Why you should book a wine tour in Bordeaux

24th June 2017 No Comment

I first visited Bordeaux last Easter with my boyfriend, and without hesitation I had booked a wine tour before we arrived. To be honest, before I went on said wine tour, I knew basically nothing about the wine industry in Bordeaux; all I had was a general awareness that we were heading to one of the top wine-producing regions in the world.

I booked our wine tour with Bordovino, one of many companies in the region that offers tailored wine tours. There were eight people on our tour altogether, and it was a very straightforward experience. We met our tour guide outside the Tourist Information Centre in the middle of the city, where we were then whisked off in company minibus with a tour guide to explore the vineyards outside of the city in the Médoc region. The whole tour took around 5 and a half hours to complete and included two château tours and wine-tasting sessions, as well as other stop-offs at famous châteaux en route. The tour ended back at the Bordovino headquarters, where we were then able to purchase our favourite vins we’d tasted during the wine tour. So without further ado, here are 9 reasons you should book a wine tour in Bordeaux:

1. Well… it’s Bordeaux

As I mentioned before, basically all I knew about Bordeaux was that it’s famous for producing wine. So what else could possibly be at the top of your planned activities in this beautiful city than actually finding out more about the largest wine-growing area in France? Bordeaux is at the heart of the Gironde department, which is home to more than 120,000 hectares of vineyards. And don’t worry if you automatically associate Bordeaux wine exclusively with reds (I definitely thought this); Bordeaux wines come in all shades, including some spectacular dark rose wines.

Wine cellar with hams on the wall

Bordeaux – where some restaurants invite you to the wine cellar instead of giving you a wine list

2. You don’t have to drive yourself

I would definitely not recommend bothering to hire a car if you’re planning on spending most of your time in Bordeaux itself and only want to get out of the city to see the vineyards. Yes, it may be cheaper to attempt to tackle this by yourself, but you’re definitely limiting how much wine you’ll get to taste if you go it alone. When you book a wine tour, you don’t have to worry about traffic, getting lost, or not actually getting to taste any wine. So, less driving, more drinking!

Path leading to Chateau Margaux, built in the First Empire syle with columns

The magnificent Château Margaux – this estate once sold a 12-litre 2009 vintage for over £120,000!

3. You’ll learn how wine is made

OK, so we all know that wine is made from crushing grapes, right? But that’s a bit simplistic considering this is a multi-billion Euro industry we’re talking about! During the wine tour, you’ll get to visit châteaux and get a walk-through of how the wine is produced, from vine to wine. You’ll see how the wine producers tie their vines in a certain way for optimum growth and how modern technology is helping them refine their wine production process; wine is now fermented in huge stainless steel vats. As your tour progresses, you’ll see the oak barrels where wine is aged until it’s ready to be bottled. The châteaux will often try different types of oak barrel as this influences the taste of the wine. However, wines from different oak barrels must never be mixed!

Warehouse area with large stainless steel vats on both sides

Stainless steel vats used to ferment wine at Château Paloumey

4. You’ll learn there’s actually no such thing as a ‘Bordeaux’ wine

Although a wine may have been produced in the Bordeaux region, within that label there are a lot of variables. Within the region there are sub-regions, and within that there are 60 Bordeaux ‘appellations’. An appellation may indicate a town or a smaller wine-growing region, and this gives the drinker an indication of what kind of wine they’re drinking (sweet, dry etc.). During the wine tour, they also explained a little bit about all the regulations around producing wine in the region. The industry is regulated by the AOC (Appellation D’Origine Controlle) and certain criteria must be met for a château to include a particular appellation on their label.

Room with beams and rows of oak barrels with red wine stains on top

Oak barrels with wine stains on the outside

5. You’ll learn to taste wine like an expert

No more cringing when someone drops you in it as the designated wine-taster in a fancy restaurant – you’ve got this! During the wine tour, we learnt how to smell wine and identify the different notes (admittedly, my boyfriend was able to do this much better than I was). We also learnt how to properly aerate the wine in the glass before you taste it to maximise the flavour. You can also aerate the wine in your mouth as you take the first sip… this is definitely as weird as it sounds and I have yet to actually do this in civilised company.

Bottle of red wine from Chateau Paloumey with empty wine glasses in background

Attempting to smell different notes in wine is harder than it sounds

6. Free wine

We’re not talking about a free bottle here, but it can add up when you’re tasting different wines during your wine tour. The free wine is also not just your run-of-the-mill cheap stuff, but a selection of different wines offered by each château you visit. During our tour, we tried one wine at a more everyday price point and one more expensive wine that was the château’s vintage, typically named after the château itself. A wine tour is a great opportunity to discover more sophisticated wines that may be difficult to find at home or sometimes significantly more expensive than a nice wine you’d enjoy with dinner.

Country house with yellow stone and grey roof with blossom tree in foreground

Château Paloumey – not all châteaux are castles!

7. Free food (!?)

As well as learning how to taste wine on its own, your wine tour organiser may also squeeze in a wine and food tasting session too. We enjoyed pairing our wines with cheese, chocolate and charcuterie at Château Cantenac-Brown before it was time to head back to the city.

Wooden board with bread, cheese, chocolate, almonds and meat

Learn how to pair your wine with food

8. You can buy wine from a château you’ve actually visited

Although this isn’t compulsory and you’re free to leave once you’re safely back in Bordeaux, I really enjoyed taking the time to look around the Bordovino wine shop having learnt so much about where it all comes from. We ended up picking up a couple of bottles from châteaux we visited on our tour to take home as presents. I think this is such a novel souvenir to bring back from a holiday!

Tudor-style stately home with gardens and hedges to the front

The Tudor-style house at Château Cantenac-Brown

9. Impress your friends and family every time you drink wine ever again!

Seriously, this does happen a lot. Once you’re privy to the secrets of how to properly swill and sniff wine, how can you ever go back? Just be prepared for some funny looks for any non-wine connoisseurs who may be dining with you (virtually everyone else). Santé!

Oak barrel with dove logo from Chateau Paloumey printed on front

An oak barrel at Château Paloumey

Bordovino half-day wine tours cost 89 Euros per person or you can book a tour with avios points too! 

If you’re looking for another famous wine-growing destination a bit further afield, why not visit Santiago, Chile?