On a regular basis, My Next Memory would like to give you our real feedback from a French destination and tell you how it’s really like to travel there.
So buckle up, and come with us. This month, we take you to Bordeaux!
How much time to spend in Bordeaux? And doing what?
Bordeaux is of course world-famous for its wines and much of a visit in the region will somehow revolve around it. But not only.
Before heading to the “Bordelais” region, you need to get a grasp of its size:
- Bordeaux and its vineries represent the largest wine region in France, with over 118 000 hectares of vines.
- It’s subdivided into 3 main zones that produce slightly different styles of wine. Those zones are actually not that close to each other: allow at least an hour of driving from one to another.
- Best way to visit Bordeaux is thus to rent your own car and have the freedom to explore, stop-by and enjoy. Nonetheless, the Bordeaux Tourism Office does offer some great wine region tours starting from the City center for those who can’t drive.
For an optimal visit, we recommend taking two days in the City center, exploring the UNESCO-heritage architecture, visiting the interactive City of Wine which will prove equally interesting to the novice as to the connoisseur, and spending some time shopping. Bordeaux’ center actually offers a great opportunity for a shopping trip: it’s compact, full of good brands, in a beautiful and pedestrian environment!
Allow another two days for discovering the region around. As mentioned quite a bit of driving is involved, and you do want to take your time visiting one or two wineries per day, and enjoying the romantic scenery.
Visiting Bordeaux vineries
As mentioned, the “Bordelais” is subdivided into 3 wine regions.
- Medoc: the stretch of land along the estuary which is home to the world’s most famous and expensive wines, hosted in prestigious and grand Chateau;
- The right bank: on the other side of the river lies this region with a high number of small domains, including Saint Emilion.
- Graves: South of Bordeaux City, Graves produces mostly red wines and the very rare Bordeaux sweet white wine, or “Sauternes”.
For taste and aromas differences between all those zones, contact us! We’d love to explain to you what makes them so different.
We’ve found that visiting vineries was a lot more complicated than what we had imagined. Unlike many other wine regions in the world, Bordeaux domains, especially the famous ones, interact little with the wine drinkers. Most of the business is done through traders and distributors, therefore you might often find a closed gate at many domains. While some start to open to the public for visits, you need to know that:
- Visits are on appointment only
- Visits are not free: allow 20 to 80 Euros for visits with tasting depending on the wine quality you wish to try;
- Visits run Monday to Friday, sometimes Saturdays during the high season. Most are run in French and English, very few in Chinese.
- Most domains do not have restaurants on-site.
©Chateau Léoville Poyferré
Do make sure to check information prior to visiting a domain. It would be a pity to drive this far and not be able to discover wine-making and tasting!
Note also that some places start to organize some really fun workshops. We’ve had a blast creating
And what if I don’t like wine?
That’s OK! There are plenty of other things to do around here apart from enjoying the beautiful scenery. The best ones would include visiting Saint Emilion’s fascinating heritage and medieval architecture, including the unique underground Church or the King’s tower, taking a stroll into the village or staying overnight in one of the boutique hotels, once all the crowds are gone.
Another idea would be to take a break and head to the Atlantic Ocean to enjoy the sea breeze and a delicious plate of oysters! And for those who have time, head to Dordogne for a true rural France experience! But we keep this for another post On the Road
A word on accommodation
The opening of the high-speed train line which has put Bordeaux only 2 hours away from Paris is leading to an increase in visitors and residents. However, the number of hotels and rooms is not quite catching up, so for now, prices are a little high for accommodation and there has been a boom of private apartment accommodation. You’ll find rooms starting at about 100 Euros in the City center, and reaching up to 300 or 400 Euros to stay at luxury 4 and 5 star hotels.
Outside of the City, finding accommodation within vineyards and domains is actually surprisingly difficult. The most famous vineyards don’t offer such options and you have to explore really in details to find good domains hosting a few rooms, generally 3 to 5 rooms in a castle. An alternative is to splurge and indulge to the gorgeous Sources de Caudalie, on the Smith Haut Lafitte Domain (Graves area).
How about food?
That actually was the easy part of the trip! Many French towns in the Bordelais host really nice little restaurants and even in the vineyards you could find exceptional Michelin-starred tables.
The City center of Bordeaux has of course the best options, with notably the Pierre Gagnaire restaurant and many trending foodie’s places. But our favorite places in Bordeaux were definitely the ubiquitous wine bars where for a couple of euros, you get to try and taste unbelievable “Grands Crus” and compare them.
That’s a perfect training to get your taste buds ready before heading out to the vineries ! You get to know your own personal taste and that may also influence your visit!
In a nutshell
Bordeaux is a truly French experience and definitely worth the trip! Now that the high-speed train takes you there in less than two hours, there is really no excuse!
That being said, we’ve found that even as French and in low season, it was tricky to organize a successful trip here! Superb hotels are rare, those in wineries are even more difficult to find and a proper trip planning to visit the vineyards is necessary: first get good advice on which domains to visit (you want to make sure you taste GOOD wine) and then arrange your route in an optimal way to avoid being left out at the gate of the domain. Even better, make appointments.
We hope you’ve loved our insiders’ view on Bordeaux travel ! Feel free to like and share with your friends and give us a shout if you’d like us to organize the perfect Bordeaux excursion for you！