Bordeaux

Bordeaux

France

Must do's in Bordeaux

  • Visit word-renowned wineries in Medoc, Saint-Emilion and Pomerol
  • Taste famous reds from Left Bank and Right Bank
  • Visit the Medieval town of Saint-Emilion
  • Climb the sand Dune du Pyla
  • Have oysters with Bordeaux white 
  • Visit La Cite du Vin 
  • Taste foods of southwestern France
Bordeaux wine facts

Grape varieties
  • Black: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Carmenere
  • White: Sauvingnon Blanc, Semillion, Muscadelle
Food pairing
  • Left bank reds: beaf, steaks, lamb
  • Right bank reds: duck, chicken, veal, turkey
  • Whites: oysters, shell fish, fish of all types, clams, mussels, sushi, veal, chicken, pork

Best vintages for Bordeaux reds
  • 2000, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2016, 2018
Local specialties

  • Bordeaux dry wines
  • Oysters from the Bay of Arcachon
  • Foie-gras and duck dishes
  • Cremant de Bordeaux (sparkling wine)
  • Canele de Bordeaux (sweet cakes)
Best season to visit Bordeaux

  • All year round
  • April to October is a high season
  • Harvest lasts from mid-September to mid-October
  • January and February are a low season with some restaurants closed, however wineries are open and there is more chance to visit the best ones.
  • June – fête le fleuve festival in Bordeaux

The route of the chateaux

Bordeaux is in the southwest of France, approximately 600 kilometers (360 miles) from the capital, Paris.

It is easy to reach Bordeaux by SNCF train from Paris in just over 2 hours. You can read about other options to reach Bordeaux from Paris in my article How to Get from Paris to Bordeaux.

Bordeaux Merignac airport is about 25 minutes away from the city center. Here is more information on How to get to Bordeaux from Bordeaux airport.

Where to Stay in Bordeaux?

I recommend that you stay in the center of the city in the areas near the Grand Theatre, the Golden Triangle or the quarter of Saint-Pierre, which is the heart of a vibrant social life of Bordeaux.  

Most Bordeaux winery tours depart from around the Office of Tourism right in the center at 12 Cours du 30 juliet.

You can also choose to stay in the wine country, which would be about 30 minutes to 1 hour drive from the city center. The choice is quite wide including luxury spa hotels, rooms at chateaux, country house stays (gite).  I have listed some Bordeaux winery stays suggestions below.

If you stay outside of Bordeaux, you might look into renting a car. However, driving in the city of Bordeaux can be challenging due to narrow roads and hectic traffic, especially during rush hour. Here is my article on whether you need to rent a car in Bordeaux.

Things to do in Bordeaux

Bordeaux is a capital of vast wine country and home to thousands of wineries – from prestigious chateaux to small charming family estates. 

wine tour is a “must-do” when in Bordeaux. You will see spectacular vineyards, historic castles and learn how famous Bordeaux wines are made, and taste them of course. 

There is a modern Wine Museum (La Cite Du Vin), as well as Museum of Fine Arts, Contemporary Arts Museum, Decorative Art Museum, farmers’ markets, wine bars, boat tours to take. You can learn more about various city tours and things to do in Bordeaux on my Bordeaux website

There isn’t a bad time to visit Bordeaux. In my blog article about the best time to visit wineries in Bordeaux, I cover pros and cons of the different seasons.

Bordeaux Wine Tour Destinations

The 10,000 vineyards of Bordeaux are spotted everywhere across the region, however the most prestigious wine growing areas and wine tour destinations in Bordeaux are Medoc and Pessac-LeognanGraves, and Sauternes on the Left Bank of the Gironde Estuary, Saint-Emilion and Pomerol on the Right Bank.  

Medoc

The Medoc is on the Left Bank (west bank of the Garonne river). The region is famous for prestigious first-growth chateaux classified back in 1855 and the historic castles. Did you know that Thomas Jefferson was one of the first to create a classification of wines of the Medoc?

The Medoc wine tours will take you to Margaux, Pauillac, Saint-Julien, Saint-Estephe, or Haut-Medoc, which are home to the top chateaux in Bordeaux. Here, you will taste wines of famous grand cru classe names and visit massive cellars. At one of the cellars at Chateau Mouton Rothschild there are 1,000 barrels, all in one room. Baron Rothschild asked an architect to build a cellar in a way that he could see all his barrels at once.

The landscapes of the Medoc are flat. Most of the land is covered by vines and marshlands. In the Medoc, you will mainly find Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blends.

