Our experience traveling to Bordeaux was far from planned out ahead of time. Instead, we made our way to this world renowned French wine region to house sit, or more accurately, dog sit, for a friend. We had no idea how to visit Bordeaux, how to go wine tasting in Bordeaux, or whether Bordeaux wine was even too expensive for our bank account. We were surprised on what we found about wine tourism in Bordeaux. Here, we share our tips for a great Bordeaux wine trip, including recommended Bordeaux wine tours.
Book the most popular Bordeaux Wine Tour on Viator – from €115 per person
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Vin de Bordeaux – What’s it All Mean?
Bordeaux is on the west coast of France, and has one of the longest, and most prestigious of wine histories. The region surrounds the city of Bordeaux, and includes over 50 wine appellations, or wine regions, around the city. It’s the largest wine producing area of France. And, other than Champagne, Bordeaux probably gives off an impression of wealth, of luxury, and perhaps in pretentiousness more than any other wine. That also means it can be intimidating to wine travelers.
I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about wines, particular Spanish wines, Italian wines, and even Portuguese wines. But, I am a mere novice when it comes to any French wine, outside of Champagne. This is what I learned, at a very high level, about Bordeaux wines. Most wine produced is Bordeaux red wine, which is also called Claret in Britain. It’s always made with a blend of grapes, predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. The region also produces Bordeaux white wine, called Sauternes, and a small amount of rose and sparkling wine.
The Bordeaux wine classification system is complicated, and I am only beginning to understand it. Whereas Italian wines are classified as either IGT, DOC, or DOCG, depending on their quality, there are 4 classifications for Bordeaux AOC wine, predominantly based on the sub-regions of Bordeaux. There are “first growth” Bordeaux wines, which are considered the best Bordeaux wine. These include famous wine houses like the Châteaux Margaux, Latour, Haut-Brion, Mouton Rothschild, and Lafite-Rothschild. But, there is so much more to Bordeaux than these famous names.
Labels might also read Grand Cru, or Grand Cru Classe depending on the classification received by that Château.Yes, it’s all complicated.
Whether a menu reads Grand Vin de Bordeaux, or Bordeaux Superieur, this is almost irrelevant for the typical Bordeaux wine traveler. Because what is Bordeaux wine than just a wine region to explore and create lasting memories.
Looking for a Bordeaux food tour?
La Cité du Vin – One of the Best Bordeaux Tourist Attractions
We visited Bordeaux just a year after the inauguration of La Cité du Vin, or City of Wine, a museum dedicated to the world of wine. The architecture alone is stunning, looking almost like a carafe of wine, on the banks of the Garonne River, which winds through the city. It should be on the top of any list of what to see in Bordeaux.
Over two levels of museum exhibitions, we learned an amazing amount about wine. What surprised me was that the museum is not merely dedicated to the Bordeaux wine region. Instead, only 2 short exhibits towards the end focus on Bordeaux wine. Instead, the museum focuses on educating people about wine, including wine regions around the world, the history of wine, how wine is made, and how to taste wine. The museum tour itself ends with a trip to the top floor, where a taste of wine is served along with a view over Bordeaux.
Like Drinking Bordeaux at Home? Riedel Vinum Bordeaux Wine Glass
I was shocked at how interactive the museum was. We generally have a “no museums” rule when we travel, but we make an exception for wine and food focused museums. And, we’ve never been to a wine museum like this. It’s a must-see pilgrimage for any wine lover.
La Cité du Vin
La Cité du Vin is located at 134 Quai de Bacalan in Bordeaux. Just take the tram along the river, which drops you right in front. La Cité du Vin is open daily from 9:30-7:30. Tickets are €20 and include a tasting at the end, along with a rental of an interactive headset to explain the permanent exhibit. They also offer special temporary exhibits for an extra cost.
Book your tickets ahead of time with this Skip The Line La Cité du Vin Package
Recommended Bordeaux Wine Tours
Visiting the wine museum in the city only scratches the surface of Bordeaux tourism. With so much to see in such an historic French wine region, it’s a great idea to explore the Bordeaux vineyards. Here are our recommendations for some top Bordeaux France Wine Tours.
There are few types of Bordeaux tours depending on what you are looking for. Companies offer full day and half day wine tours. There are private and small group wine tours. Some wine tours only focus on Bordeaux wine tasting, others include food pairing and dining options. These Bordeaux wine tours are conducted via car, bus, and even bike. The skies the limit! It’s important to consider the amount of time you have, where you want to visit, and your budget.
Small Group Saint-Émilion Full Day Tour: One of the top-rated small group wine tours on Viator, this is the perfect overview of both Saint-Émilion and Pomerol. It includes 3 wine tastings, transportation, and a tour of the village of Saint-Émilion. It does not include lunch, but lunch is possible in the village between tastings. Book now from €115 per person.
