If you followed my last two posts, you know I’ve recently been to a trip in Bordeaux wine region. I’ve spoken about the city, which is amazing (and you can read more here) and I wrote about La Cité du Vin, the best museum in the world in a separate post, because it’s too awesome to describe in a paragraph. When I planned the trip, I never thought I’d be on my 3rd post about this region of France, and to be honest, I could probably write some more.

As you might know, Bordeaux is considered the wine capital of the world. This beautiful region will have you going on a wine trip from château to château. So best to have a designated driver, or hop on a wine bus tour. And believe me, the wine is not the only thing you will enjoy. The architectural design of the châteaux will leave you baffled. From classic french designs, to modern interpretations, Bordeaux wine region is an experience for the senses.

1. Les Châteaux of Bordeaux wine region

With about 8,500 châteaux in the Gironde region, you can imagine that picking where and what to taste can be a a challenge. For me, the first stop was Château La Dominique. Why? Because my friend is an architect and this place is a piece of modern art.

Château La Dominique

Chateau La Dominique was brought in 1969 by its current owner, Clément Fayat. The typical 2 stories Bordeaux-house with dressed stones got a modern architectural facelift by the addition of the red shiny new cellar, designed by architect Jean Nouvel. The roof gives you a panoramic view of the vineyards and it is covered with red glass pebbles imitating the grapes. This illusion takes you back to an an age where grapes were stumped on in the process of wine making.

Then new red and shiny cellar of Château La Dominique, designed by architect Jean Nouvel.
The red terrace of Château La Dominique, taking you back to an age where grapes were stumped on

Like for everything else, in order to get a tour of the vineyard, you need to book it in advance. Of course I did not, hence I could only enjoy the wine tasting. When dealing with a top Château like “La Dominique”, you know that the stories behind the wines are amazing. The picture the staff is portraying about each wine is exactly what you will taste and smell in the glass. For 15€ you will enjoy a selection of 4 wines, adapted to your liking.

Château Soutard

Following a futuristic design, the next stop was the more classic Château Soutard. Walking down the gravel alleys, you’ll get a real sense of royalty. With all the running around, we arrived at the château after closing time, so no wine tasting here. But we did take a tour of the property, snapped a few pictures and got caught by the staff tasting the grapes. The four types of grapes: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec, were so nicely aligned. I just had to know if there is a taste difference.

Beautiful Château Soutard

At Château Soutard, they try to keep it as close to nature as possible. The land is worked as it was in the past, the harvests are done by hand and you will also notice rose bushes planted at the end of each vine row. The main reason is that these will attract insects and diseases before the vines. It’s a great alarm system for the winegrowers. The other historical reason was that in the past, oxen or horses were used to plow the vineyards. Because of the thorns, the animals would turn properly at the end of the row and not hit the posts holding the vines. Nowadays they play a role in aesthetics and are picture perfect elements.

These days, the roses at the end of each vine row have a more aesthetic role than in the past

Château de Pressac

Located in Saint Etienne de Lisse this medieval château will offer you one of the best panoramic views over the vineyards of Bordeaux. Build with defense towers and fortified walls, Château Pressac is indeed like a little castle, that now ‘defends’ exquisite wines and a tradition of several hundred years of wine production.

Château Pressac fortified walls
Panoramic view of the vineyards from Château Pressac (to enjoy it full size, click on the picture)

2. Medieval village of Saint Émilion

If you are visiting Bordeaux wine region, you have to visit Saint Émilion. Part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, it’s one of those places you cannot miss. You will be enchanted by a Monolithic church carved directly in the limestone mountain, the King’s Keep and narrow streets filled with charming restaurants and souvenir shops.

The Monolithic Church in Saint Émilion was carved directly in the limestone mountain.

You can stop and enjoy a delicious lunch at one of the terraces near the Monolithic church. It might be a bit crowded and a bit touristy, but the food is delicious, the wine is exceptional and the waiters will amaze you with their knowledge. If you get your glasses mixed, the waiters can actually tell what wine you are drinking just from the smell and color. That’s a skill to have!

From Rue du Couvent you can enjoy a panoramic view over Saint Émilion

Of course you can’t leave this medieval french village without going for a tasting or at least a visit in one of the wine caves. There are a lot of options you can try in Saint Émilion, some are free, others will charge you a small fee to enter. I visited Les Caves du Manoir, property of Galhaud family. It’s free to visit. You can enter the monolithic cellars, carved from local limestone, walk among the oak barrels, check out their underground chapel and end the tour with a wine tasting.

Make sure you check out the monolithic wine cellars of Saint Émilion

3. Rolling on the sand dunes

About 60 km from Bordeaux, on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, in Arcachon Bay, you will find the largest sand dune in Europe: Dune of Pilat. This is the softest sand I have ever dipped my feet into. And the view is absolutely spectacular! The way the sand blends in with the deep green of the forest on one side, and with the beautiful blue of the ocean on the other side, makes you feel like you’re in a movie.

Dune du Pilat and the Atlantic Ocean: the calm before the storm
Jurassic Park meets Hunger Games type of landscape. Waiting for something to pop out of that green…

The dune is pretty tall – about 110 m and pretty steep. So you’ll get a nice workout climbing it. There is a stairway to go all the way to the top. But believe me, once you feel that amazing sand on your feet, you won’t want to take the stairs. As for going down the other side, and dipping your toes in the ocean, a little bit of warning… the sand can be tricky on the eyes. The water seems close, but once you start descending it feels like the distance grows with every step.

Hey and after all it’s a huge sand box so might as well have a little fun… rolling down the hill!

4. Sweet delights

Bordeaux may be the world wine capital, but it’s also the birthplace of a delicious sweet treat: Canelé. You can enjoy this delicious vanilla and rum pastry all over the Bordeaux region. I recommend you get them freshly made, from a small town square, where there caramelized exterior is still crunchy.

The steps in front of Miroir d’Eau are just the right spot to enjoy a sweet treat

Fantastic wine, impressive architecture & beautiful landscapes – I think this sums up pretty well my experience of Bordeaux wine region. I hope I sparked your interest to book your next trip to this amazing region of France.

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Jaunting Tips

  • To get the best experience of Bordeaux wine region, get a driver or get on a wine bus. It would be a shame not to taste all the amazing wines produced here.
  • For more information and wine tasting tours from Château La Dominique, check out their website here.
  • For more information, wine tasting and bike tours from Château Soutard, check out their website here.
  • More details about the history and the wines of Château de Pressac, and even a helicopter ride over the vineyard, here.