The farther north you move in the Medoc, the more Cabernet Sauvignon will likely be in the blend, thanks to the high gravel content in the soils.

Saint-Emilion and Pomerol

On the Right Bank (the east bank of the Dordogne river) the rolling hills, landscapes and the Medieval town of Saint-Emilion, included into the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage, attract many visitors. 

Saint-Emilion wines are elegant and smooth. Merlot is king here. Merlot is often blended with Cabernet Franc in approximately 70/ 30 proportion. Saint-Emilion’s wineries are smaller and more homey. You often get to talk to winemakers themselves.

Pomerol winemakers are famous for one of the best Merlots in the world. Petrus of Pomerol remains one of the top wines in France.

Pessac-Leognan

Closest to the city of Bordeaux, this wine-making region is a cradle of Bordeaux wine fame and a truly unique terroir with excellent reds as well as whites.

Pessac-Leognan produces some very good value-for-money wines and is favoured by Bordeaux locals (les Bordelais).

How to Go on a Wine Tour in Bordeaux?

In Bordeaux, all winery visits are by appointment only.

If you are planning a self-guided tour, be sure to make your appointments in advance by phone or by email. For some prestigious wineries you may need to call months in advance.

However, from my experience, it is not the prestige of a winery that provides the best experience. Many times, it is the friendly hosts, the extensive tasting program with nice food pairing, unique architecture, history, or combination of all of the above with the breathtaking views and the calm of the French countryside.

My blog article on 10 Best Wineries to Visit in Bordeaux may be helpful.

If you don’t feel like driving around and booking your own winery visits, hop on one of the small-group wine tours or a private wine tourGroup day tours to Bordeaux wineries depart from the Office of Tourism near the Grand Theatre.

Private tour guides will pick you up at your accommodation. If you are arriving from Paris, which is only 2 hours away, the driver can pick you up at the the Bordeaux train station Gare St. Jean and drop you off on your way back. 

Private tours are recommended if you want to make the most of your stay in Bordeaux, visit top chateaux or authentic family wineries, enjoy the gastronomic scene at your own pace and get the undivided attention of your guide during winery visits.

Many Bordeaux chateaux offer extended wine tasting programs, where you can taste best vintages, pair wines with food or even blend your own wines. Another interesting option is a cooking class at a chateau.

After the tours enjoy the local tradition of apero (happy hour) and dinner in southwestern style.

More helpful tips on how to visit wineries in Bordeaux in my blog article Bordeaux Wine Tour Etiquette. Also, you may find my other blog posts about Bordeaux useful when planning your visit to Bordeaux.

Best Bordeaux private wine tours

Best Bordeaux group tours

Map of Top Wineries in Bordeaux

I plotted best wineries in the Medoc based on the 1855 classification.  You can see them colour-coded by the “cru” they belong to, from the 1st grand cru glasse to the 5th. 

The best wineries of Saint-Emilion are classified as Premier Grand Cru Classe A and Premier Grand  Cru Classe B.

All winery visits are by appointment. Thy last approximately 1 to 1.5 hours. Do not plan any visits between 12 pm and 2 pm.

Between November and March, wineries can be open Monday through Friday only. Wine tours still run on the weekends to visit select wineries.

Visit La Cité du Vin

La Cité du Vin is an international wine museum in Bordeaux with a remarkable architecture. A new generation museum, it is another “must-do” in Bordeaux.

The museum offers a self-guided tour explaining the culture of wine in an immersive and an interactive way. There is a small wine tasting at the end of the tour.  If you would like to taste more, there is a bar and a roof-top restaurant.

You can visit La Cite du Vin with kids.  There is a special “Children’s Tour”. Alternatively, children can have fun with many interactive installations. The museum is about 25 minutes walk from the city centre. You can take a taxi, a tram, or a water tram .

Buy your skip-the-line tickets online or use Bordeaux city pass to visit the museum. Note that the latter gives you the option of a morning visit only.

Here is my video from La Cite du Vin and my thoughts about whether the Bordeaux wine museum is worth visiting.

Stat at a Winery in Bordeaux

To help you choose your stay in Bordeaux, see my my article  Where to Stay in Bordeaux Wine Country?

Below I have listed a few options of vineyards to stay in Bordeaux.

The Right Bank: Saint-Emilion, Pomerol and Fronsac

 

The Left Bank: The Medoc
The Left Bank: Pessac-Leognan
The Left Bank: Sauternes

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The reference for Grands Crus

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