Temperate weather, ocean views, a city packed with culture, and gorgeous architecture are just a few of the attractions of Bordeaux. But once you’ve really tapped into Bordeaux wineries? You might never leave.
With so many delicious wines to sample in the Bordeaux wine region, how should you choose? The answer to that question will depend on the kind of wine you like, how you want to feel drinking it and what should be the setting.
In this article, I’m about the introduce you to all the Bordeaux wine regions. You will learn about the grapes used in every region and what type of wine they produced. And finally, I’ll provide detailed information about how to visit wineries in the Bordeaux region.
For every region, I also added a few recommendations of wineries to visit. So by the end of this article, you should have a rough idea of where to go while visiting the Bordeaux wine region. If you want to stay the night in a winery, check out my article about the best vineyards accommodation in Bordeaux.
Bordeaux wine region- what you need to know
There are a stunning 7,000 wineries in Bordeaux and 57 appellations in the Bordeaux wine region. The appellations range from the world-famous Medoc appellation to the lesser-known but lovely Entre-Deux-Mers. Unbeknownst to many, the Bordeaux wine region produces delicious whites on top of its famous reds. Altogether, Bordeaux wineries produce 2.5 billion dollars worth of wine per year from 900 million bottles!
Over 86% of wines in the Bordeaux wine region are reds made from Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc grapes.
The Bordeaux wine region is arguably the most famous wine region on Earth. The unique nutrient-dense soil has filtered down over centuries from the Pyrenees mountains, through the Garonne and Dordogne rivers, into the ocean, forming the Bordeaux wine region.
You may also find that the people from this region of France are more down-to-Earth and welcoming than their Northern neighbors. This makes touring Bordeaux wineries a warm and pleasant experience.
For a closer look at the appellations, let’s pull out the Bordeaux wine map:
South of the Gironde estuary, we have the Left Bank, which includes eight Medoc appellations (including Margaux, Haut-Médoc, Pauillac, etc.), Graves (including Pessac- Leognan), and Sauternes and Barsac.
To the north of the estuary is the Right Bank, which includes the Blaye, Côtes-de-Bourg, Fronsac, Pomerol, and Saint Émilion appellations.
Finally, the Entre-Deux-Mers sub-region is between the two banks. That’s the biggest wine sub-region of Bordeaux and where most of the white wines are produced.
The amount of wineries here is overwhelming and it’s really to decide what region you should go to.
However, here’s a tip from me! Check your visit falls on one of the portes ouvertes events in the region. These are open-door events organized by the different appellations where you have the opportunity to visit several wineries at once. The open-door events are free and open to all. Check out my article about the open days in the chateaux of Bordeaux, to see all the upcoming events.
The 5 Bordeaux wine sub-regions you need to know
Saint Emilion – the Most Famous Bordeaux Wine Region
Saint-Emilion is famous for the hillside architecture that makes it a UNESCO World Heritage site. But don’t let your eyes distract your taste buds. This region’s wines are made from deep Merlot and Cabernet Franc, making the wine soft, and tannin-light. It is home to around 800 wineries.
Saint-Emilion is a land, or terroir (break that out for your tour guide for brownie points), of contradictions. Its people and its wine are warm and approachable, but absolutely elite. The Saint Emilion appellation and its four satellite appellations ( Lussac-Saint-Émilion, Montagne-Saint-Émilion, Puisseguin-Saint-Émilion, and Saint-Georges-Saint-Émilion.) are home to generational wineries. Think old-school families that bought the land years ago and saw the value skyrocket since. But also think of centuries of passed-down knowledge.
The strict guidelines that Saint-Emilion wines must follow are even presided over by the Jurade – a group of people that “bear witness to the traditions of the past.”
Pomerol is another rich red found in the Saint Emilion region. It is fruity, dark, and very drinkable.
Consider visiting Chateau Pressac for beautiful views and rich family history, Chateau Bernateau for a family-run visit and open grounds, and Chateau Coutet for a 400-year-old winery and scenic view. More information on each can be found in my guide to the wineries of Saint Emilion here.
