With only a few days in Bordeaux, what to visit to get a good balanced AUTHENTIC feel of one of the world’s top wine regions. From someone who has lived off and on in Bordeaux since 1989 as a wine professional who likes the simplicity of enjoying wine in and around my home-town!
1. St Emilion view of roof-tops from in front of Office Tourism beside the bell-tower with vineyards in distance. Even better from the top of the bell-tower (ask for the key from the tourist office)
2. Visit of hidden gem medieval cloisters behind the St Emilion office de tourism – the cloisters of the Collegiale church dating from 14th century
3. the amazing underground tunnels under Château Beauséjour Bécot originally quarries now packed with 60,000 bottles of wine from the family owned Premier Grand Cru Classé property five minutes walk from the tourist office on St Emilion’s limestone plateau (book in advance)
4. Lunch (or dine) in the rolling vineyards at mini up-and-coming Château de Candale at St Laurent des Combes just outside of St Emilion (open all year, reasonable price). Amazing gallery of caves to visit Château de Ferrande (in the trees in the photo)
5. Get off the usual routes and ramble behind Château Ausone (small road that passes between its vines) in St Emilion.
6. Picnic in the grassy cordeliers (Cloisters de Cordeliers) with a bottle of sparkling wine bought on site and ending with the famous almond macarons of St Emilion (Madame Blanchet’s of course!)
7. Or lunch at bustling brasserie La Terrasse Rouge overlooking Cheval Blanc and Pomerol
8. Stroll on the river bank of the Gironde Estuary behind Château Beychevelle (St Julien) with fishing huts. The châteaux’s best front view are all pointing to the river for the benefit of the passing trade!
9. Take the route de labarde road passing through Macau and then the Route de Châteaux D2 which winds its way up infront of some of the world’s most famous châteaux in the Médoc.
10. For a authentic old-fashioned taste of French country cooking with seasonal ingredients and the chance to rub elbows with maitre du chai from Médoc’s most well-known chateau, lunch at the institution ‘Le Lion d’Or’ in the village of Arcins (not far from Moulis) – on the D2 on the way to Margaux (Médoc).
11. The best restaurant in the Médoc is unboubtedly Les Bons Temps in Cussac Fort Médoc. Chef Damien and his japanese wife make an efficient team and serve delicious dishes with a slight asian twist to french classics.
12. Oak barrels are key to Bordeaux, visit a family barrel maker to see their making (Ludon-Médoc), www.nadalie.fr
13. CIVB wine bar for a chance to sample a range of 20 different appellations in the city’s Maison du Vin (opposite the tourist information). Perfect for wine apertifs throughout the day from 11am and until 10.00pm. Range changes regularly. Closed sundays and bank holidays.
14. La Brasserie Bordelaise is a must, regional food served with modern edge, great young atmosphere. Very wine focussed. Wines presented by oenologist consultant, unusual approach!
15. Sunday market on Bordeaux’s quays called ‘Marché Colbert’ an old steel war boat that used to be located here blocking a lot of resident’s views of the beautiful Garonne River (it was towed away several years ago in response to public’s cry to “Sink the Colbert!”). Wonderful open-air food market and a chance to buy a bottle of wine and picnic along the river or (more civilised) enjoy oysters and white wine (other food stalls available too and often live music).
Not very clear map but one can make out the right bank of the garonne (the darkest purple is St Emilion) and the left bank (Medoc) in purple!
TOP 15 Properties to VISIT – for a personal, well-balanced view of Bordeaux and some great wines;
Graves: Château Haut Bailly, Péssac Leognan for a Grand Cru refined visit (30 mins Bx centre South)
Margaux: Château Palmer, Margaux for a grand cru visit (45 minutes north)
Château Prieuré Lichine, Grand Cru Classé – for the most beautiful and modern winery tulip shaped concrete vats
St Julien: Château Léoville Poyferré, Grand Cru Classé – good all round visit of dnamic family run property
Château Gruaud Larose, Grand Cru Classé – the finest selection of old bottles dating back to 1815 (private tour)
Pauillac: Château Haut Bages Liberal; biodynamic property and great value
Château d’Yquem, the queen of all sweet wines open all weekend but expensive book online
Château Haut Bergeron – a wonderful family property that makes great wines
Château Beausejour Bécot, Premier Grand Cru Classé St Emilion located on the limestone plateau (45 minutes east of Bdx) underground
Château Coutet, organic since the beginning and one Bordeaux’s oldest estates run by the sme family
Château Figeac, Premier Grand Cru Classé St Emilion located on gravel soils near to Pomerol (45 minutes east of Bdx) under renovations
Château de Ferrand
Château Gazin – Bailliencourt family, neighbours to Petrus