Or, book a similar Half Day Tour from €60. The half day Bordeaux France wine tasting tour includes one tasting instead of three. Either way, these are great options for perfect Bordeaux day trips.
Small Group Full Day Medoc Wine Tasting Tour: This is similar to the Saint-Émilion full day tour, but to Medoc, which is to the northeast of Bordeaux. Medoc is home to some of the most well-known Bordeaux vineyards and is a must visit for Bordeaux wine enthusiasts. It also includes 3 Bordeaux wine tastings, but does not include a lunch. There is time to stop for lunch, but at an additional expense. Book now from €115 per person.
Small Group Full Day Graves Wine Tasting Tour: This is similar to the small group tours to Saint-Émilion and Medoc, but to Graves, which is just south of Bordeaux. And, it includes lunch in addition to the Bordeaux vineyard tour. The tour leaves from the Bordeaux tourism office. Book now from €115 per person.
Private Half Day Tour of Saint-Émilion or Medoc: If traveling in a group with family or friends, one of the Bordeaux private wine tours might be a better option. It’s more personalized. It’s possible to book a half day tour that includes 2 Bordeaux vineyards and transport from Bordeaux in an air con van. But, because the price is for a van up to 8 people, the wine tasting will cost extra per person, generally around €25-30 per person. Still, it’s a great option for a group! Book now from €290 per group (up to 8 people).
Full Day Electric Bike Tour: This tour includes mini-van transport from Bordeaux to Saint-Émilion, where the tour picks up the electric bikes. The bikes tour through the village, and then includes 2 tastings and a picnic lunch in the Bordeaux vineyards. This is a small group tour, limited to 8 people. It’s a perfect Bordeaux wine tour for people who love the outdoors, and want to “work off” the wine while you drink. Book now from €120 per person.
Bacchus Bordeaux Wine Tour: Don’t have time to tour Bordeaux for a full day? This walking tour of Bordeaux comes with a history of the region, and a Bordeaux wine tasting. It’s only 3 hours long, and leaves from the city center both in the morning and in the afternoon. This is a great way to learn from a Bordeaux guide if you are short on time or only have one day in Bordeaux. Book now from €69 per person.
Our List of the Best Bordeaux Wine Tours
This table helps to compare our recommended Bordeaux wine tasting tours and includes information like duration, price, and what the tours include.
|Tour||Tour Includes||Duration||Price From||Book Now!|
|Full Day Saint-Émilion Tour - Small group tour||Transport from Bordeaux, 3 wine tastings in Saint-Émilion and Pomerol||8 Hours||€115|
|Full Day Medoc Tour - Small group tour||Transport from Bordeaux, 3 wine tastings in Medoc||8.5 Hours||€115|
|Full Day Graves Tour - Small group tour||Transport from Bordeaux, 2 wine tastings in Graves, with lunch||6 Hours||€115|
|Half Day Saint-Émilion or Medoc Tour - Private tour||Private transport from Bordeaux with 2 tastings||3 Hours||€290|
|Full Day Electric Bike Tour - Small group tour||Transport from Bordeaux, electric bike tour of Saint-Émilion, 2 wine tastings, picnic lunch.||8-9 Hours||€120|
|Bacchus Wine Tour in Bordeaux||Wine Tasting Tour in Bordeaux city, in the morning or afternoon||3 Hours||€69|
*This post contains compensated links. Find more info in my DISCLAIMER.
Training to Saint-Émilion
There are ways to explore some of the top Bordeaux vineyards to visit without booking a tour. It’s possible to take the train from the center of Bordeaux to Saint-Émilion, in less than 30 minutes. Then, it’s just about a ten minute walk into the village of Saint-Émilion, where it’s possible to have a little taste of Bordeaux wine tourism.
Immediately after stepping foot off the train, I felt like we were in another world. From the parking lot of the station, I could see old wine houses, and hills of vineyards and Bordeaux wineries to visit. It was an entirely pleasant walk into the village. We grabbed a quick lunch at Chai Pascal, up the hill, and well off the tourism trail, before starting our mini Bordeaux wine tour.
Saint-Émilion Wine Shops
Let me tell you a story about the day we trained to Saint-Émilion, to learn about Bordeaux wines from an Irishman. Yes, that’s exactly what we did.
We learned about Paddy O’Flynn through a friend of the family during our stay in Limerick. When we arrived in Saint-Émilion, we visited his wine shop, called the Wine Buff. There are loads of wine shops in Saint-Émilion, where it’s possible to taste some wines, and definitely purchase. I think there might be more wine shops than there are cafes, and in France, that’s a little strange.
But, Paddy’s shop is a little different. He has a unique way of viewing wine in general, and has a rich knowledge of Bordeaux wines in particular, having lived in the area for over 20 years. And, perhaps because he is Irish, he offered a refreshing, and less, well, pretentious way of tasting wines.
