Bordeaux is the starting point for many exciting excursions into the surrounding wine country. The patricians of Bordeaux have always been merchants and shipbuilders. Under the Romans the city had a flourishing trade with Spain and Britain. In 1154, as a part of the dowry of Eleanor of Aquitaine, it became English and remained so until 1453. In the 18th century, Bordeaux prospered from the slave trade, and later in commerce with French colonies in Africa. Since Roman times the quality of the region's vines and wines has been zealously maintained.