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Many Bordeaux châteaux welcome visitors to taste their wines alongside food, either opening restaurants or offering catering to clients and guests. Bordeaux is known as a food wine after all. A pioneer in Sauternes tourism, Chateau Guiraud is open for visits and tastings seven days a week, and has been for over 30 years, so it's fitting that they were the first amongst the 1er Grand Cru Classé Châteaux of Sauternes and Barsac to open an on-site restaurant in February 2018.
Château Guiraud was included as a first growth in the 1855 classification of Sauternes and Barsac, under the name of Château de Bayle. The Guiraud family purchased the property in 1766, only changing the name after the classification. Of protestant faith, the family built their own chapel alongside the chateau.
The restaurant, appropriately called 'La Chapelle', has been created in this 18th century chapel and the neighbouring buildings that were once workshops for local craftsmen. The young architect Charlotte Allard has used a mixture of wood, stone and leather to showcase the history of the building but with a contemporary feel, dividing the space into three areas; the chapel, a salon and the main dining room with a bar at its centre. There is a terrace overlooking the vines for the summer months and open fires for a cosy winter atmosphere.
This is the perfect venue to show just how good these sweet wines of Bordeaux match with food and not only desert. It is also a showcase for local producers offering regional dishes with a twist. Of course there's the classic 'foie gras' but be brave and try a glass with the local oysters from Cap Ferret, fish or veal.
Nicholas Lascombes and his team manage the restaurant and he has form. This is his second venture into vineyard hospitality after La Terrasse Rouge at Château La Dominique in Saint Emilion as well as his restaurants in Bordeaux centre.
The wine list offers an extensive selection of vintages from Château Guiraud by the bottle and all three wines from the property by the glass, but there is also a good selection of neighbouring Sauternes and Barsac by the bottle and in the, oh so handy, half bottle format.
There is also a comprehensive selection across Bordeaux white, red and rose and few from further afield. A green leaf logo indicates the organic wines on the list - a subject close to the heart of Chateau Guiraud, certified organic since 2011.
Visits to the Château explain their passion for organic and biodynamic agriculture and tastings include verticals of older vintages, cheese and Sauternes tastings and wine matching with local produce. They were awarded the Best of Wine Tourism Awards in 2008 and 2016 in the category "Promoting tourism via environmental practices", in 2011 in recognition of "Quality of service at the property".
The restaurant is open 6 days a week, including the weekend. You can even call in for a coffee before your tour and tasting - perfect if you arrive on one of the famous foggy Sauternes mornings.
By Wendy Narby