If you love French wine, visiting Bordeaux’s stunning vineyards and fairytale chateaux has to feature on your bucket list. But with so many top quality producers and cultural treasures to choose from, how do you put together the perfect Bordeaux itinerary? Luckily for our French wine club members, our founder Laurent is a Bordeaux native and comes from a long line of Bordeaux winemakers. Here’s his insider guide to the very best local spots to hit up on your Bordeaux wine trip!
Top Bordeaux Wineries To Visit
Bordeaux is home to over 6,000 wineries producing 9,000 different wines, so deciding where to go can be a challenge! If you’re a member of our French wine club you’ll probably already be familiar with some of our favorite Bordeaux vineyards like Chateau Haut Bergeron which is run by brothers Patrick and Hervé Lamothe. They produce the La Fleur des Pins Graves and l’Ilot de Haut Bergeron Sauternes wines which have previously featured in our French wine club shipments. One of the oldest families in the Sauternes sub-region of Bordeaux, the Lamothes have been making wine since 1756 when Pierre and Jeanne began farming a few acres of vines. Today the estate is widely considered to be one of Sauternes’ best kept secrets since part of their property borders the prestigious Chateau d’Yquem, yet the Lamothe family’s wines sell for a fraction of the price!
Another great option is Chateau de Portets which is run by Laurent’s cousin, Marie-Helene Yung Theron. This little-known gem of a vineyard is well worth visiting thanks to the stunning 16th century chateau, the 14th century tower, and the gorgeous grounds. You can enjoy a guided tour of the vineyard and cellars as well as a tasting of their delicious wines, and there’s even a Scavenger Hunt followed by a juice tasting for the kids!
If you have time for a few more visits, Laurent recommends going to Pessac-Leognan which is another famous sub-region or appellation of Bordeaux. Today the region has some 1200 hectares under vine of which around 970 hectares are planted with black grape varieties and the remainder is white wine varieties. Some excellent producers here include Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte and Chateau Pape Clement. These estates are situated on Bordeaux’s Left Bank which typically produces powerful Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated blends which can age for decades. Those who love Merlot should make sure to visit a chateau on the so-called Right Bank where the wines tend to be softer, rounder and richer with plenty of dark plum and berry flavours. History geeks will appreciate a visit to Château de Sales in Pomerol which has been in the same family for over 500 years, while Château Beauregard even offers visitors the chance to stay in a stunning historic cottage on the property.
Bordeaux’s Cultural Treasures & Sightseeing
Kicking off with a wine-themed attraction, the city’s world-renowned wine museum La Cite de Vin is a must-see for any French wine lover. The museum is set in a truly striking building and boasts a wealth of interactive exhibits including The Buffet of the Five Senses which helps you to learn how to taste wine and The World Wine Tour which lets you virtually fly over 20 of the world’s top wine regions. There’s plenty to keep kids entertained as well. Round off your visit with a trip to the tasting room at the top of the building where a glass of wine is included in your admission ticket to the museum.
Other top sights in Bordeaux include the Water Mirror which is the world’s largest reflecting pool and sits right in front of the elegant 18th century Place de la Bourse square. After you’ve seen that, be sure to take a stroll along the Quais de Bordeaux on the left bank of the Garonne which is lined with 18th century buildings and charming gardens. Those who are interested in history should check out the Musée d’Aquitaine which is one of France’s largest museums outside of Paris.
No trip to the Bordeaux wine region would be complete without visiting the charming town of Saint Emilion on Bordeaux’s Right Bank which as a population of just 2,000. The town has played a key role in the Bordeaux wine industry for centuries and today it is home to over 800 wineries which have a combined total of 5,565 hectares under vine. Located just half an hour from Bordeaux, Saint Emilion is ideal for a half day trip spent wandering the pleasant medieval streets of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Highlights include the 12th century Monolithic Church and the town’s 15th century bell tower which you can climb for wonderful views over the town. There are also a wealth of adorable shops selling local produce, wine bars offering local wines by the glass, and of course wine shops where you can pick up a bottle or two to enjoy with dinner or to take home with you.
If you feel like doing something a bit more adventurous, why not take a drive out to the Dune du Pilat which is the tallest sand dune in Europe at 361 feet above sea level. This natural wonder has been made by winds coming off the Atlantic Ocean which have piled up the sand into this enormous mound! During the summer you can climb up the stairs to reach the top and enjoy the views out over the surrounding pine forest. The dune is about a 45 minute drive from Bordeaux and you can combine it with a stop in the town of Arcachon where you can have lunch at La Coorniche and take in the breathtaking views out over the Bay of Arcachon.
Where To Stay
With a population of around 250,000 and an area of just under 20 square miles Bordeaux isn’t a huge city, but it’s best to stay in the centre of town so you can be near the main tourist attractions as well as the city’s amazing wine bars and restaurants. Laurent recommends staying near the stunning Grand Théâtre which was built in 1780 and is right at the heart of the old town. Luxurious options include the 4-star Hôtel Majestic and the 4-star Hôtel De Sèze which has a spa and cigar lounge, while the Quality Hotel Bordeaux Centre offers comfortable and affordable rooms set in a characterful historic building. Bordeaux is a very walkable city and from here you can easily get to the majority of key sights on foot. If you want to stray a bit further afield to attractions like the La Cité du Vin, Bordeaux has an excellent tramway which is clean, efficient and easy to use.