A Wine-Lover’s Guide to Bordeaux Travel
Welcome to “A Wine-Lover’s Guide to Bordeaux Travel!” If you’re an avid wine drinker or aspiring sommelier ~ then Bordeaux, France is surely on your radar. According to “The Wine Bible,” no other wine region in the world is “more powerful, more commercially successful, or more important as a source of profoundly complex, age-worthy wines.” Bordeaux is the mother land for people who truly enjoy making a study of wine, & in this post, we’ll put together a beautiful 4-day itinerary for enjoying a road trip through this stunning, & historically significant, region.
Map of Bordeaux Wine Region
Graves (Both Reds & Whites)
Medoc (Cabs & Merlot)
Sauternes (Sweet Wines)
4-Day Road Trip Overview
The best way to enjoy this region at your own pace is to rent a car. If you’ll be doing a lot of tasting, either take turns being the designated driver, or spend the night in your favorite region, where you’ll be doing the most tasting.
- Start your Bordeaux road trip by renting a car in the region’s largest city: Bordeaux City. From there, drive 35 miles to your first destination: Saint Emilion ~ where Merlot & Cabernet Franc are the main varieties.
- Next up: travel about 35 miles north of Saint Emilion to one of Bordeaux northern-most wine regions: Medoc. This is the largest wine region in Bordeaux, & is primarily known for reds, with Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot the dominant blends.
- Stop #3 is known for both reds & whites, & lies about 20 miles south of Medoc: Graves. Whites here are typically a blend of Semillon & Sauvignon Blanc, & you’ll find some of the most outstanding ones in the world ~ including Domaine de Chevalier.
- Finally, we’ve saved the sweetest stop for last: Sauternes. If you don’t enjoy sweet wines ~ you may want to skip this stop & savor the reds elsewhere. But if you like the idea of trying “liquefied honey,” don’t miss Sauternes (about 7 miles south of Graves).
When to Visit Bordeaux & Why is it Special?
For ideal weather & maximum ability to visit wineries, you’ll want to visit the Bordeaux wine region between late April to mid-October. During this time, you’ll find day-time temperatures ranging from the 70’s-80’s, with lows in the 60’s. The driest (& busiest) months are July, August, & September.
Bordeaux is also quite humid year-round (between 60-80% relative humidity), & this number helps to explain why Bordeaux is so unique: because it’s virtually surrounded by water. Just an hour to the west lies the Atlantic Ocean, but three major rivers also pass through the region: the Gironde Estuary, the Garonne, & the Dordogne. Meanwhile, smaller streams abound throughout Bordeaux, & all this water affects how the wines are produced. Not to mention, it creates a more temperate climate: one that is rarely affected by severe storms & cold snaps ~ which could potentially wreak havoc on the vineyards.
Where to Stay in Bordeaux
As you can see from the mileages above, the Bordeaux wine region is relatively compact, with drives no longer than 35 miles daily. You could opt to stay one night in each region ~ but that of course, requires packing & unpacking daily. Not ideal for a relaxing, wine country vacation. What makes more sense, is to base yourself centrally in or around Bordeaux City. Then, you can strategically visit regions of most interest to you, without having to pack & unpack every day.
“The Wine Bible’s” top two recommendations for accommodations in Bordeaux are: 1) Le Boutique Hotel Bordeaux ($185+/night), & 2) The Chateau Cordeillan-Bages ($225+/night). The first is the 4-star, Le Boutique Hotel Bordeaux, which lies right in the heart of Bordeaux’s historic district, in an 18th-century town house with a beautiful, courtyard garden. After exploring all day, you’ll want to come back to a jacuzzi in your room, cozy fireplace, & some of the comfiest beds in Bordeaux ~ not to mention, a wine bar & terrace. This is a great choice if you want to be located right in the city, with all the comforts of home & then some.
Where to Stay in Bordeaux, France
If your idea of the ideal wine country vacation involves actually staying on a vineyard in the countryside, then opt for the second option: The Chatueau Cordeillan-Bages ($225+/night). Open only spring through fall, the Cordeillan-Bages is an 1850’s chateau set on 5-acres of vineyards, near the village of Saint-Julien-Beychevelle. With a gym, sauna, & heated outdoor pool, plus breakfast buffet & on-site wine tasting available ~ this is a great spot to travel as a group, so you can enjoy tastings & spa amenities alongside vineyard views.
Another Great Chateau Stay in Bordeaux: Chateau Grattequina ($166+/night). Set just 12 kilometers from downtown Bordeaux along the Garonne river (& near a golf course!), this is another great option if you prefer to stay just outside the city, in an opulent 19th-century chateau.
Can’t Miss Wineries in Bordeaux, France
For “A Wine-Lover’s Guide to Bordeaux Travel,” we absolutely have to include some of the TOP wineries for each region. Meaning: if you only have time for a stop or two in each, these are the absolute musts.
In Saint-Emilion: Chateau Cheval Blanc (Cabernet Franc & Merlot), has the highest percentage of Cabernet Franc of any Bordeaux estate; consistently rated “A.” Others to try here: Château La Dominique, Château Figeac, Château Trotte Vieille, & Château l’Arrosée. There are also more than 50 wine shops in the village ~ so NO shortage of phenomenal reds to try here!
In Medoc Wine Region (aka “Red Wine Heaven”): This region is massive, & there’s no shortage of amazing reds to try here ~ but here are some stand-outs: Château Lafite-Rothschild (in Pauillac), Léoville-Barton & Léoville-Las Cases (in St. Julien), First Growth Château Margaux, & Third Growth Château Palmer (in Margaux).
In Graves Wine Region (Whites & Reds): Château Haut-Brion & Château Domaine de Chevalier are the two most famous wine producers. Château Haut-Brion is known for both whites & reds (but TRY their red!), & Domaine de Chevalier has one of the best whites in the world (a blend of Semillon & Sauvignon Blanc).
In Sauternes (The Land of Sweet Wine): Château d’Yquem. It was the highest ranked wine in a famous 1855 wine classification, & remains the region’s best today. Other great Sauternes: Château Suduiraut, Château Rieussec, Château Climens (in Barsac), Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey, Château Guiraud, & Château de Fargues.
“[Chateau] Yquem is still the ultimate, richest, most perfectly balanced Sauternes.”
– Karen MacNeil, “The Wine Bible”
A Wine-Lover’s Guide to Bordeaux Travel!
I hope “A Wine-Lover’s Guide to Bordeaux Travel” helps you plan a lovely long weekend of wine tasting, & helps you really hone in on which regions of Bordeaux are musts for you. The beauty of Bordeaux is that there’s something for everyone: whether you enjoy reds, whites, or sumptuously sweet wines.
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