Everything You Need to Know About Visiting the Medoc Wine Region in France

Table of Contents

Where is the Medoc, France?

The Médoc is a peninsula  between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gironde estuary to the northwest of the city of Bordeaux.  Pauillac, one of the larger towns in the Medoc district, is located approximately 50 km from the center of Bordeaux.

The world-famous wine region is a long strip of land along the river on the east of the peninsula.  

“Medoc” also refers to a specific wine appellation in the north of the Medoc peninsula.  Other wine appellations in the Medoc region are Haut-Medoc, Margaux, Pauillac, Saint-Julien, Saint-Estephe, Listrac-Medoc, Moulis en Medoc.

Chateau Gruaud Larose, Saint Julien

Map of the Medoc Wine Region

See the map of Bordeaux wineries here and the map of Medoc can be found in this link.

The most prestigious areas of the Medoc wine country are: Margaux, Pauillac, Saint-Julien, Saint-Estephe and Haut-Medoc. This is where most of the top wineries of the Medoc, Grand Cru Classe, are located.

Chateau Lafon Rochet, Saint Estephe

What is the Medoc Famous For?

The Medoc wine region is famous for its red dry wines.

60 wineries, identified and ranked in the 1855 Classification, are the most prestigious. Names like Chateau Latour, Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Chateau Margaux, Chateau Lafite Rothschild make the Medoc famous across the world.

The 1855 classification of Bordeaux wines was requested by Napoleon III just a few days before the World Expo in Paris.  The list was assembled quickly to include wineries in the Medoc, Barsac, Sauternes, and Pessac. 

List of Medoc Wineries in the 1855 Bordeaux Classification

How Many Wineries Are There in the Medoc?

The Medoc is called the land of a thousand and one chateaux.

 

Besides the top Grand Cru Classe chateaux, the Medoc appellations include:

  • The Crus bourgeois, originated from the famous Bordeaux bourgeoisie, whose substantial investments allowed to create large wine estates in the Medoc. The Cru Bourgeois classification was established in 1932. 
  • The Crus Artisans, the appellation established in 2006 to include artisan winemakers. 
  • The wines produces by 6 cooperatives
  • Other estate-wines

What Kind of Wines are Made in the Medoc?

Each of the 8 Medoc appellation has its own rules on production of wine.

The commonality is that only dry red wines are permitted under the rules of the Medoc.

The grape varieties used in the Medoc are:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Merlot
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Petit Verdot
  • Malbec
  • Carmenere

In Bordeaux in general and in the Medoc, most wines are a blend of these grapes varieties.  In the Medoc, you will see Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot blend is the most common.

The wines of Margaux tend to be more mellow and round as a higher proportion of Merlot is used in the blend.  To the North, Pauillac and Saint Estephe wines are dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon and are typically more full-bodied, with powerful tannins.  

The wines of Medoc have very long ageing potential.  Top wines can be kept for as long as 40-50 years.  Many high-quality wines from the Medoc are best to be enjoyed in at least 10 years time.  With ageing, tannins soften, you can enjoy smother, balanced wines with the finest aromas.

How to Get from Bordeaux to the Medoc?

Medoc Wineries by Car

You can take D1 or D2 from Bordeaux or D5 from the Bay of Arcachon. The wineries of Margaux are the closest to Bordeaux, located within 25-30 minutes drive from the city, it may take you more than an hour to reach Saint-Estephe wineries that are further north.

Road D2 passing through the Medoc is also known as the Route of the Chateaux since many Medoc wine estates are located along this road or close by. The D2 road is a narrow 2-lane road with some steep curves. The speed limit is mostly 50 kph (31 mph).

D1 is wider and could be faster, however not as scenic.

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Medoc Wineries by Public Transport

TransGironde bus 705 runs from Bordeaux to Pauillac.  For routes and schedules see here.

TER regional trains run from Bordeaux Gare St. Jean to Pauillac.  The journey to Pauillac takes 1 hour and 6 minutes.  One way ticket price is 14.50 euro.  For tickets and schedules see here

 

Margaux Wine Tours

How to Visit Medoc Wineries?

Bordeaux in May Wineries to visit

Chateau Gruaud Larose, Saint Julien.

Most winery visits in Bordeaux require an advance appointment.  You can select wineries to visit and build your itinerary using this Bordeaux Wineries List and Map

Keep in mind that not all Margaux wineries are open to the public.  

