When you return from your Bordeaux travels, you may find yourself on the guest list for all sorts of neighborhood soirees and wine tastings—after all, you’re the new oenophile on the block! Your immersion in the world’s wine industry capital will surely school you in the ways of the local vineyards and tempt you with many a taste of the fabulous reds (and even some white) that stem from this region.
Before you go, take a look at a map of France to familiarize yourself with the layout. There are 38 subregions of the Bordeaux region—the most famous wines come from the southern part of western France, along the Atlantic coastline. It’s here that you’ll see the Gironde Estuary and the Dordogne and Garonne Rivers, cutting a swath through the landscape. Near the city of Bordeaux itself, the Gironde is home to almost all of the area’s great wine estates. The southern side, where it’s mostly flat is the “left bank” and where you’ll tour the regions of Medoc and Graves, whereas the more sloped land of the north side of the river is known as the “right bank.”
Wine has long been the life blood of the region—the native Bordelais have been producing wine for about 2,000 years. A combination of microclimates and unique soil have cemented Bordeaux as a superior wine-producing region, with wet springs, gentle summers, and mild winters thanks to the Gulf Stream and proximity of the Atlantic coastline. The merlot grape is the dominant red wine grape in the area, and is found consistently along the right bank, where the soil is rich in limestone and clay. Another 26% of the region’s red wine grapes are cabernet sauvignon, a late-ripening grape seen on the left bank.
While there are whites and sweet wine to be found here, Bordeaux is truly a mecca for red-wine aficionados, where the darker grape makes up 75 to 80 percent of the wines produced in the region. Bottles range from $30 to $800 per bottle—you be the judge as you raise a glass in the celebrated wine towns of Porto and Bordeaux throughout your travels.
In case you needed additional inspiration to pack your bags for the south of France, imagine yourself welcomed to the Château Mouton-Rothschild’s visitor center and museum, mingling with the locals at a wine-themed festival and touring the 13th-century ramparts of St. Émilion, presiding regally over one of Bordeaux’s richest wine districts. A votre santé!
For more information, visit our Discoveries of Coastal Europe trip page.