Are you a true wine lover and you’d like to travel around a beautiful area for a few days, going from one tasting to the next? Be sure to visit the region around Bordeaux. Excellent wines, great hotels, and fantastic restaurants await you.
Before you visit one of the magnificent wine estates or châteaux in Bordeaux, be sure to read up on this complicated topic so that you can really engage with all the information coming at you during a tour around the castle.
Classification of Bordeaux wines
Napoleon III required a classification of the wines from Bordeaux for the World Exhibition in Paris. The wine merchants then created the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. This classification is still respected to this day, with only a few minor adjustments.
The red wines are classifies as follows:
- Premiers Crus (First Growths, like Château Latour, Château Mouton-Rothschild)
- Deuxièmes Crus (Second Growths, like Château Cos d’Estournel)
- Troisièmes Crus (Thirds Growths, like Château Kirwan)
- Quatrième Crus (Fourth Growths, like Château Beychevelle)
- Cinquièmes Crus (Fifth Growths, like Château Dauzac)
The white wines are classified as follows:
- Premier cru supérieur (Superior First Growth, like Château d’Yquem)
- Premiers crus (First Growths, like Château La Tour Blanche)
- Deuxièmes crus (Second Growths, like Château Doisy-Védrines)
The quality changes from high to low, just like the price. Only a few people can afford to buy a Premier Crus these days.
They don’t follow this classification in the Graves and Saint-Emillion regions.
The different wine districts of Bordeaux
The region around Bordeaux has been divided into several wine districts, which in turn are divided into subregions.
- Médoc: Médoc, Haut-Médoc, Saint-Estèphe, Saint-Julien, Listrac-Médoc, Pauillac, Moulis en Médoc en Margaux.
- Libourne: Fronsac, Canon-Fronsac, Pomeral, Lanade de Pomerol, Neac, Bordeaux-Côtes-de-France, Saint-Emilion, Montagne-Saint-Emillion, Saint-Georges-Saint-Emillion, Lussac-Saint-Emillion, Puisseguin-Saint-Emillion en Cötes de Castillon.
- Graves: Graves, Cérons, Sauternes, Barsac en Pessac-Léognan
- Entre-Deux-Mers: Entre-Deux-Mers, Graves de Vayres, Premières Côtes de Bordeaux, Loupiac, haut-Benauge, Cadillac, Saine-Croix-du-Mont, Côtes-de-Bordeaux-Saint-Macaire en Sainte-Foy-Bordeaux.
- Blaye et Bourg: Blaye, Côtes de Blaye, Premières – Côtes de Blaye en Côtes de Bourg
Grape varieties in Bordeaux
No less than 6 grape varieties are used for red wine:
- Cabernet Sauvignon (most commonly used)
- Cabernet franc
- Petit verdot
The following grape varieties are used for white wine:
- Sauvignon Blanc
The trick is to recognize grapes during tasting but that requires a lot of practice. Perfect excuse to drink wine regularly.
Here is a short overview of the best châteaux we visited. You can just show up at most of these, but you need to make an appointment to visit the “larger” wines particularly.
The best châteaux in Bordeaux
Smith Haut Lafitte
Smith Haut Lafitte is a Grand Cru Classé from Graves. Besides tasting lovely wines, you can also have a very good dinner. Excellent address for a relaxed weekend away, as you can also stay at their 5* hotel Les Sources de Caudalie. During the day you can taste the wine, and in the evening you can get pampered in their spa with the “Vinotherapie”. What else does one need?
Book the Road to Paradise Activity and get access to the owners' private wine cellar. Ofcourse you end the activity with a tasting.
Château Phélan Ségur
This château has been in the hands of the industrialist familie Gardinier. The château (or enormous villa) is surrounded by a beautiful garden.
Cos d'Estournel is a must-do even if you are not a wine lover. You enter the domain through a beautiful gate gifted by the Sultan of Zanzibar because the owner of the château was enchanted by Arab thoroughbred horses.
Château Latour is one of the most famous (and most expensive) wine estates in the world. Except for a beautiful tower in the middle of the vineyard, you don’t see the château at all. You need good connections to arrange a visit over here. There's a document from 1331 that speaks about château Latour.
Saint-Emilion is a friendly medieval village, and home to a lot of fantastic wines such as Château Angelus. This was my father-in-law’s favourite wine (in the times that it was still affordable). We are happy to have once tasted this nectar of the gods.
Château Pétrus in the Pomerol is part of the absolute top. They are one of the only wine estates in the world that have heaters set up in the vineyards to prevent the grapes from freezing. When the perfect moment of picking has arrived, all the pickers from all the châteaux owned by the Mouieux family are mobilised to pick all the grapes in two mornings. They only produce 30,000 bottles a year.
If you are a fan of good wine, you’re often also a fan of good food. Be sure to stop in Arcachon on the coast, where they serve the most wonderful fruits de mer.
Tip: If you travel in the high season, be sure to book your hotel beforehand. The one time we didn’t do this we found out that there were no rooms left. Eventually we found a spot in some dirty hotel where I got acquainted with a French toilet. Not my nicest experience!
Luckily, we found a real gem after that, one that I can definitely recommend.
Domaine de la Tortiniëre in Montbazon is a beautiful 19th-century castle in an enormous park. Perfect for a romantic stay in this beautiful region that a lot more to offer. What about a citytrip to Bordeaux?
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