Running a private wine tour business in Bordeaux (www.wineguidebordeaux.com), the period between Christmas and New Year has become a more important wine tourism season over the last few years despite the complications of Covid.
The whole world is on holiday, and as such Bordeaux as the self-proclaimed wine capital and region of the world should be open. All of the Grand Cru Classé châteaux that pride themselves on being strong in tourism shutdown for the two weeks from 23rd December (except for very few).
I understand the problems of staffing but there should be some organisation between them even in a rota basis to ensure that visitors to each appellation have at least one of two options in future. I appreciate more than anyone how difficult it has been to survive this Covid period. Most of my clients are American and I have noticed that bookings are taking place throughout the year now and more last minute. Let us make in 2022 the Bordeaux wine region a Christmas wine destination.
I received three small groups of 4 people from Brazil, Ukraine and San Fransisco at this time of year and it was complicated to be able to find châteaux that could receive us. And what about the local market of French people living in the Bordeaux region who might want to show family and friends the local wine region on these quiet winter days with not much to do?Since 2017 the fast train from Paris taking 2 hours has attracted new arrivals from Paris seeking a more serene life for their families. The population of the city is around 800,000 and will approach 1 million in the not too distant future with new appartment blocks going up in a frenzy around the city.
Here are the stalwarts and the real crusaders of wine tourism in Bordeaux that I was able to find.
Margaux appellation was the winner of the Wine Tourism offer with
Château Ferriére, Grand Cru Classé Margaux with the bubbly Lucie and its range of wines made by the same owner the dynamic Claire Villars which meant eventhough it was not open the classy Haut Bages Liberal Pauillac.
Château Marquis de Terme Grand Cru Classé Margaux excellent flexible visits and tastings in their little boutique shop. Open at the weekends. Very nice restaurant too that was open.
Château Siran in Margaux is another super visit with lots to see and great family history with many wine artefacts.
Nothing open in St Julien, or Pauillac except for the wonderful double of Benini Alain Arbustier at Domaine de Sadons and his few rows of vines next to the famous Pichons. (His 6000 bottles or so from his less than a hectare vineyard wont spread that far though!). Neither Saint Estephe though Haut Marbuzet is open for wine sales. It is worth contacting Hourtin Ducasse near to Pauillac (open at weekends) who do wonderful ‘alternative green’ visits including a tasting of the separate grape varieties (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot).
A special mention for the wonderful authentic little restaurant ‘Chez Mémé’ in St Julien which saved the day as the only restaurant open further up the Medoc. You can spot it with its checked red table cloths and grandma’s cooking, right on the D2 Route de Châteaux just before you sweep up in front of the arch of Leoville Las Cases.
Fortunately for the ever reliable Château Guadet one of only two properties that actually make wine in the walled village of St Emilion, where one can descend into the old limestone quarries for a wonderful infusion of pre-revolution history.
Also Chateau Tour ste Christophe has a shop and beautiful site over the valley just outside of the village where you can taste a range of Right Bank wines owned by the same owner.
To meet the winemaker 9th generation Franck Moureau contact Château Béard la Chapelle for a glimpse of the real smaller producer in his winery and taste from the vat.
Here the super restaurant my clients love for amazing cuisine in a warm atmosphere is Reserve de Presbytére in Montagne one of the satellites of St Emion to the North of the village. Outstanding chef Jean-François Roberts.
The other region which had some offerings and is situated not far from Bordeaux city was Pessac Leognan /Graves with Pape Clement (it has a shop with a number of wines from various regions of Bordeaux for tasting owned by Bernard Magrez and Smith Haut Lafite with its hotel and restaurants and boutique for sales and tastings.
Despite the inclement weather, there is still plenty of fun to be had. When is it best to visit the wine region? Bordeaux is one of the wettest wine regions in the world with nearly a metre of rain per year – fortunately for the wine most of it falls in the winter months. The most popular times to visit are May and June and September. Harvest is at end of September and October – it is possible as many properties stay open. Avoid the last week of April when the professional tastings are on to sell the new vintage and châteaux are closed for visits to focus on this important time of year.
Lucie at Ferriére in Margaux battling with a brollie