Bordeaux produces some of the most recognized wines in the world. The wineries of the Medoc, Saint-Emilion, Pessac-Leognan and Sauternes attract thousands of visitors every year.
There are probably about a hundred well-known names, and many offer visits and tastings. Similar to some wineries in the United States, the approach is sometimes quite commercial and the visit doesn’t always feel like the most authentic French wine experience.
Good news: as there are approximately 7,000 wine estates in Bordeaux, most are smaller family-owned wineries.
From my experience visiting wineries in Bordeaux, I have often found that smaller wineries make for the best tour options. Tours are often given by a family member or by the actual winemaker. These visits are more relaxed and friendly often taking more than the planned amount of time. And when you are looking for an authentic experience, getting the inside scoop from locals is the best way to uncover the heart of a culture and community. If this is the type of experience you are looking for, the following family-owned wineries in Bordeaux are perfect for a visit.
Please note that many times visits to the family-owned wineries are in French, however, most of the wineries below will also offer visits in English.
1. George 7, Fronsac
This boutique winery sits tucked on the right bank of Bordeaux, in the quaint village of Saillans. George 7 was established in 2017, however, the tiny plot of only 3 hectares is planted with old Merlot vines.
George 7 exercises a holistic and sustainable approach to wine growing and winemaking.
George 7 offers multiple tour options, from tasting workshops to excellent homemade meals, there is something for everyone. Regardless of what experience you choose, you will be warmly welcomed by Sally, the owner of the winery who is passionate about her wines and educating visitors.
The views of the Fronsac wine country from the terrace of George 7 are fantastic. I am sure that having tasted Sally’s wine you will leave the winery with a few bottles or a few cases of excellent Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc or both.
2. Chateau Boutinet, Fronsac
Nathalie and Jerome bought Château Boutinet in 2011. With a background in wine, the family started to produce wine on the 25-hectare vineyard that also has an old castle which the couple hopes to renovate and turn into a bed a breakfast.
Located on the slopes of Fronsac in the Bordeaux region, this family-owned winery offers a variety of wine experiences from simple tasting to food pairing with homemade tapas, to yoga class among the vines.
Nathalie is a friendly and generous host who will tell you all about how her dream of moving to Bordeaux and starting her own winery has become a reality.
Visits can be booked for 11 am or 3 pm every day of the week.
3. Chateau du Tailhas, Pomerol
A visit to Chateau du Tailhas in Pomerol run by Luc, who is the third generation member of the Nebout family is a great opportunity to visit in an intimate family winery setting and learn about winemaking from a witty owner.
Visits are available every day of the week, plus weekends if a reservation is made in advance. Learn everything you need to know about the winemaking process, from vine to bottle, while touring this charming family estate in the world-famous Pomerol wine region.
Tip: if you visit on a Sunday, there is a chance Luc Nebout himself will be your guide.
While this winery has been a staple in Bordeaux for centuries, the Todeschini family bought it in 1989 and have since kept the integrity of a family-run winery, even though the winery is relatively large by Saint-Emilion standards.
For those who favor organic wineries, Château Mangot is the perfect spot to get in-depth knowledge on how to farm and produce wine organically.
From traditional tours to driving through the vineyard experiences, there is a lot to learn while visiting Château Mangot. I personally love their picnic option in the beautiful park with vineyards all around.
Chateau Mangot produces excellent red wines made using the barrel fermentation technique, but also make sure to try their unusual pear-perfumed white wine and the fresh Mangot rose.
5. Chateau Cantenac, Saint-Emilion
If you’re looking for a winery with a family that will welcome you with open arms, Château Cantenac is the perfect stop while exploring Saint-Emilion.
While this winery is currently owned by third and fourth-generation of Roskam-Brunot family members, they still give all tours by themselves. With a family passionate about sharing their heritage, wine and know-how, you are sure to walk away from this experience with a deeper understanding of the true heart of Saint-Emilion.
While Château Cantenac offers affordable tours of the property, if you don’t have time for an extended visit, it is also possible to visit for a twenty-minute tasting or a meal.
6. Vignobles Noailles, Côtes de Bourg
Founded in 1917, Vignobles Noailles is a winery that focuses on carrying on family traditions. Currently run by Olivier Noailles and his sons, this family-run winery is located in the region of Côtes de Bourg.
The estate offers a free tour and tasting as long as you book a reservation in advance. For larger groups, the family also offers a dinner aperitif and vintage tasting option upon request. Tour the property directly from a family member who will reveal the secrets to their family’s success.
Château Hourtin Ducasse has been run since 1976 by the Marengo family.
As a family-run winery, its aim is to generously welcome visitors and reveal the truth behind the winemaking practices. My favourite experience is the visit L’Ampelo where you taste wines from different barrels and compare the expressions of different grape varieties.
You can also have a picnic in a cosy courtyard.
8. Chateau Lamothe Despujols, Sauternes
Since 1961, the winery has been a family business run by the Despujols family.
Visits are done either by the family members or the château’s winemaker.
During our tasting, the owner offered to pair his wine with Roquefort cheese, which is one of the best combinations for Sauternes.
Jessica Blanarik is an American wine and travel tourism writer. She is currently receiving her master’s degree in Wine Tourism with the Wintour Erasmus Mundus program in Spain, France, and Portugal. She believes wine is not only delicious but also an important unifier of people and cultures. You can find more of her work at www.jessisjourney.com.