The place; geography, topography, climate
Bordeaux is big, almost 6000 wineries (or chateaux as they are known here) in vineyards between the Pyrenean mountains to the south and the Atlantic Ocean to the west.
The Bordeaux vineyards cover over 110 000 ha from the impressive chateaux of the Médoc in the north, through the Graves to the mist swathed vineyards of Sauternes in the South and the rolling limestone hillsides running down to the Dordogne in Saint Emilion and the satellites in the east. It takes three to four days to even start to understand the range of experiences Bordeaux has to offer and you don’t want to miss anything. With size comes diversity, red, rosé, white, dry, sweet or sparkling wines are on offer.
This opportunity to discover the place behind the product makes Bordeaux a fascinating wine destination. Seeing the terroir for yourself, the soils but also the topography and the micro-climates makes it easier to understand why Bordeaux blends its grape varieties and how those blends change across the vineyards of the region.
But place is not only about terroir, it also includes the culture, the architecture, the history, the towns and villages. The architectural splendour of Bordeaux ranges from medieval castles, to ultra-modern eco-friendly wine cellars via impressive 19th century chateaux. Something for all tastes, and it’s never been easier to explore thanks to wine routes organized by local specialists.
One of the latest is the Bordeaux, Graves and Sauternes wine route, that brings together over 100 wine makers in 52 towns and villages along 50kms of country lanes. Starting in the city of Bordeaux, it showcases the region as a complete destination. Alongside the wineries are restaurants, hotels, guest houses, historical properties and even sporting activities. Something for everyone, by foot, two wheels or four!
For many, Bordeaux is associated with corporate ownership, yes, there are some corporate leaders and luxury groups, but the majority of vineyards are owned and run by families and these families are happy to welcome visitors. It is the people behind the product that makes a visit to the region so unforgettable. Each visit is unique, as wine producers share their philosophy, the history of their region and of their property.
Learn from the people who make the wine. Enter the cellars to get answers to your technical questions about how the wines are made, what challenges they must rise to, both technical and commercial. Learn about the attention to detail that allows every vintage to be a unique expression of the place. It’s not always as straight forward as it might seem from afar. A great wine destination gives you the opportunity to become intimate with both the wines and the people who make them.
A warm welcome includes gastronomy; properties that welcome you to sample their wines with local specialties or even more exotic fare. Thanks to its long history as an important commercial port, Bordeaux is very cosmopolitan. You’ll find many eclectic experiences on offer alongside traditional French cuisine. Japanese food with Saint Julien wines at Château Lagrange perhaps? A picnic in the park at Château de Cerons or Chateau Malescases in the Medoc or Michelin star luxury at Château Troplong Mondot in Saint Emilion, Château Lafaurie Peyraguey in Sauternes. Or would you prefer a private dining experience in a Château? The famous Bordeaux diversity is at your fingertips and the wines to go with it of course.
If I had to choose just one thing that counts most of all, it would be the people.
Glorious chateaux and fabulous wine aren’t always the key take away. It’s the efforts the people make to share their passion and to make is accessible. So perhaps there is a fourth P – Passion!