Edd: Bordeaux, France was the wildcard of our European Magical Mystery Tour. It wasn’t even on our original travel itinerary.
Cynthia: Right. After Madrid we planned to go to Barcelona, but the accommodations there weren’t within our budget.
E: The next stop was going to be Paris, so I literally looked at a map to see where else in that general direction we could go. And voila—Bordeaux!
C: All we knew about Bordeaux was the famous wine produced there, but online pics of the city and surrounding area were beautiful and the price was right so we said, “Let’s do it!”
E: Turns out we picked a winner. Bordeaux is drop-dead gorgeous.
C: Locals told us visitors often say, “This looks like a little Paris.” To which they smugly reply, “No, Paris is like a big Bordeaux.” 😀
E: As expected, the wines from nearby vineyards were terrific and quite affordable. Especially at Bar à Vin, a classy wine bar right across the street from the Bordeaux tourism office.
C: Run by the Bordeaux Wine Council, generous pours of top quality wine started at only €2! After a day exploring the city, this was the perfect place to relax and try suggestions from the sommeliers along with a plate of local cheese and delicious bread.
E: Our knowledge of French wines before arriving was minimal. So we visited wine museums and booked tours to two different growing areas to learn as much as we could about vintages from this area of the country.
C: The first was to Saint-Émilion, a tiny, renowned village less than an hour’s drive east of Bordeaux that is the oldest active wine producing appellation in the entire region.
E: Our guide shared that Romans planted the first vines there as early as the second century! After some free time to explore the narrow alleys and pop inside a few of the 45 wine shops...
C: With Saint-Émilion having only 250 residents, they obviously get a lot of tourists.
E: ...we were off to the beautiful Château Tour Baladoz winery.
C: During our tour of the property and wine tasting we learned that wines produced north of the Dordogne River are said to be from the Right Bank. They are usually Merlot-based and their distinctive terroir is soil with a limestone surface.
E: Wine is such an important part of Bordeaux culture that there are two different wine museums in the city. The “Old Museum,” as it’s known to locals, focuses on the history of the region’s wine trade and is housed in a cellar where wine was actually stored in the early days.
C: On the other hand, the futuristic La Cité du Vin (City of Wine), takes you on a multisensory experience through the history of wine. There are floors of immersive, interactive displays and, of course, a wine tasting at the end of your visit.
E: But wait—there’s more! Our second wine tour to the world-famous Médoc region in Bordeaux’s Left Bank region.
C: Beautiful vineyards—fabulous châteaus—it was a day filled with everything you imagine about the south of France.
E: The terroir of the Left Bank is filled with gravel. This makes the vines work harder to produce their fruit, and the stones retain the sun’s heat to keep the soil warmer. Interesting stuff. Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant grape grown here.
C: That’s enough about wine for one blog. Turns out there are other really interesting things to do in and around Bordeaux that aren’t related to its signature product. We’ll tell you all about them next time. Until then, let’s lift a glass and as they say in France, “Santé!”