Alongside Burgundy and Champagne, the vines of Bordeaux are some of the most famous in the world. Blaye, Margaux, Pauillac, Pessac-Léognan, Saint-Emilion, Saint-Estèphe, Saint-Julien, Sauterne: these prestigious appellations and terroirs constitute essential stages of the coveted Bordeaux Wine Route and its emblematic wine regions. Come along with us and take off on a spirited discovery of this iconic wine-growing region.
Bordeaux, gateway to the vineyard
© Sophie Duboscq - Cité du Vin de Bordeaux
Bordeaux and its Cité du Vin : Could there be a better introduction to the subject before we begin sipping the wonders of the surrounding vineyards? Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Bordeaux wine capital has taken the bold step of planting an incredible golden nave on the banks of the Garonne. Within its labyrinthine curves, the Cité du Vin invites you on a fun and sensory journey that takes you through the world of wine culture, history and civilizations. The visit culminates on a high note (literally) with a panoramic tasting on a platform that offers a 360° view of Bordeaux. Fancy a return to the city? Just a few minutes down the road, the Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion offers the exclusive experience of a vineyard in an urban setting spread over 12 acres. Ensconced in a park of century-old trees, this contemporary cellar, shaped like the bow of a boat, is representative of the port history of Bordeaux and its world-renowned wines.
Graves and Sauternes, a return to roots
© FreeProd / Adobe Stock - Vignoble de Sauternes
At the city limit of Bordeaux, you will find Graves, where more than 2,000 years ago, the first vines of the Bordeaux region were planted. In this terroir, where oenology reaches its most astounding summits, you will find illustrious Grand Crus classés and prestigious châteaux rubbing shoulders with small, hospitable family-run establishments. On the road to Graves, where you will see red and white grapes along with Sauternes - the inimitable sweet and syrupy wines. The amount of activity rivals the amount of wines produced here, including family-friendly ones. Unusual tastings, interactive visits, authentic workshops, LandArt trails…you can even try your hand at harvesting. So don’t forget your basket, your scissors and your hat for this activity and before you discover the benefits of vinotherapy. Experience indulgence at the Sources de Caudalie, a marvellous palace of vines nestled in the heart of the Domaine Château Smith Haut Lafitte. Check out the pinnacle of epicureanism on the wine route in Graves and Sauternes.
Médoc, the ultimate nectar
© Arcachonphoto.com / Adobe Stock - Vignoble de Margaux
Situated between the Gironde estuary and pine forests, ocean beaches and large lakes, the Médoc vineyard is a stunner with its 60 Grands Crus classés: Châteaux Lafite-Rothschild, Latour, Margaux, Mouton-Rothschild and others, to name only a few of the most world-renowned. Over 80 km from the north of Bordeaux to the Pointe de Grave, the route des Châteaux is a collection of unmissable stops: Saint-Estèphe, Saint-Julien, Margaux, Listrac and also Pauillac, where the Odyssée de la Rose Pauillac offers a sensory journey to the heart of this terroir of powerful red wines. At the Maison du Tourisme et du Vin, you can book a visit to one of the partner châteaux. A must-visit for wine lovers as well as architecture fans, the Château Beychevelle is a traditional mansion which houses a contemporary winery also known as the “Versailles of Médoc” or take off on a visit of an Indian inspired palace Cos d'Estournel. In Médoc, the vine has truly created marvels.
Saint-Emilion, an exceptional vineyard
© Ssamael334 / Adobe Stock - Vignoble de Saint-Emilion
Where should you start your exploration of this exceptional vineyard, along with the neighboring appellations of Pomerol and Fronsac? We suggest starting from the top of the church tower that soars over the skyline of the picturesque medieval city of Saint-Emilion. Overlooking the city, enjoy spectacular views of the vineyards and the Dordogne valley. Another historic look-out point, the Tour du Roy, the only Romanesque dungeon that is still preserved in the Gironde, is an equally famous summit. It is from here that the Jurade of Saint-Emilion proclaims the Judgement of the New Wine in June every year and in September, the Ban des Vendages (the official start of the harvest season in France). Here you find yourself on the most legendary wine-routes of Bordeaux. To learn more, sign up for one of the fun and educational initiations of the École du Vin. Also recommended are visits of the Grotte de l’Ermitage – the refuge of the monk Emilion, the monolithic church which is also the largest subterranean building in Europe, or the futuristic cellars of the Châteaux La Dominique et Faugères by Mario Botta and Jean Nouvel.
Entre-deux-Mers, all the colours of Bordeaux
© SpiritProd33 / Adobe Stock - Village et château de Cadillac
In this region, the largest of the Bordeaux vineyards, you’re spoiled for choice: the gentle, near-oceanic landscapes of the Garonne River to the south, the Dordogne River to the north or the rich medieval heritage with its fortified cities, such as the proud Cadillac. This incredible diversity of relief, exposure and soils also mean that the wine comes in all colors. Dry and sweet whites, reds, rosés, Clairets, Crémants and even a spirit, the Fine de Bordeaux, all add to the variety. Choose from no less than 10 routes to interact with producers and explore the Bordeaux countryside. From medieval houses to mills, from bastides to Carthusians, abbeys and Romanesque churches, a 47 km (29 miles) greenway, along an old railway line, allows you to cross the Entre-deux-Mers by bike. Go at your own pace and let your bike guide you on a journey that combines lush countryside views and delectable tastings.
Blaye and Bourg, in the heart of the estuary
© OceanProd / Adobe Stock - Les remparts fortifiés de Bourg-sur-Gironde
In the heart of the Gironde estuary, facing the renowned vineyards of the Médoc, you’ll find the discreet hillsides of Bourg-sur-Gironde and Blaye. This little-known wine-producing region can be reached by two remarkable wine routes, one by a river on the Gironde, and the other by land, along the immense limestone cliffs of the Dordogne. In both instances, an intoxication of the senses is guaranteed by the sheer majesty of the landscapes that pass by- confetti islands, fishing huts dotting the banks, troglodyte dwellings and charming flower gardens of old sailors' houses. The AOC Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux and Côtes de Bourg, as well as their rich historical heritage, such as the military citadel of Blaye, classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, provide a fulfilling experience for travelers who like to go off the beaten path.