According to legend, the great Frankish hero Roland was buried in Blaye, which was a port of the Gaul Santones in pre-Roman times. The town played a crucial role in the wars against the English, and the French Wars of Religion. The citadelle was built by the great military engineer Vauban, but has never seen action.

Blaye has a long history of viniculture, as the area was originally planted by the Romans, and is also known for the messy-looking sweet confectionery, pralines, made here since the seventeenth century. Another speciality is caviar; legend has it that it was introduced to residents by noble Russians who fled to France during the Russian Revolution.

The green slopes north of the Garonne were planted long before the Médoc. Wine here is powerful, richly coloured, fruity, and cheaper than on the opposite riverbank. The Côtes de Bourg and Côtes de Blaye are quintessential pleasant, inexpensive reds. Visit the Maison du Vin des Premières Côtes de Blaye on cours Vauban to stock up. You can get a good bottle for around €5.

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