Before going be sure to check out my articles about Saint Emilion:
Medoc – the most prestigious wine region
Instead of a heavy reliance on Merlot like Saint-Emilion, the 584 Medoc wineries grow a more diverse mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot grapes. The Medoc is located on the peninsula between the Gironde estuary and the Atlantic Ocean.
Over many years, the estuary carried mineral-rich water from the Pyrenees, through the Garonne and Dordogne rivers, to form the peninsula. As a result, the soil is resistant to moisture, and is ideal for slow-ripening grapes, resulting in some of the most expensive wines in the world. With good reason – they’re delicious.
Besides being prestigious, Medoc is a leader in innovation for winegrowers across the world. Medoc winemakers were the first to exclude rotten grapes from the vinification process and to age wine in oak barrels, for two of many examples.
Some of the comforting flavors of Medoc wines are red and blackberries, dark cherry, hints of vanilla, and roasted coffee with aging. A perfect wine to relax at home with once you leave the beautiful vineyards of the Medoc. You can imagine that you’re back to bright green vineyards overlooking the water as far as the eye can see!
Some suggestions of wineries to visit in the region are Chateau Loudenne (a chateau with a private port), Château Beychevellel, or Château Lamothe Bergeron. You can find out about visiting these chateaux in my article on visiting the Medoc region.
Graves and Pessac Leognan – The Oldest Wine Region in Bordeaux
The most unique feature of this region is its pine forests. The trees protect the vines from the humidity and wind native to the Bordeaux wine region. It is the only region that makes a significant amount of both red and white wines. If you love the outdoors, this is the region for you, with the beautiful vineyards and pines all around.
The red wines created by Pessac’s 29 wineries have a breadth of flavor that is unique to the region: from smoky and cassis-filled wines to light, drinkable wines. The reds are made from Cabernet Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. The whites are made from Sauvignon Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Muscadelle.
The dry white wines produced here are crisp and citrus, green apples, and honey. Just the smell transports me to one of the oyster shacks in the Bassin d’Arcachon. Bordelais people flock to these incredibly cheap and high-quality oyster providers every spring, summer, and fall (whenever they can) to gorge themselves on oysters, shrimp, and glasses of Pessac. If you’re interested in combining these two great pleasures of the region – its wine and oysters – see my article on the Bay of Arcachon.
Some winery suggestions in Pessac Leognan are:
Château Pape Clément in Pessac
Château Pape Clément is a Grand Cru Classé wine labeled under the Pessac Leognan appellation. The château offers daily visits in both French and English as well as winemaking workshops where you can assemble your own wine.
Château Larrivet Haut Brion
A beautiful estate with stunning gardens and a very artistic Vat room. The winery is located around 20 minutes’ drive from Bordeaux. Book your visit here.
The best way is to rent a car but you can also visit many chateaux in Pessac Leognan by public transport. Find more details in my article on car-free winery visiting.
Sauternes and Barsac -discover the white sweet wine of Bordeaux
To take a break from dry white wines and dive into sweet ones, Sauternes is your go-to. The subregion benefits from noble rot – the shrooms that form on the vines from the morning mist from the humidity of the Garonne and Dordogne rivers. This gives the grapes a great variety of concentration, acidity, and complexity. The assemblages produced here include Semillion, Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris, and Muscadelle grapes.
As a fan of the occasional glass of sweet wine, I find the rich, amber color and the sweet flavors of peach and even “brioche” are the perfect end to a weekend spent among friends and family. A sweet – but not too sweet! – end to time spent enjoying myself before starting the working week.
My favorite wineries in this region include Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey if you’re feeling fancy, Chateau d’Arche for 17th-century views, and Chateau Guiraud, which has made it into the big leagues: Grand Cru Classé. There are only 27 wineries in this region. You can find more details on these vineyards in my guide to Sauternes here.
How to Get There
You have to have a car to visit this region. Otherwise, take a train to Langon and a taxi from there.
