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Your Guide to the Bordeaux Wine Region

The city of Bordeaux is known for its cannelé pastries and its regal Haussmanian-style architecture. But above all, Bordeaux is synonymous with wine. Named the wine capital of the world, this town is especially known for its red wines and boasts 53 appellations per Wine Folly. From the Left Bank Médoc to the Right Bank Libournais, from Bordeaux Blanc to Sauternais, we’re diving into the world of Bordeaux wines. And we’re breaking down the Bordeaux wine region with its classifications and terroir, plus the best wine activities in Bordeaux.

Your Guide to the Bordeaux Wine Region

How to Get to Bordeaux

Nicknamed “le petit Paris,” Bordeaux boasts beautiful architecture, exquisite restaurants and certainly quality wine. Located in western France near the Atlantic Coast, the city is accessible by plane and train. The Bordeaux-Mérignac Airport offers international flights, and the city is only a short 2-hour TGV train ride from Paris.

Grape Types and Classifications

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The Bordeaux wine region utilizes six main grape varieties, per Vins de Bordeaux. The principal red grape varieties include Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. We recommend sipping on wines from the Left Bank Médoc and Right Bank Libournais regions. Bordeaux may be known for its reds, but don’t overlook its whites. The main white grape varieties are Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc. Be sure to taste some Bordeaux Blanc and Sauternais wines.

There are five established Bordeaux wine classifications such as the Grand Crus Classés en 1855 and the Grands Crus de Saint Émilion.  We owe the former to Napoleon III, who started this classification for Bordeaux wineries following the 1855 World’s Fair, per Wine Folly. Since the creation of this classification, the criteria has barely budged and still remains an important litmus test in the wine world. “One hundred and fifty years after its drafting it remains one of the most authoritative references in the world of wine,” says Dewey Markham Jr. on the Conseil des Grands Crus Classés en 1855 site.

What’s a Cru?

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Cru refers to “a great or superior growing site or vineyard, a concept linked to the French notion of terroir,” writes Lauren Mowery in a Wine Enthusiast article. “Soil, climate, altitude, aspect and the right variety create a synergy recognized as a cru.”

Earning the Cru label varies throughout France, but in the Bordeaux wine region, it’s linked to a certain château or domain, not just the vineyard, according to Wine Enthusiast. Regardless of how the classifications define their tiers, the Grand Cru label establishes a mark of quality.

Whether you’re a red or white wine lover, the Bordeaux wine region awaits. We’ve rounded up some of the best wine activities in Bordeaux.

La Cité du Vin

You might be thinking, I’ve already been to dozens of museums. France abounds with museums of all types from art to history, culture to castles. La Cité du Vin isn’t like just any other museum. From its geography to grape varieties, its history to packaging, this wine museum dives into the oenological industry and culture. Whether it’s virtual grape-treading or sniffing different notes, the museum’s different rooms invite you into an immersive experience. Hear from winemakers from multiple continents and learn about the terroirs across the globe. Best of all, your visit ends with a complimentary glass of wine with a panoramic view of Bordeaux. French Side Travel can also secure private workshops for you and your group’s visit to the Cité du Vin.

Guided Visit of a Château in the Graves Appellation

Spend the afternoon exploring one of only a handful properties to be classified in both red and white wines according to the 1953 Graves classification. This domain dates back to the 1700s, and today you can admire its acres of vineyards, which are lined with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Sémillon grapes.

Indulge in a private tour of this domain as you discover its history, winery and vineyards. After you’ve visited this elegant estate, the chef will prepare you a gourmet lunch with delectable wine pairings. 

Full-Day Visit to Saint-Émilion and Pomerol

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Delve into the rich wine region of Bordeaux with a private guided tour as you discover the Saint-Émilion, Fronsac, and Pomerol appellations. In addition to tasting the Saint Émilion appellation, you will discover the Saint Émilion terroir as your driver shows you the region and its vineyards. Begin your day with a visit to the château of a Saint-Émilion grand cru classé producer. Learn all about the six generations of this family-run business and explore the vineyards and underground cellars. Later, you’ll enjoy a private tasting featuring Saint-Émilion grand crus, reds from Pomerol, and even a white confidential cuvée.

Bordeaux Grand Crus Workshop

Delve into the world of Bordeaux wines and their gradation techniques. From Saint Émilion to Pomerol, you’ll learn the ins and outs of these world-renowned wines with an oenological expert. Your private workshop will include tastings of three Grand Crus. Santé !

Guided Tour of the Médoc Wine Region

Immerse yourself in the world of the Médoc appellation. Enjoy a drive through the vineyards before you visit two châteaux. The first domain on your itinerary produces Margaux deuxième grand crus and will charm you with its architecture dating back to the 1600s. After exploring this estate, you’ll enjoy lunch in charming town of Pauillac before visiting two more domains.

Wine and Cheese Pairing Workshop

Start your gastronomic adventure in the heart of Bordeaux. This sommelier-led workshop will introduce you to the theory and hands-on activities as you learn how to pair different wines and cheeses.

Where to Stay in Bordeaux

InterContinental Bordeaux
If you’re in search of a regal experience while in Bordeaux, look no further than a stay at the InterContinental. Their 130 rooms and suites could’ve jumped right out of a movie scene; its Opera views, crown moldings and thoughtful decoration are sure to delight. For true wine lovers, we must recommend booking a stay in the Wine Bar Suite. Yes, you read that right: a room with its own private wine bar with Grands Crus by the glass service. Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant also has taken residence in the InterContinental. Book a romantic, chic dinner for two at Le Pressoir d’Argent Gordon Ramsay, where you can feast on a Michelin-decorated menu. You might want to start studying the menu as there are over 500 wines to choose from.

Hotel de Pavie
A bit outside of Bordeaux, Hotel de Pavie is worth the trek. This five-star hotel is located in Saint-Emilion and best be on every wine aficionado’s bucket list. Hotel de Pavie has worn many hats over the years: convent, dance hall and hotel restaurant. No matter your style, this hotel has a variety of rooms and suites located in their Bell Tower, Village and Suite houses. Enjoy a meal at Chef Yannick Alléno’s La Table de Pavie. This Michelin-awarded chef will tempt you with his caviar paired with a smoky eel sauce or roasted pigeon paired with a walnut purée. But the likelihood is that you came to Bordeaux for the wine. This hotel restaurant’s sommelier is here to help you. You can opt for a food and wine pairing with a variety of different wines.

Learning about the Bordeaux wine region making your thirsty for a glass of red? French Side Travel is ready to help you plan the perfect trip to experience the best of the French wine industry. Check out our Guide to French Wine. Here are some itineraries we think you might enjoy: A Road Trip Through Bordeaux and Dordogne’s Nature and Wine Country or The Essence of Bordeaux and it’s Region. Need some help planning your trip?

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