Bordeaux wines have a long-standing reputation for being some of the most delicious and expensive wines in the world. As a first-time visitor to this celebrated French wine region, you may be asking yourself: Which areas within the Bordeaux region are the best? What is the best way to visit this area? Can I afford these wines?
Some advance planning and enlisting professional advice before visiting this area will make for a memorable and enjoyable experience.
- take a good map of the wine region
- taste wines within a wide price range
- sample both red and white varieties
- expect to pay more for individually controlled appellations
- engage a knowledgeable professional guide
- assume that inexpensive wines indicate poor quality
- drive if you plan to enjoy much wine tasting
- just visit the area of your favorite Bordeaux wine
- forget to enjoy the scenery and villages
- start your tour without a plan
The Bordeaux wine region has many distinct grape growing areas and covers a fairly large geographical area that can be confusing. This is not the place to rely solely on your GPS for directions. Having a good wine map is a must before venturing out to explore.
Make sure it has adequate detail for driving the smaller roads where many of the wineries are located, but also clearly defines the boundaries of the different wine areas so you can compare one to another. This may require having two maps.
Try to obtain a wine map before you leave home to familiarize yourself with the different areas to visit—purchase one at your local bookstore or online. You will likely find an even better map at a local tourism office once you arrive in Bordeaux.
Luckily, there is a surprisingly wide range of quality and prices for Bordeaux wines, which includes mainly reds but some delectable white wines as well—and even some rose wines! You will find many Bordeaux wines priced well under 10 Euros per bottle, but the upper end is nearly limitless. Many of the more sought after higher classified wines are snapped up by collectors and investors, thereby driving up the price and making these wines difficult to purchase. An abundance of varieties remain, however, to fit every pocketbook and from which to choose for tasting.
Because of the varied soil conditions, eight primary grapes are grown in the entire Bordeaux Region—five reds including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc Petit Verdot and Malbec; and three whites—Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle, resulting in a wide variation in wine.
Most people think of red wine when they think of Bordeaux, but don’t forget about the delicious whites such as the unique sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac. Also, the Graves area to the south is where you will find the best dry white wines. You will come home with a great appreciation and understanding of what this great wine region produces.
For over 150 years, Bordeaux wines have been highly regulated or classified known as “Appellation Contrôlée.” Within the overall Bordeaux classification are many specific classifications, such as AC Pomerol, which have stricter regulations, resulting in higher prices and in often higher quality but not always. Taste the difference for yourself but expect to pay more for the wines in the stricter controlled regions.
Not knowing how to best spend your time in this region will likely result in overlooking some real treasures and experiences. Whether you are a novice to Bordeaux wines or an aficionado, you will benefit from a knowledgeable local guide who knows the “ins and outs” of local wineries—the best places to visit and maybe even some “behind-the-scenes” opportunities.
Why waste precious time while on vacation? Ask a travel agent knowledgeable on France or the local tourism office to put you in touch with a local guide to get the most out of exploring this area.
As mentioned earlier, the Bordeaux wine region is tightly regulated which has affected the price of its wines, but this varies considerably throughout the region. Many great wines can be found that are in the less regulated classifications that are lower priced and are definitely worth a taste. Search out some of these smaller vineyards and you may be in for a welcomed surprise.
Nothing can ruin a trip quicker than getting injured in an accident or getting into problems with the police for driving under the influence of alcohol. Why not focus on having fun and leave the driving to someone else? Not only will you save time getting from place to place, but you will enjoy a stress-free experience by sitting back and enjoying the scenery along the way.
You can also explore this area by barge, which is a relaxing and romantic way to experience the countryside and villages while learning about the wines of this region. Barges come in all sizes ranging from four to about 24 passengers on the waterways of this region, and in all levels of comfort up to quite luxurious. Barging also affords the convenience of unpacking once during your trip as your “hotel” travels with you!
You will certainly want to visit the source of your favorite wine or wines of this area, but be open to comparing them to other Bordeaux productions. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised, as you may not have had the opportunity to ever sample any of these wines before. Who knows? You may return home with some new Bordeaux “favorites” to search out in your local wine shops and restaurants.
Undoubtedly, you will be busy searching out your favorite Bordeaux wine, but don’t forget to “smell the roses” along the way. The Bordeaux wine region is nestled in a scenic area near the Atlantic coast in southwestern France and offers much in the way of beautiful scenery with peaceful rivers, the amazing Gironde estuary, quaint villages, and the historic city of Bordeaux, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Immersing yourself is good for the taste buds as well as the eyes!
There is a lot to see in the Bordeaux wine region and it can be a bit overwhelming. Having a plan before you go will maximize your time and allow you to focus on the most important areas to you.
For example, you may want to concentrate on a certain grape for a day or two then move onto the next. You may also want to have a list of the larger chateaux to visit, but also a few of the lesser-known vineyards that produce the same kind of wine. This will allow you to better compare the wines in each given area and develop an appreciation for its unique character.
A visit to the Bordeaux wine region allows you to indulge in some of the finest wines in the world, in a wide range of character. Prices vary dramatically and fit every wine lover’s budget. Not only will you experience great wines by a visit to this region, but you will also enjoy one of France’s most scenic areas. Plan ahead and make the most of your time spent there as you will not want to waste a precious moment!