5 Things You Should Know Before Going On A Wine Trail in Bordeaux, France

Old Roman town of Saint-Émilion, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

M ost of you are probably familiar with France’s most famous wine region, Bordeaux, which boasts the largest amount of wine being exported from the city around the globe every year. The most famous regions include the Médoc and Haut-Médoc (where you find popular reds from Chateau Margaux, Mouton-Rothschild and Pichon-Longueville) and Graves (famous for it’s Chateau d’Yquem which produces sweet white wine from Sémillon grapes).

Popular wine trails run along the Médoc region up into the green hills of Haut-Médoc, where different chateaus line the road left and right. Walk into most tourist offices in Bordeaux and they will surely do a version of a chateau crawl (as opposed to bar crawls in uni), where you can learn about the process of wine making before ending with a mini wine tasting.* Go in a big group or opt for hiring a private car to personalise your experience. But here are a couple of things you should know before embarking on your drunken adventure !

*only available in certain Chateaus such as Chateau de Pressac or Chateau Lynch-Bages.

It’s Wine o’Clock Somewhere!

#1 On Sundays, Chateaus are closed too

This one is obvious, but it was the mistake we made when we got to Chateau Margaux and the gates were locked and all we could do was stick our hands through the bars in order to take a picture of the beautiful Chateau that used to be an ancient Roman bath.

The entrance through the (closed) gates of Chateau Margaux

#2 Don’t drink too much at the first Chateau you visit

You’re at a blooming chateau in beautiful Bordeaux! Don’t guzzle these wines down like the ones sold in Tesco’s for £8.99. Instead enjoy it, savour it, and learn how to observe the wine’s rôbe (colour), its legs running down the side of the glass once you’ve swirled it round (the amount of oil), its smell, its taste, and lastly how to elegantly suck air into your mouth while the wine is still in it without choking (to further aerate it in order to bring out more of its taste while it’s touching your palate). Besides, there are plenty more chateaus to visit and you don’t want to get too drunk on the first one.

#3 It will take up the whole day

Chateau Lynch-Bages’s barrels kept in a controlled environment below ground

It takes about an hour just to walk through the fermentation vats and to see where and how the barrels of wine are kept. Plus, a good guide will probably be knowledgeable and would want to share every little detail, such as one guide who said how spiders can sometimes crawl into barrels so they have to decant the wine from an old barrel to a new one every few years. This does not include the time you will take to photograph every little corner of the place if you’re asian like me (and all the selfies), as well as shopping (I have seen people ship crates home). Even if you don’t take the tour in every chateau — you certainly can’t anyway — some of them have a restaurant you can stop for lunch as well as a souvenir shop and many other attractions, as is the case with Chateau Lynch-Bages. So don’t plan to do anything before dinner time.

#4 It’s always sunny in…no. No, it isn’t

When you visit a vineyard, obviously you would want to see bright green rows of grape vines reaching acres and acres into the hillside, not masked by sheets of rain. So plan your trip around June-August when it is nice and sunny.

#5 Don’t compare prices of bottles you find in Bordeaux with the same ones back home

The ones in Bordeaux will definitely be cheaper (sans tax), but it could be expensive by Bordeaux standards. Because there is such a wide array to choose from, don’t be afraid to ask your guide whether they think you’re paying for the label/brand or for the wine’s taste. And of course, always have an open mind and be willing to try lesser-known wines from smaller vineyards (boutique wines) because it is mostly likely that those grapes are grown in a strictly controlled terroir (appellation d’origine contrôlée).

That’s all, folks! Hope these points have benefitted wine enthusiasts planning a trip to Bordeaux. For those looking to hire a car and plan on going on a discovery trail by themselves, remember not to drink and drive — months worth of hospital bills costs more than a chauffeur for the day.

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