A visit to Bordeaux’s stunning vineyards and fairytale chateaux must feature on any wine lover’s bucket list. But with so many superb quality producers and cultural treasures to choose from, how on earth do you put together the perfect Bordeaux itinerary? We asked Laurent Yung, founder of SomMailier wine club in the US. He’s a Bordeaux native who comes from a long line of Bordeaux winemakers. His insider guide to the very best local spots to hit up on your Bordeaux wine trip will definitely whet your appetite…
Wine Lover’s guide to Bordeaux – brilliant vineyards
There are more than 6,000 vineyards producing some 9,000 different wines in Bordeaux. So, deciding which winerie to visit is a challenge. One of my favorite Bordeaux vineyards is the Chateau Haut Bergeron. It’s run by brothers Patrick and Hervé Lamothe. They produce some of our members favourites, like La Fleur des Pins Graves and l’Ilot de Haut Bergeron Sauternes wines. The Lamothes are one of the oldest families in the Sauternes area of Bordeaux. They’ve been making wine since 1756 when Pierre and Jeanne began farming a few acres of vines. Today the estate is widely considered to be one of Sauternes’ best kept secrets. And that’s not least because part of their property borders the prestigious Chateau d’Yquem and the Lamothe family’s wines sell for a fraction of the price.
Another fabulous recommendation is the Chateau de Portets. It’s run by Marie-Helene Yung Theron. This little-known gem of a vineyard is well worth visiting thanks to the stunning 16th century chateau, 14th century tower, and gorgeous grounds. You can enjoy a guided tour of the vineyard and cellars as well as a tasting of their delicious wines. There’s even a Scavenger Hunt followed by a juice tasting for the kids. Don’t forget to mention her cousin, Laurent, sent you!
More Wine Domaines you shouldn’t miss
Pessac-Leognan is another fabulous wine-growing region of Bordeaux. It has some 1200 hectares of vines. Around 970 hectares are planted with black grape varieties and the remainder with white wine varieties. There are some excellent producers here including Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte and Chateau Pape Clement. These estates are situated on Bordeaux’s Left Bank which typically produces powerful Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated blends which can age for decades. Those who love Merlot should make sure to visit a chateau on the Right Bank where the wines tend to be softer, rounder and richer with plenty of dark plum and berry flavours. History geeks will appreciate a visit to Château de Sales in Pomerol. It’s been in the same family for over 500 years. While Château Beauregard even offers visitors the chance to stay in a stunning historic cottage on the property.
Bordeaux’s Cultural Treasures & Sightseeing
Kicking off with a wine-themed attraction, the city’s world-renowned wine museum La Cité du Vin in Bordeaux city is a must-see whether you’re a French wine lover or not. The museum is set in a truly striking building that’s shaped like the swirl of wine in a glass. It boasts a wealth of interactive exhibits including The Buffet of the Five Senses which helps you to learn how to taste wine. There also The World Wine Tour which lets you virtually fly over 20 of the world’s top wine regions. There’s plenty to keep kids entertained as well. Round off your visit with a trip to the tasting room at the top of the building where a glass of wine is included in your admission ticket to the museum.
Other top sights in Bordeaux include the Water Mirror. This is the world’s largest reflecting pool and sits right in front of the elegant 18th century Place de la Bourse square. After you’ve seen that, be sure to take a stroll along the Quais de Bordeaux. On the left bank of the Garonne it’s is lined with 18th century buildings and charming gardens. Those who are interested in history should check out the Musée d’Aquitaine. It’s is one of France’s largest museums outside of Paris.
Day Trips from Bordeaux
No trip to the Bordeaux wine region would be complete without visiting the charming town of Saint Emilion on Bordeaux’s Right Bank. The town has played a key role in the Bordeaux wine industry for centuries. Today it’s home to over 800 wineries which have a combined total of 5,565 hectares under vine. Located just half an hour from Bordeaux, Saint Emilion is ideal for a half day trip (around 40 mins by train from Bordeaux). Wander the pretty medieval streets and hills of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Highlights include the 12th century Monolithic Church and the town’s 15th century bell tower which you can climb for wonderful views over the town. There are also a wealth of adorable shops selling local produce. Wine bars offer local wines by the glass, and you won’t be disappointed in the quality.
Beaches near Bordeaux
If you feel like doing something a bit more adventurous, why not take a drive out to the Dune du Pilat. This is the tallest sand dune in Europe at 361 feet above sea level. This natural wonder has been made by winds coming off the Atlantic Ocean which have piled up the sand into this enormous mound! During the summer you can climb up the stairs to reach the top and enjoy the views out over the surrounding pine forest. The dune is about a 45-minute drive from Bordeaux. Combine it with a stop in the town of Arcachon and have lunch at La Coorniche and take in the breathtaking views out over the Bay of Arcachon.
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Has this wine lover’s guide to Bordeaux whetted your appetite to learn more about French wine? Check out Laurent’s SomMailier French wine club. Every three months they send direct to your door, three or six bottles of boutique French wines. Every bottle has been carefully selected by their family and wine experts in France. They include detailed information about each wine and food pairing ideas to help you really discover French wine. For instance, if you’re serving red or white meat – try SomMailier’s Chateau Bonnange. It’s a prize-winning fruity red Bordeaux you’ll never forget. And, as if that wasn’t enough, they also have a wine club gift option for that special wine lover in your life!