Many of the world’s most famous wines come from Bordeaux , but so do vast numbers you will never have heard of. It is a huge wine region, with thousands of producers, nearly five dozen different appellations and several different regions. I visit two or three times a year, cramming in several chateaux on each day, and barely feel that I have scratched the surface. But, happily, it’s easy to dip in and out, so here I’ve suggested five producers that would make a good visit. Each is in a different region and offers a different style of wine.
In each case I’ve also added other recommendations that would turn a quick wine pit-stop into a more in-depth discovery of that particular area. But my top tip, if you really love wine, would be to buy a map and spend some time pootling around in the car.
Yes, rely on the satnav for directions, but with a good, old-fashioned paper map and the view from the window, you can really begin to understand how the vineyards fit together, and how one set of flavours begins to meld into another as you move, say, from St Julien to Pauillac, or from the limestone plateau in St Émilion to the sandy lower ground.
Even if you’re not interested in wine, Bordeaux is in so many ways the perfect mini-break destination. Don’t just confine yourself to the vineyards. The city itself, with its neoclassical architecture, gracious boulevards, and long trading history, has been transformed by a huge regeneration programme.
Now you can stretch your legs with the skateboarders and runners on the remodelled quais; admire the water mirror opposite Place de la Bourse; call into the central market for oysters and a glass of wine; and eat at one of the city’s many hip restaurants.
Cap Ferret – where the Bordeaux chateaux owners go to unwind on summer weekends – is only an hour’s drive away. This beautiful headland has vast sandy beaches; pine trees; a lighthouse; Atlantic surf; and a fabulous beachside moules-frites restaurant (Chez Hortense) where you can sit drinking a chilled bottle of under-rated white bordeaux while looking out across the bay to the Dune du Pilat (the tallest in Europe).
If the weather is clement, you’d be crazy not to go.