Top wineries such as Chateau Margaux require an appointment often a few months before your visit.

Organized wine tours are another great way to visit wineries in the Medoc. Your guide will arrange all visits and won’t need to worry about schedules or driving. 

During my private Medoc tours, we visit vineyards in Margaux, Pauillac, Saint Julien and Saint Estephe.

If you prefer traveling as part of a group, check out these excellent Medoc wine tours.

Chateau Lascombes has one of the most beautiful castles in the Medoc.

Tip: Some wineries accept drop ins for tastings. You can find these wineries but by browsing the catalogue of Bordeaux wineries.

However, they will do so only if there's availability. I still suggest to call ahead to make sure you will be accepted.

Medoc vs. Saint-Emilion?

When visiting Bordeaux many people wonder what is the difference between these two most prestigious wine regions of Bordeaux.  

Should you chose Medoc or Saint-Emilion for your Bordeaux wine tour?

Here are some facts and personal opinions of a wine tour guide for you to consider.

Medoc: 

  • You will find a variety of wines in the Medoc.  Margaux reds are some of the finest and well-known in the world for their intense aromatic profile and pure elegance.  Pauillac wines are known for structure and full body.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon can present from 40% to 90% in the blend.  If you love your Cabs, Medoc is the place.
  • The Medoc has a long history of winemaking. The area received a lot of commercial attention in the 17th-18th century and attracted nobility and the rich.  In the Medoc,  you will see some impressive castles, the vineyards are generally larger than in Saint-Emilion. 
  • The Medoc is home to the top wineries of Bordeaux.  To name a few – Chateau Margaux, Chateau Latour, Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Cos D’Estournel, Chateau Lafite Rothschild.
  • Margaux is one of the closest wine-growing regions to the city of Bordeaux.  If you are short on time, visiting 1 or 2 wineries in Margaux can make an excellent half-day tour from Bordeaux.

Saint-Emilion:

  • Saint-Emilion is a picturesque wine growing area with small hills and valleys.  The best views of the Bordeaux wine country are in Saint-Emilion.
  • Being the oldest wine producing region, the region presents a lot of medieval history.  The town of St. Emilion was founded in the 9th century and many of the building and churches date back to the 11th and the 12th century.
  • Saint-Emilion creates a more intimate feeling with many small family wineries and villages scattered through the area.
  • Saint-Emilion and the neighbouring Pomerol are home to the iconic wineries such as Petrus, Chateau Ausone, Chateau Cheval Blanc, Chateau Angelus, Chateau Pavie.

Cellars of Chateau Talbot, Saint-Julien.

Best Wineries to Visit in the Medoc

These articles may help you select the best wineries in to visit in the Medoc:

 

Map of Medoc Vineyards

Find more choices of wineries to visit on your Bordeaux wine tour.  Click on a pin to find out more about each easte.

Medoc Wine Tours from Bordeaux

Medoc wine tours usually run from Bordeaux. 

A private tour will pick you up from the center of Bordeaux or from your accommodation in the area.  For your private tour, you can request to visit your favorite Medoc chateaux.  Typically, private tours take you to the top chateaux of the region.

Small group tours run as half-day tours.  Within 4 or 5 hours you typically visit 2 wineries in Margaux or Haut-Medoc.

Full-day group tours usually take 8-9 hours. Normally, you will be driven to 3 pre-selected wineries and stop for lunch in Pauillac.  Confirm the details with your tour provider.

For small-group wine tours, take a look at some of these wine tour options at GetYourGuide.

Top Wineries in the Medoc

Vat room at Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac

Top Wines of Medoc

The Médoc Classification of 1855 ranked 60 best wineries of Medoc into five classes.  Of these, 19 wineries are in the Margaux appellation.

1855 Classification is still in use. The rankings made in the 19th century tend to impact wine prices to this day.

The wineries listed as the First Growth of the Medoc:

See all Grand Cru Classe vineyards of the Medoc here.

Best Years for Medoc Wines

Critics marked these vintages of Margaux wine as the most successful in the recent decades:

Margaux: 2016, 2015, 2010, 2009, 2005, 2000

Saint-Julien, Pauillac, Saint-Estephe:  2016, 2015, 2010, 2009, 2005, 2002, 2000, 1996, 1990, 1986

The reference for Grands Crus

Where to Eat in the Medoc

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