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Bordeaux is one of the most famous wine regions in the world, and thus an obvious destination for wine lovers. While you can do your own tour of the region by car, if you don’t have a car, or you don’t want to deal with a designated driver, a wine tasting tour of Bordeaux is an excellent way to have experts guide you through the region’s wine.
After doing some research, I booked a full day wine experience with a company called Bordovino through Viator. Their reviews on TripAdvisor are excellent. Bordovino have been leading wine tasting tours of Bordeaux & conducting educational seminars about wine since 2010. They are also a wine broker.
With a full day at my disposal, I opted for their Bordeaux Super Saver: Wine Tasting, Lunch and Tour, which combines two of their wine experiences in one.
Small-Group Wine Tasting and Workshop in Bordeaux
The day of wine began with a Small-Group Wine Tasting and Workshop in Bordeaux. The tasting & workshop are an excellent introduction to Bordeaux wines. Unless you’re already an expert, it’s a good way to learn about what makes the region’s wine special. Bordeaux is 4x the size of Napa Valley & has around 8,000 wineries, so there’s a lot to learn.
Remi led our workshop & tasting. It was me along with 3 guys from Switzerland. Although they all spoke French, Remi did an excellent job of making sure I was included by translating everything into English as well.
The workshop contained a wealth of information. I won’t bore you with too many facts, but I came away with a better sense of local wine, which prepared me for my later wine tasting tour of Bordeaux. Drinking wine while learning also always helps.
Some of the more interesting knowledge centered around the regulations that protect Bordeaux wine, along with other French products. Known as AOC, the Appelation d’Origine Contrôlée rules show how seriously the French take their food & drink. Some other rules include the number of vines allowed per acre and the ban on vineyard irrigation.
For centuries, Bordeaux belonged to the English, which was great for the industry because the region’s wine could easily be shipped to England via the Port of the Moon. This all came to an end in 1453, and Bordeaux wine had to be shipped to the rest of Europe instead.
The concept of terroir is important with French wine. The weather, geography, and soil all have an impact on the wine produced. Bordeaux specializes in blended wines, particularly featuring Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec. While French wines don’t have to label what is in the blend, each bank of the Garonne has different soil & grape preferences. The Left Bank red wines tend to have more Cabernet Sauvignon, while the Right Bank reds have more Merlot. The Left Bank includes Medoc, the newer area of vineyards which was swampland until the 15th cenutry. The wineries here tend to be larger, as opposed to the smaller chateaus on the Right Bank.
As we learned about Bordeaux wine, we dove into the tasting. We tried a few different wines, then experimented with blending. While we drank, we ate comté cheese, meat, and chocolate. Tasting & smelling is personal & subjective, but suffice to say that the wines we had were good. Remi told us about a Russian guest on one of his tours who thought a wine smelled like toilet water. That says a lot about Russian wine as well as the propensity of Russians to smell toilets.
The final part of our education & tasting was a blind test based on the knowledge we acquired. We were given 4 wines from around France. & had to guess what each one was. I got 1 of the 4 correct.
With the workshop & tasting complete, I was the only one staying for lunch since I was doing two tours in one. Lunch consisted of a nice piece of quiche and a glass of my favorite wine from the tasting (Louis Jadot Domaine Gagey Bourgogne Le Chapitre). It was all finished off with a slice of apple pie.
It was nice to be able to sit & chat with Remi & learn more while I ate. Bordovino know their wine, and the workshop is a nice introduction for the day before heading out on a wine tasting tour of Bordeaux.
Small-Group St-Emilion Wine Tasting and Chateaux Tour from Bordeaux
After lunch, we headed off in a small van to pick up a few more people at the Bordeaux Tourist Information Center who were doing the Small-Group St-Emilion Wine Tasting and Chateaux Tour from Bordeaux, then headed east toward St-Emilion & Pomerol.
The drive to the first stop on our wine tasting tour of Bordeaux took about 45 minutes. Along the way, we learned about Bordeaux wine. Remi did a solid job of incorporating new facts so I wasn’t just hearing the same information I’d heard that morning. St-Emilion is the oldest wine-making area of Bordeaux. Winemaking began with the monasteries & abbeys there.
Our first stop was at Chateau de Sales, one of the oldest wineries in Bordeaux. Marjorie, our guide through the chateau, told us that the same family has owned Chateau de Sales since 1464. The family is currently in its 23rd generation of ownership.
As you can imagine, there’s plenty of history in the place. The house was built sometime in the 17th century. Nobody is quite sure when, since the records were burned during the French Revolution. The property is massive, with a 90 acre garden also filling some of the space that is not devoted to the vines.
Despite the land extending far & being one of the largest vineyards in the Right Bank, Chateau de Sales still feels like a family business. Everything is produced on site. The concrete tanks in the 17th century cellar hold the wine that’s in production. Samples are taken, and if the family doesn’t love that particular year’s wine, they won’t bottle it. When bottles are produced, Chateau de Sales bottles 200-250k bottles per year across 2 different labels.
Our visit to Chateau de Sales concluded with a tasting.
The second winery we visited on our wine tasting tour of Bordeaux was Chateau de Ferrand in St-Emilion. It’s another large winery for the area, but it doesn’t feel like it. It does have more of a visitors center than Chateau de Sales, however. There are several top ranking levels for vineyards in St-Emilion, and Chateau de Ferrand as listed as Grand Cru Classé.
Chateau de Ferrand has been in operation since the 17th century and currently produces around 150k bottles per year. During that time, it has been owned by just two families. In 1978, it was purchased by Baron Bich. If you don’t know the name, perhaps it will come to mind if you remove the “h”. Yes, he’s the pen guy.
After walking around the cellar, including the concrete tanks, we had a tasting. We tried the 2009 & 2010 editions, then as a special bonus we tried the 2006 since there was another tasting going on.
To close out our day-long wine tasting tour of Bordeaux, we went to the village of Saint-Emilion, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a gorgeous place that’s could be an entire day trip by itself. We arrived just before sunset, and then watched the sky turn to a beautiful pastel palette as the lights of the town came to life.
Before heading back to Bordeaux in the dark, we took a quick walk around Saint-Emilion, passing some of its picturesque towers, churches, & rooftops, some of which cling to the limestone.
My full day experience of a wine tasting tour of Bordeaux with Bordovino was fantastic. I learned tons about the Bordeaux wine scene, while also getting to taste plenty of wine. The scenery at all of our stops was great as well, especially in Saint-Emilion. While there are places that I would have loved to have spent more time in, the tour was a great way to get an overview of one of the world’s finest wine regions.