Whether you’re a confirmed oenophile or just a glass-with-dinner sipper, Bordeaux offers a world-class travel experiences. Known as the greatest wine region in the world, the area is also revered for its 18th century architecture, gourmet regional cuisine, museums, forests, and, yes, even private beaches where you can picnic and sunbathe far from the madding crowd. (Visit when you can enjoy the gorgeous summer or long, warm autumn.)
Located in the southwest of France, not far from the Atlantic coast, the Bordeaux region produces over 700 million bottles of wine per year, both everyday tables wines and some of the world’s most coveted grand crus. Bordeaux was once also a major port town (activity has since been moved further north), and it’s a university town. You know what that means: a youthful, boho vibe and plenty of hot guys and cool nightspots.
But don’t forget a major reason to go: the wine. Whether you go it alone, with girlfriends or your man, consider renting a car and taking a wine tour. You’ll be able to enjoy the scenery (and scene), sample delicious fare and taste and learn more about the region’s wines, all in the often sumptuous or rustic surroundings of various chateaux (wineries). Interested? Here are five worth considering.
The Chateaux Road
Just north about an hour from Bordeaux, the district of Médoc features a wine route you can drive to partake in visits to wineries, tours of wine cellars, wine tastings or leisurely strolls along the Gironde estuary. Hit the village of Médoc to visit small inns and hotels and foodie-pleasing restaurants.
The Heritage Road
Love exploring? Make tracks towards the Libournais region to see the French countryside in all its glory. Visit some chateaux (wineries), check out the region’s medieval and Roman monuments, and stop for a meal in the town of Saint-Emillion. Known for its fine regional cuisine — and, of course, local wine — the small town is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Hillside Road
Heading East from Bordeaux, this wine route takes you to a number of historic cites and scenic chateaux. From the Gironde Estuary and its port (and renowned early spring white asparagus), to tourist-friendly Bouliac with its fine restaurants, inns and hotels, you’ll find plenty to see and do. If you have a yen for history, visit the Bastide de Monsegur or Sauveterre de Guyenne for medieval architecture, and, of course, a glass of wine.The Graves Road
To the south of Bordeaux, vines share the land with pine forest. This tour offers the opportunity to pair some serious R&R with your wine journey. Martillac is known for its spa and vinotherapy (spa treatments featuring skin-pampering grape compounds left over from the winemaking process). Visit the nature preserve at Saucats to work off some of that calorific French cuisine you’ve been sampling. And for those who like their wines on the sweeter side, guess what: this is the region where sweet Sauternes dessert wines are produced. Stroll the vines and then sample some.
The Fortified Towns Road
Head “between two seas,” as the Entre-deux-Mers region is known. Set between two rivers, this is Bordeaux’s fastest growing wine region and its becoming known for its wine bounty, from fruity reds to young and crisp whites — rosés and dessert wines, too. History buffs will delight in wandering fortified towns like Créon and Sauveterre de Guyenne, abbeys like la Sauve Majeure as well as Chateau de Malagar, where 19th century master painter Toulouse Lautrec once lived.
Click on this link to download pdfs with full itinerary and driving directions:
And visit Bordeaux.com for travel information.
For the latest in fashion, beauty and culture, sign up to receive ELLE's bi-weekly newsletter