For as long as I’ve been drinking wine, I’ve been in love with the wines of Bordeaux.
However, in spite of the fact that I had visited France several times, I had never ventured out to visit any wineries. Until this spring, that is. From Paris, it’s actually a very easy—and tasty!—trip to Bordeaux, and it makes a great overnight add-on to your visit. There were a few surprises and a few lessons learned along the way, so to save you some time when planning your own trip, here are some tips.
5 steps to enjoying the wines of Bordeaux
1) Take the train.
From Paris, you can get to Bordeaux in less than four hours. Book ahead if you will be travelling during high season or on a weekend. If you are travelling in the morning, enjoy a croissant and coffee while you watch the scenery fly by your window. On the way back, create your own personal happy hour with wine, cheese, sausage, and bread from the food car.
2) Stay in town.
Bordeaux is very walkable, but beware: the cobblestones can be quite uneven in places, and I guarantee you will be staring at the beauty that surrounds you. Walk carefully, especially when you first arrive, as it will be easy to become distracted while admiring your surroundings. There are surprisingly reasonably priced hotels right in the historic centre. I stayed at the Quality Hotel, which was no more than a 10-minute walk from the pick-up/drop-off point for the wine tour, located right in front of the local tourist office. So convenient!
3) Book a day tour.
Don’t even think about driving. There are many tours available to choose from—focusing exclusively on winery tours and tastings or including, for instance, walking tours of the village of St-Emilion or participating in the grape harvest—so relax and enjoy yourself and the wines of Bordeaux while leaving the driving to someone else. You will find half day and full day tours with a variety of themes to match your interests.
4) A holiday is a holiday—for everyone.
Don’t make the mistake that I did. I traveled to Bordeaux on a Thursday morning and took a half-day wine tour that I had booked in advance. The following day was a holiday, and I was planning to book a full-day tour once I was there and could check out additional options. Bad idea. In France, holidays are taken very seriously: the entire town shut down. Not only were there no tours, but virtually nothing was open. This is one of those situations where it pays to book in advance.
5) Enjoy the wines of Bordeaux everywhere.
While there is nothing like visiting the chateaux and seeing the grapes growing on the vines, wandering through the cellars and seeing the fermenting tanks and barrels, and meeting the people behind the labels, don’t forget that you can also taste the wines in other places. You can only visit so many vineyards in a day or two, but you can pop into wine shops to taste and buy a wider variety of wines, or enjoy them matched with French cuisine at one of the many great restaurants in Bordeaux.
There is something very exciting and satisfying about drinking wine in the place where it was made, seeing the soil, smelling the air, learning a bit about the culture of the area. Back at home, you will experience your trip again every time you taste that wine. What a great way to relive your journey.
What wine regions would you like to visit?