And, we tasted some good ones too. So much so, that we bought 4 bottles and lugged them back with us on the train to Bordeaux. What I will note is that many of the Bordeaux wines we tasted with Paddy were very reasonably priced, with great bottles ranging from €15-30, although he carries, and we tasted, more expensive wines. It just goes to show that Bordeaux wine is not solely for the collectors and wine snobs. But, this is a great stop when looking for Bordeaux wine for sale.
Recommended Bordeaux Châteaux – Saint-Émilion
We thought this quick trip to see Paddy at The Wine Buff would be our only experience with wine tourism in Bordeaux during this trip. But, we were invited by Great Wine Capitals to head back out to, of all places, Saint-Émilion.
Great Wine Capitals is an organization of, well, some of the best wine cities in the world. They choose one wine region, associated with an amazing city, in each of 9 countries, with a goal of promoting wine tourism. They had a meeting of Bordeaux wineries in Saint-Émilion during our time in Bordeaux and invited us. How could we pass it up? For most wine travelers, Saint-Émilion makes one of the best Bordeaux day trips because it can be reached by train.
Our first officialBordeaux Chateau experience involved walking up the long driveway to Château Soutard, just outside of Saint-Émilion. It is everything you imagine a grand French château to be. Parts of the house date to the 16th century. The main castle was built in 1741. They offer Bordeaux wine tours that end with tastings in their historic wine cellar, as well as a few rooms for overnight guests.
After a tasting, we enjoyed an outdoor French-style grill lunch with lovely, crisp, summery Bordeaux rose wine at Château Soutard. Then, we continued with the Great Wine Capitals group to a second tour and tasting at Chateau De Candale. Smaller, and more contemporary than Château Soutard, Chateau De Candale offered an entirely unique Bordeaux tasting experience. Their contemporary labels have included a wine under the label “Scandal” where each year they dedicate the artwork of the bottle to one of the main news stories of that year.
As much as these were two short Bordeaux wine tasting experiences, I already felt that I was learning more about Bordeaux. Eric and I were already planning a trip back.
Where To Experience Wine Tasting in Bordeaux – Independently
Yes, it is possible to experience wine tasting in Bordeaux without a car, and without booking a wine tour. Our recommendation is to take the train to Saint-Émilion, to visit a Bordeaux wine shop and Châteaux. That said, our ability to visit these particular Châteaux came from our relationship with Great Wine Capitals. To make things super easy, and to explore the Bordeaux wine trails more in depth than we did, book a Bordeaux wine tour.
The Wine Buff
The Wine Buff is located at the end of Rue du Marche in Saint-Émilion. The main part of their business is exporting wines to shops across Ireland. But, their Saint-Émilion shop is open 6 days a week from 10-10:30pm. They are closed on Sundays. Paddy is pretty liberal with his time, and tastings, and offers wines for every budget. And, there is a little terrace off the shop as well. If you are in Saint-Émilion in the off season, it’s better to call ahead.
Château Soutard is located on Lieu dit Soutard, on one of the roads heading out of Saint-Émilion. But, it’s easily walkable from town in just a few minutes. They run a English tour each day at 2pm during the season, which runs from roughly April to November. Tours and tastings last approximately one hour and cost €10. Rooms start at €200 a night in the off season.
Chateau De Candale
Chateau De Candale is located a little farther out, and would require a car to visit. It’s located at 1 Grandes Plantes in Saint-Laurent-des-Combes, only a 5 minute drive from the village of Saint-Émilion. They are open Tuesday through Saturday, from 10am-6:30pm. Visits and tastings are by appointment only. In addition to tastings, Chateau De Candale has a very reputable restaurant, L’Atelier de Candale, onsite.
Bordeaux Wine Map
Included in this map are some of the stops listed above in our Bordeaux travel guide. The orange stars show the centers of the Bordeaux wine regions, at a very high level. This is just meant to give an idea of the region, to help with Bordeaux trip planning. It also shows the distance between Bordeaux to St Emilion.
FAQs – Bordeaux France and Bordeaux Wine Tourism
We have some more Bordeaux travel tips to help wine lovers explore Bordeaux.
- Where can I learn more about other Bordeaux attractions? The Bordeaux tourist office provides all sorts of resources and Bordeaux tour information. It’s located at 12 cours du 30 Juillet and is open 7 days a week. It’s also possible to buy Bordeaux city tour tickets at the office.
- Is there a Bordeaux wine festival? Yes! There is an amazing Bordeaux Wine Festival, held during June. Due to the unique location of the city of Bordeaux, on the water, the wine festival also hosts a large ship display.
- Where is Bordeaux? Bordeaux is close to the Atlantic coast, in the southwest of France, in the Aquitaine region. It’s about 500 kilometers (or 300 miles) from Paris. The city sits on the river Garonne, both on the right and left bank of the river.
*This post contains compensated links. Find more info in my DISCLAIMER.