Bordeaux France, just 2 hours on the new high speed train from Paris, with its renowned wine regions and spectacular Gothic architecture has transformed itself in recent years. The mayor of Bordeaux, Alain Juppe’, was a major contributor to the overhaul of this southwest city – having led cleanup efforts and the reopening of the Atlantic port. The remarkable combination of beauty, museums, dining and wine are just a few reasons why this city is well worth a visit.
No need to drive to Bordeaux, take the TGV from Paris Montparnasse Station in Paris to Bordeaux St. Jean. As for lodging, Le Grand Hotel in one of the most elegant places to stay, located just across the plaza from the Opera House. However, there are a variety of hotels ranging from 3 stars and up all over the city.
Staying in this quaint city is amazing, but I do recommend staying a night or two outside the city in the wine region. Chateau Cordillan Bages is located in Pauillac just an hours drive from downtown Bordeaux. You will pass through many towns with chateaus (wineries in France) along the way. You can hire a car to drive you to the wineries, which I recommend, or bike as we enjoyed one day. Chateaus do require an appointment and tour before any tastings.
Restaurants and Bars in Bordeaux
Le Brasserie Bordelaise – casual French fare with great wine list, not too pricey. I recommend the Charcuterie and Steak Frites!
L’ Alchimiste (The Alchemist) – great spot for cocktails and people watching.
Le Wine Bar – Great for glass of wine and an Italian charcuterie plate and delightful Burrata Salad to change things up a bit!
Pressoir d’ Argent – In Le Grand Hotel by Gordon Ramsey. Don’t skip the tasting menu – every course was balanced, not too innovative, but just enough. Loved this beautiful dish of Creamy Mozzarella, Herb Puree and cheesy Tuile and the Oysters wrapped in Bayonne Ham and topped with Caviar.
Night Beach – Open from May until October, lovely views from the top of The Grand Hotel. Go for the cocktails, but there is a small plates menu too.
Chateau Cordeillan Bages (in the Medoc Region) – new chef trying to gain a 1-Michelin Star. Great tasting menu and a la carte choices. I’m always impressed by a good beginning and ending – don’t miss the Lamb 2-Ways and the local White Fish.
Chez Meme’ ( Saint-Julien) – for breakfast and lunch only. Dined here twice for lunch – The Potato Waffle Burger was outrageously good and the Scallop Ceviche – fresh and divine. Also, the Duck Confit and Goat Cheese Salad were off the charts. This food is comforting casual French fare.
Cafe Lavinal (in Medoc) – Upscale brasserie in the heart of Bages. Easily walkable if you are staying at Chateau Cordellian Bages. Don’t miss this dish – a play on Ham & Eggs in a frothy broth with white beans. Friendly locals!
Chateaus to Visit (appointments necessary, so call ahead)
Bordeaux red wine varietals are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Carmenet and Malbec. Bordeaux white varietals are Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris and Muscadelle. The region is divided by two rivers the Dordogne River to the north and the Garonne to the south. The regions are divided by a left and right bank with Entre-Deux-Mers in the middle. The soil in the left bank (Graves, Pessac Leognan, Margaux, Medoc, Saint Julien etc.) is granite stone, which the French call gravel, which is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon focused. The soil in the right bank (St. Emilion, Pomerol, Fronsac etc.) is limestone and clay more Merlot focused. Some of the best vintages from both regions end in a 0, 5, or 9 with the exception of 2016 which is supposed to be a stellar year.
Chateau Pape Clemant – (Pessac-Leognan)
Loved these wines – most were half Cabernet and half Merlot, definitely ask for Jeremy, he was a gracious host! The picnic basket setup by my tour company was stellar too!
Chateau Paloumey (Haut Medoc) – smaller winery, family owned – not expensive. Making great bottles for 20 euros.
Chateau Ambe Tour Pourret (Saint Emilion) – Smallish winery with a great staff. Tasted some Grand Cru – hard to find back in the states. I took a cooking class here with Chef Jerome Oillic who works all over Bordeaux – www.urbanchef.fr
Chateau Franc Mayne (Saint Emilion) – tour was much about the limestone quarry and cellar. Not a big fan of this style of wine – pruny with high tannin.
Don’t miss the town of Saint Emilion – it’s a World Heritage Site with wonderful views!
Chateau Kirwan (Margeaux) – great tour of property. The wines were nice, but not exceptional.
Chateau Lagrange (St. Julien) – owned by a Japanese businessmen, lovely property that does huge volume. Need to hold these wines for a very long time.
Chateau Leoville Barton (St. Julien) – Great tour, ask for Alexandra she gives an amazing visit and is lovely. We caught the season just right – pomace left in the barrel. Two different labels Leoville Barton and Langoa-Barton all were excellent.
Chateau Mouton Rothchild (Pauillac) – Grand Cru Classe A – top tier wine. I found the wines tart and not quite ready yet. Certainly wouldn’t pay 500 euros a bottle!
Chateau Gruaud Larose (St. Julien) – Grand old Castle with new metal tower to view the vineyard. Pouring good wines.
Chateau Branaire-Ducru (St. Julien) – Great tour and wines were a little softer for the region. We are definitely purchasing some 2016 and holding it 10 years.
Other Fun things to do and explore in Bordeaux
La Cite’ du Vin – In the city of Bordeaux. This interactive wine museum is a must with videos of top wine makers from all over the world, educational exhibits of how to identify wines different characteristics and my favorite – sit at a dinner party table and witness a video discussion of food and wine pairings. A wine tasting with a view from the top of the museum ends the perfect visit.
Cheese Tour at Jean D’Alos in Bordeaux. Don’t miss this cheese shop and tour with some of the regions best cheeses. Call ahead to book a private tour and tasting.
First Growth Wine Tasting at Max Bordeaux. You may never be able to afford a Chateau Margeaux or Cheval Blanc, but at this exclusive wine store you can taste Grand Cru A vintages by the glass. Really fun to get to try a 500 euro bottle!
Bike for Hire in Bordeaux Wine Country. I would highly recommend renting bikes and riding to different chateaus for the day. Numerous bike companies will deliver them directly to your Inn, so inquire with your hotel before arriving.
Caneles are from Bordeaux. These custardy cake like treats were created by nuns who used up the extra egg yolks after wine production in the region. These cakes were fed to the poor and because of their high fat content were considered at substantial snack.
Oldest Chocolate Shop in Bordeaux – Cadiot Badie, since 1826. Buy some chocolates to bring home to family and friends.
Salted Caramel Cream Puffs at Dunes Blanches in Bordeaux. The line outside reminded me of when Krispy Kreme came to town, except these are delicious!
Walk along the river front & plazas in Bordeaux. Don’t miss exploring the local streets filled with French treasures. Definitely take some time to draw upon the scenery of the city.
Bordeaux is a city and wine country that is full of tradition and beauty. The people were lovely and most of them spoke fluent English. All of our accommodations and tours were set up by Grapes Escapes out of London. I highly recommend this group – professional, efficient and easy to work with.