The city of Bordeaux is known as the wine capital of the world. Simply put, it is the largest vineyard certified by protected designations of origin (AOC).
There are some sixty, from Saint-Emilion to Pauillac, passing through Sauternes. It is easy to lose yourself, because all in all, the department alone registers more than 5,000 wine properties. Here they are commonly known as “châteaux” even if at times they do not appear to be. But then, by what means does one proceed in this Bordeaux Region and how do you decide how to divide your time?
I’m from Bordeaux and have spent ten years visiting the vineyards both as a blogger and an independent wine tourism guide. In this article, I give you the benefit of my experience, so that you too can discover the vineyards of Bordeaux, be it is your first time, or a seasoned visitor like me.
Book a day trip with an agency or through the tourist office.
• Getting to Bordeaux’s vineyards by public transport.
• Original ways to discover the Bordeaux vineyards.
• Visit the vineyards of Saint-Émilion by electric bike
• Discover the wines of Bordeaux while staying in the city. • Attend an event scheduled for that weekend.
Reserve a day tour with an agency or through the Tourism Office
My first piece of advice would be to hire a guide. Start by obtaining information from the tourism office – Office de Tourism de Bordeaux – that has discovered the vineyards, one of its main activities. I’d also recommend checking out a dedicated internet site Bordeaux Wine Trip.
Reserving a guide for a day tour is always best, to accompany you. They will provide you with key information to understand the vineyards and wine production in the region. This will also enable you to ask any questions you may have as you discover that it is a complex and infinitely exciting world. The idea one imagines regarding Bordeaux wine is often very distant from reality, and hardly representative of their diversity.
with whom I work on a regular basis and who propose a day tour to discover the prestigious appellations of Margaux and Saint-Emilion, which will allow you to quickly understand the difference between the wines from the left and right banks. Even if you have your own vehicle, remember that between drinking and driving you must choose. Which explains why a chauffeur is advisable. You will find all types of tours of this kind with different agencies on this page of the tourism office.
Visiting the Bordeaux vineyard by public transport
If you prefer to visit by your own means, it is possible, but get organised. As much as to advise you instantly, the vineyard is the country. The public transport is not the best adapted to visit the vineyards. To be honest, it is not easy to juggle the timetables of public transport with the visiting hours of the châteaux, although possible. There are three solutions: the transportation network of the metropolis of Bordeaux TBM (tramway, bus and bicycle rent), trains express régionaux TER and the department buses TransGironde.
Certain estates are circled by the city and therefore easily accessed, such as Château Les Carmes Haut Brion, Château Pape Clément, Château Haut-Brion, or Château Luchey-Halde denomination Pessac-Léognan. Taking the tramway to the terminal of “Pyrenees”, you can also rent a bike to discover other châteaux of the same appellation. Finally, under appellation Haut-Médoc in Blanquefort, there is also Château Saint-Ahon and\ Château Dillon.
By train, you can visit Margaux, Moulis, Listrac and Pauillac in the Medoc, as well as the famous village Saint-Émilion on the right bank. Attention, this leaves you at the foot of the hill and you must walk some twenty minutes to the location known by its acclamation as a Unesco world site. The places are not regular by regional transport, and you can buy your ticket online, the counter or automatic dispensers at the station.
Original ways to discover the Bordeaux vineyards`
More companies are proposing unusual visits of the vineyards to Saint-Emilion. In the middle of vineyards, one sees golf buggies, segway, VTT and electric bike boards. You can also take a tour of the village and surroundings on tuk-tuk or small tourist train with trip commented. Some collection vehicles, as well as old English taxis, 2CV or convertible Cadillac’s also tour the vineyard. One can also see side cars. Finally, why not take an airlift and rent a hot air balloon in the early morning?
Visit the vineyards of Saint-Émilion by electric bike
To truly soak up the scenery and admire the châteaux, I recommend a cycling trip around Saint-Émilion. The hills surrounding this World Heritage village are among the most picturesque in the Gironde. An electric bike is ideal, as this is one of the most hilly parts of the region. However, there are technically no actual cycle paths in this area, so you’ll have to take the country roads. It’s best to go with an experienced guide who can take you along the back roads and show you the most spectacular views. The most reputable agency for wine tours is Rustic Vines. Departures are organised from Bordeaux and Saint-Émilion on your own bikes, including visits to two estates and a picnic lunch. I also do lots of tours for them, as I find it’s the best way to discover the vineyards, understand the winemaking cycle and appreciate the landscape.
For something more original, you can also venture out on the Roger-Lapépie trail. This former railway line has been adapted as a cycle path and runs through the Entre-Deux-Mers, an important wine-growing region that produces mainly dry white wines and red wines under the Bordeaux name. The railway stations along the way have been transformed into tourist stops, and you can even visit the magnificent Abbey of Sauve-Majeure.
Discover the wines of Bordeaux staying in the metropolitan area
You do not wish to dirty your shoes, but rather discover the wines of Bordeaux without having to leave the city? It is quite possible. To do so, there is the essential Cité du Vin. Having said that, it does not specifically target the wines of Bordeaux but relates to distinct cultural aspects of the beverage. The Musée du vin et du négoce is itself focused on the wine history of the city.
But personally, the spot I prefer to increase my knowledge is the Conseil Interprofessional des Vins de Bordeaux, the CIVB. A management organisation responsible for promoting wines from Bordeaux. To do so they have created two things, a wine school where one can reserve learning sessions more or less long, adapted to the level as well as an extraordinary wine bar where the menu changes all the time and presents the true diversity of appellations, all at a very reasonable price!
You cannot miss it; it is a magnificent building right in front of the tourism office.
Make the most of an event taking place IN BORDEAUX
Throughout the season the calendar of events is loaded in the vineyards of Bordeaux. There are open house week ends every month. In general, this allows visiting properties easier, and those which are not usually open. The opportunity also to meet some independent wine growers who will themselves present their production. There are also delicious wine tasing events in the centre of Bordeaux organised by the store Terre de Vins. Finally, the great mass takes place every year no longer the last weekend of June on the keys of Bordeaux, it is the Fête du Vin ! During several days, the city is effervescent with fireworks, tasting stands, open air concerts, visits of great sailboats, and numerous other events. Advance sales take place as from the month of December.
Another highlight is the Fascinant Week-end (Fascinating Weekend) in mid-October! Over the course of four days, hosts of wine estates holding the Vignobles et Découvertes label open their doors all over France and, of course, in Bordeaux. To celebrate the occasion, the vineyards organise a whole range of unique events and activities to enjoy.
Finally, the vineyard of Bordeaux is no less inaccessible than one could imagine. There are hundreds of chateaux open to wine tourism, from the small family property of Entre-deux-Mers aux Grands Crus Classés du Médoc. One can even dine and sleep in certain properties of which the best is highlighted in Best of Wine Tourism.
Well, do not wait any longer, the vineyards of Bordeaux are only a flight away from you. As for myself, I am already looking forward to seeing you in the vineyards.