hands with here! 🙂

  6. OMG, you and Kirsten look so much alike?!
    Don’t you think so?

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