Month of the harvest, September is the perfect time to visit the world's most revered wine region: Bordeaux, southwest France. Watch the pickers collect the grapes, explore the underground barrel cellars and taste some fantastic wines while the sun shines and everyone on the vineyards is united by the passion of winemaking.
Book yourself a weekend this month and let us guide you through the perfect wine-tasting break in Bordeaux.
Bordeaux wine regions
Bordeaux is home to undoubtedly the world’s most famous wine regions, including Medoc, Saint Emilion (UNESCO World Heritage site), Sauternes and Graves.
On the left bank, more than 1,000 chateaux cover the distinctive Medoc area, whose eight appellations – Margaux, Saint-Julien, Pauillac, Saint-Esthephe, Médoc, Haut-Medoc, Listrac and Moulis – share 16,500 hectares (40,772 acres) of vines. The 60 most prestigious wines in the world, the Grands Crus Classés (great growths), are all situated in this area. In 1855, the famous classification of France’s wines took place, and these 60 names came out on top. They were further classified into five levels of growth (crus) at emperor Napoleon III’s request.
Best wine route
La Route des Châteaux is the most famous of Bordeaux wine routes. It follows the D2 road along the left bank (Rive Gauche to the west) of the Gironde River through the Medoc vineyards and passes very famous names such as Latour, Margaux, Mouton Rothschild and Palmer. Rent a car or join bus tours to discover the region and visit some chateaux.
Medoc chateaux tours
Chateaux are magical places to visit. Stroll through the vines, discover the cellars and taste world-class wine, often for very little money or even for free. Most chateaux open their doors to visitors all year but you will need to book in advance. Contact the chateaux directly or enquire at the Maison du Tourisme et du Vin de Pauillac, La Verrerie, Pauillac (tel: (05) 5659 0308).
- Château Gruaud-Larose (Saint-Julien, 2nd growth) (tel: (05) 5673 1520)
- Château Pichon-Longueville (Pauillac, 2nd growth) (tel: (05) 5673 1717)
- Château Giscours (Margaux, 3rd growth) (tel: (05) 5797 0920)
- Château Prieuré-Lichine (Margaux, 4th growth) (tel: (05) 5788 3628)
- Château Pontet-Canet (Pauillac, 5th growth) (tel: (05) 5659 0404)
Each appellation – and each wine – has its own taste and aromas. Saint Julien and Pauillac wines are full-bodied, while Margaux wines are more ‘feminine’, tasting of red fruits. Discover how to taste wine in three steps, winemaking keywords and more with our guide to Everything you need to know when visiting a chateau.
You can buy wine directly at the chateaux, at the ‘Maison du Vin’ or in wine shops. Alternatively, try online at www.chateauonline.co.uk and www.levindefrance.com. Some of the best and most reliable vintages (millésimes) include 1998 (ready to drink now), 2000, 2003 and 2005.
Did you know?
The Bordeaux wine region has strong historical links with England, which originated in the 12th century when Henry II married Alienor d’Aquitaine. Aquitaine thus became English territory, and most of the Bordeaux wine was shipped over the Channel where it was – and still is – called ‘claret’. Everywhere else in the world, it’s simply known as Bordeaux.
Where to stay in Medoc
From 4-star hotels to B&Bs and camping sites, there are plenty of sleeping options in Bordeaux’s Medoc region. To take your wine experience one step further, the best is to stay in a guest room au château.
Three rooms full of charm offer stunning views on the famous Giscours vineyards. The stay also includes a tour of the property and its cellars, and wine tasting.
Tel: (05) 5797 0920.
What to eat
Food and wine from the same region often make the best match and there’s no better place to experience this than France. The Bordeaux region produces some fantastic beef, lamb and duck, which all pair with red Bordeaux wines. Fabulous foie gras and confit are also made from Bordeaux ducks. The beef and lamb of the area are sometimes prepared à la bordelaise: in a sauce made with red wine, ham, butter, shallots, thyme and parsley. The region is also known for its truffles and mushrooms. The Atlantic Ocean and the Gironde estuary, meanwhile, provide shellfish and seafood (especially oysters) best served with Bordeaux’s white wines.
Located in a very slickly refurbished square in the village of Bages (Medoc), Café Lavinal has all the charm of a French bistro, and excellent hearty and traditional food.
Place Desquet, Hameau de Bages, Pauillac
Tel: (05) 5775 0009.
Fly to Bordeaux with easyJet from London Luton, Bristol and Liverpool; British Airways from London Gatwick; or bmi from Manchester.
Bordeaux Mérignac Airport
Tel: (05) 5634 5000.
The airport is located 12km (8 miles) from Bordeaux. Car hire companies include Avis, Budget, National/citer, Europcar, Hertz and Sixt.
- Wine-tasting technique, grape varieties and winemaking keywords: find out Everything you need to know when visiting a chateau
- Map of the Bordeaux wine regions
- Map of the Medoc appellations
- Medoc guide, including contact details of major chateaux, restaurants and hotels in the region: www.medoc-bordeaux.com
- Medoc Tourist Office, Bordeaux: www.medoc-bordeaux.com
- Bordeaux Tourist Office: www.bordeaux-tourisme.com