Review: Le Bar à Vin du CIVB in Bordeaux, France

Le Bar à Vin du CIVB is a welcoming, modern wine bar in the heart of Bordeaux. This is a very popular spot that fills up quickly, and reservations are not accepted.

The wine bar has several doors and we mistakenly entered through the back door. It was confusing but the staff members were very friendly. Note that they speak decent English here too, which means the wine bar attracts a mix of both tourists and locals. Go as early as possible. We arrived slightly after 4:30 p.m. and it was packed, we had to share a table with two unhappy local young women (you know, with us being “stupid Americans” and all).

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The atmosphere is fine but not exactly intimate. It’s a very large room with high ceilings and it can get a little loud (not by U.S. standards though). The seating is uncomfortable in what I can only assume is an attempt by management to discourage lingering. We weren’t rushed at all, however, which I appreciated.

After a wait of about 10 minutes, a server approached us to take our order. We had several questions and bowed to his expertise. We sampled several wines and a cheese plate.

The wine bar features a small menu of gourmet accoutrements including a nice selection of local and European cheeses, a platter of chocolates, dried beef, and the ubiquitous dish that’s a huge delicacy in this part of France: foie gras. The prices of the food plates are reasonable considering the large portions (they range from 6 to 9 euros).

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We selected the Assiette sans Frontieres (the Plate Without Borders), which featured a tasty assortment of cheese from all over the region, including a raw milk Emmental from the Basque country (savory and mild), Gruyère de Comté (nutty, semi-hard and absolutely delicious), and Basque ewe cheese (from grass fed mountain sheep). The platter was served with a generous helping of hearty, crusty brown bread.

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The wines by the glass menu is organized by region, including Saint-Emilion, Pomerol, Fronsac, Medoc, Graves, and more. We selected a 2013 Château Haut Breton Larigaudière from Margaux (6 euros), a 2014 Chateau Pipeau Saint Emilion Grand Cru (6 euros), and at the suggestion of our server, a 2010 Chateau Le Crock from Saint-Estephe (6 euros) and a 2013 Chateau Julia from Pauillac (6 euros).

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2013 Château Haut Breton Larigaudière
The hit of the tasting. This tasty red blend was spicy and toasty with dark fruits, its flavors very ripe with an almost creamy texture. A soft, elegant wine with a polished structure.

Chateau Pipeau 2014 Grand Cru, St. Emilion
A very dry wine with a nearly red-black color. This wine had that dusty saddle / dried meat aroma that doesn’t usually appeal to me, but I found this wine to be lively with its tart blackberry and pepper flavors.

2010 Chateau Le Crock from Saint-Estephe
The second best wine we tried, a big, tannic, tough wine with bright plum and berry flavors. I never would’ve guessed this wine was and eight year old vintage!

2013 Chateau Julia Pauillac
This wine was a bit too acidic for my palate, but the dark ruby color and flavors were there, albeit hidden beneath the startling first sips. The wine is made of a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, the grape grown on sandy, gravel-heavy soil. The flavor from aging in new oak barrels is what gives it the nice fruitiness, but this wine is still too young to be truly enjoyable to drink.

The wines were good and all very different, and the prices were on point. They had wines by the glass to fit every budget, with some in the 3 euro range. The pours were large as well, making this an excellent value. I was super disappointed because I was unaware that they also have champagne by the glass. It wasn’t listed on the menu but they serve it at the bar. If sparkling’s your thing, be sure to ask! I wish I had.

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