Blaye and Bourg
This region is actually two regions, named – you guessed it – Blaye and Bourg. It produces dry white wines from Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon grapes and drinkable red wines from Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The region contains another UNESCO world heritage site in Bordeaux – the Vauban Citadel.
Both are two of the most beautiful villages around Bordeaux.
What is unique about the region is the ability to see it from the boat, on the river. It is a quieter experience than some of the other subregions and has its own wonders. These include white stone buildings, valleys of green vineyards, water views, and roman churches. Imagine yourself as the hero or heroine in a movie about “remote” romantic wine regions in France.
Wineries to Visit in Blaye and Bourg
Entre Deux Mers – the white wine of Bordeaux
Entre-deux-Mers is located between the Garonne and Dordogne rivers and is bordered by the estuary formed by the two rivers in the North. Its soil is made of gravel and limestone. It classically produces dry white wines that are wonderful for a lunch on the terrace.
However, in the 20th century, winery owners in the region saw the writing on the wall and many replaced their white grape plants with red.
Only the white wines from the region can be labeled under the Entre deux Mers appellation. The red varieties produced in this region can only be called Bordeaux or Bordeaux Superior. Although wine experts claim that the wine in this region pales in comparison to that of the other wine regions, Bordeaux Superior is pretty good. It is soft, but not light, and makes me think of charcuterie boards shared with a loved one in a cramped Parisian apartment, vespa rides, and discovering France.
In the Entre Deux Mers region, you can also find excellent sweet wines like Sainte-Croix-du-Mont and Loupiac.
Entre Deux Mers is home to Chateau Biac, home to the Asseily family. Youmna, the matriarch, is well-known for her mastery of wine and French food and for her amazing hospitality. A visit to Chateau Biac feels like a visit between friends. Youmna is a perfect example of the warmth of the vineyard owners in this region.
Another great estate to visit is Chateau Lestrille, which produces red, white, and rose wines.
How to Visit Wineries in Bordeaux
There are many ways to visit wineries in the Bordeaux wine region. You can take a group tour, or a private guide, or do it on your own by train, car, or even biking.
Let’s break down the options.
Taking a tour guide in Bordeaux
Going on a group/ private tour will most probably leave you with better knowledge about the wines of Bordeaux. It also takes off the stress of organizing the visit and you can drink a lot of wine without worrying about driving back to Bordeaux.
The downside of it is usually the price. Taking a guide can be pretty expensive.
If you’re looking for a wine tour from Bordeaux, here are a few good options:
An electric Bike wine tour – a fun bike tour that includes a visit to two chateaux, a picnic, and a stunning ride in the vineyards of Saint Emilion. Book here.
Wine touring by public transport
Most wineries are located in very rural parts of the region and require a car to get to. Having said that, you have a few great chateaux in Saint Emilion, Medoc, and Pessac Leognan you can visit by train or buy.
Read my article about the best wineries in Bordeaux to visit by public transport.
Visiting wineries by car
Now let’s talk about my favorite option which is discovering the wineries of Bordeaux on your own by car. I feel like driving along the vineyards is an important part of the experience, which also allows getting to more distant chateaux.
Also if you have a car or rent one in advance, it can be a rather cheap experience, compared to an organized wine tour. If you’re looking to rent a car, here’s a website to help you choose the best deal in Bordeaux.
If you’re visiting Bordeaux for the first time, be sure to check up my ultimate guide to Bordeaux, which will get you familiar with all the “must” places to visit in Bordeaux. To help you to choose a hotel in Bordeaux I’ve gathered a list of the best hotels in the center of Bordeaux as well as a guide to the districts of Bordeaux to help you choose your preferred location.
You can also get plenty of tips on things to do in the Southwest of France via lost in Bordeaux’s social media accounts and email list, check them out here:
*Note – Some of the links in this article include affiliate links for which I earn a small commission. It adds absolutely nothing to your cost and helps me continue writing about this amazing region. Don’t worry, I’m not getting rich here, I’ll never recommend anything I don’t believe in 🙂