Exploring The Vineyards of Bordeaux
A Devotion To Wine: The Vineyards of Southwestern France
Bordeaux and the Dordogne are bequeathed with the most beautiful of landscapes, hills wrapped with vineyards and topped with the prettiest of chateau, while the wine is of course amongst the world’s best. At the centre of it lies the city of Bordeaux, filled with gorgeous limestone townhouses, gothic churches and the fairytale towers that mark the entrances to the old walls of the UNESCO listed old town. But the real treasures of the region are to be found in the chateau and vineyards that adorn the countryside.
Wine lovers, casual connoisseurs, oenophiles and those that want to be all agree that from Medoc and the Cotes de Bourg, to Saint Emilion, Libourne and Graves, Bordeaux has many of the world’s best wines. And as France’s largest wine region, it has some of its most eclectic varieties. Saint Emilion is perhaps one of the region’s best known, with some 800 wine producers lodged around an idyllic medieval town filled with narrow streets and vibrant squares that are lined with wine shops and busy cafes. Saint Emilion wines are best known for their rich blends of Merlot, Cabernet France and Cabernet Sauvignon, with standout vineyards such as Cheval Blanc and Troplong Mondot. Chateau Clos Fourtet is a good choice for a tasting, with its pretty chateau that’s sveiled in vines, and roses planted at the end of each vine row. The Château Ambe Tour Pourret on the other hand is recognisable for its iconic 19th century tower, and offers a nice selection of wine and cheese tastings, with decent bottles starting around the £20 mark.
Just north west of Saint Emilion is Pomerol - one of the smallest of Bordeaux’s major appellations. Stop off at the Château de Sales for a wine tasting in a 500 year old chateaux that’s stayed with the same family since its inception, and later head north to the tiny town of Lalande de Pomerol for a free tasting of the Château des Annereaux’s organic wines and a tour of the sleepy town whose centre piece is the iconic Saint-Jean Church, which was built by the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem.
To the west of Bordeaux, on the left bank of the Gironde, is the Medoc region, known for its Cabernet Sauvignon blends. The best way to explore the vineyards here is to drive along the Castle Route - a kind of Route 66 for wine and castle lovers. The route takes you from Bordeaux north through famed wine making villages such as Medoc, Saint-Estephe, Pauillac and Haut-Medoc, but it’s also adorned with many of the region’s most beautiful castles. The stunning Beychevell Castle stands out for both its 18th century architecture and its exceptional wines, while the Château Phelan Segur is enveloped by 66 hectares of vineyards and known for its Irish roots.
Those searching for something on the sweeter end of the scale will enjoy the desert wines at Château Guiraud in Sauterne, a part of the Graves region, whose success is said to be owed to the quartz deposits that are found in the soils of some of the region’s top estates. In fact, Graves was the original success story of Bordeaux wines, exporting to England as early as the 12th century and named after the gravel in which the vineyards are grown. The Domaine de Chevalier is a good option for a visit. The modernised chateaux is surrounded by pine forests and offers tastings of both its red and white variants direct from the barrel.
For an urban wine tasting, try the pretty Château Pape which is just 15 minutes from Bordeaux and has 13th century vineyards that were planted by Pope Clement V. The chateau also doubles as a hotel and has daily wine tastings that cover everything from historic tastings to technical tastings - for the connoisseurs - as well as finely tuned food pairings and winemaking workshops.
Foodies should look out for the world-renowned Arcachon Bay oysters, and local dishes such as anguilles a la medocaine (eels cooked in wine - what else!) and beautiful cuts of Limousin beef, served throughout Bordeaux’s restaurants.
There is so much to see and do on a river cruise through the Bordeaux region. Consider a river cruise along the Garonne, Dordogne & Gironde rivers for your next holiday.