The main purpose for visiting Bordeaux was to run the Marathon du Médoc, but visiting wineries, or châteaux, was a priority.
The area is overwhelmingly vast, with châteaux and vineyards stretching in every direction. We knew we wouldn’t be see many regions, so we aimed to get a general overview of the area and dig in a little deeper to select communes.
The Bordeaux region is ideal for wine-making, largely due to the quick-draining gravel, clay and limestone that covers the ground. The soil is not suited to grow anything besides grapevines, which grow deep roots. Add the temperate climate, full of sunshine and gentle breezes, and the plants thrive.
Approximately 90% of the châteaux produce red wine blends – cabernet and merlot are the main stars – and sweet whites, dry whites, rosés and sparkling wines all comprise the minority.
We decided to make the city of Bordeaux our home base since it’s centrally located and has the most to do. There is a good choice of hotels there, compared with the slim pickings in the smaller towns.
Unfortunately, we were so busy exploring the wine regions that we didn’t get to know Bordeaux at all. We had a few good meals in the old town, which is packed with an impressive array of restaurants, and went for a run along the picturesque waterfront.
We ended up sitting in the car at least a couple of hours each day since it takes awhile to reach each area. We spent a number of days going north to Médoc, which is known for its especially amazing wines. We spent less time in the eastern and southern areas, simply because we had to be selective.
We had to be organized about scheduling our tastings. All wineries require an appointment. There is no such thing as walking into a tasting room and sampling a few varietals. Most château are not set up to receive the public in that manner, and from what I understand, few would want to. Instead, they all require tours (we opted for small group tours which typically topped out at eight people, but many offer individual tours), which I thought would get tedious, but ended up being interesting, educational and necessary to understand the wine.
I selected a few wineries in each commune, grouped them by location and days of the week, sent email requests, and hoped for the best. As could be expected, some of them were fully booked, some were closed and others did not respond. We were easily able to fill a week with the ones that did respond, though, and took care not to overbook ourselves. We wanted a relaxing vacation and nothing kills a fun time like having to rush around, stressed about missing appointments. They all closed for a couple hours at lunch, so it’s best to schedule one in the morning and one in the afternoon, or two in the afternoon so long as they are only a few minutes down the street from each other.
Already, we can’t wait to go back!Tweet