Bordeaux – the Promised Land for wine aficionados, a historic and famous yet remarkably undiscovered city tucked away in the midst of French vineyards and quaint villages.
The epicentre of a wine region so well-known to the world, boasting a sophisticated lifestyle and a classy low-key population, has miraculously recreated itself over the last few years, becoming the South of France’s hottest destination. More connected that ever and recently voted by the French themselves as the most desirable place to live in the country – and equally by Lonely Planet as the world’s top city to visit in 2017 –, it’s time to plan a wine weekend to chic Bordeaux!
Jet into the city’s Bordeaux–Mérignac Airport, just a 20-minute drive from the must-sees and dos, and the best accommodation options. If you’re business tripping or merrily shopping in Paris, whiz down to Bordeaux on the new high-speed train from the capital.
Make Hôtel Le Saint-James your wine weekend base camp. Located up on the hill in pretty Bouliac, a little village known as the balcony of Bordeaux for its glorious views over the city, Le Saint-James is really everything you could dream of for a French getaway – it’s got you covered for gastronomy, art, architectural charm, and of course wine! From this exceptional Relais & Châteaux hôtel d’achitecte, you can expect colourful corridors lined with hundreds of pieces of ever-changing art and expansive design rooms complete with plush king-sized beds, Citizen Femme-approved wardrobes (hurrah), Hermès products, and postcard views over the city and vineyards, naturally!
In October, wine-loving guests are able to take part in Le Saint-James’ annual grape harvest from which the hotel produces around 600 bottles of their very own Vin du Jardin. You’ll want a glass or two over dinner to wash down their exquisite Michelin dishes, all designed to showcase the freshest, most delectable local ingredients. Read the full review here!
It’s pretty difficult to comprehend how Bordeaux once survived without a wine museum, but until the summer of 2016 that was the case! The city is now more than making up for lost time with the new Cité du Vin, also referred to as France’s “wine theme park” – oh la la! This wine-lover’s playground, standing tall and designed to resemble the “swirling” of wine in a glass, is more like an interactive, multi-sensorial science museum, taking you on a voyage through the vast history and cultures of wine.
La Cité du Vin, rightfully based in the wine capital of the world, goes far beyond just paying tribute to the region – an afternoon here and you could quickly become an expert in niche wines from Greece and as far afield as Chile or Australia too. The museum also houses an unbelievable round wine shop, with towering library-esque shelves fully stocked with 800 wines rather than books, and three tasting rooms. Speed through in a few hours, or take your time wandering around the varied exhibition on what feels like a self-taught introductory course to becoming a master sommelier – santé!
Armed with your impressive new wine knowledge, head over to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Saint-Emilion for a tasting at Château La Dominque’s contemporary winery. While you’re sipping on merlot and patiently waiting for your palate to pick up the vanilla, cedar and deep tobacco notes, you’re in for an eyebrow-raising lesson in French wine production – apparently it’s illegal to water your grape vines in France… who knew! For panoramic views over the vineyards, Château La Dominique also has a gorgeous rooftop terrace complete with a curious wine grape pool to stomp around in.
In Saint-Emilion, just half an hour from Bordeaux, explore the cobbled streets and the quintessential cheese and wine shops on the short (but thigh-burning) walk up to the bell tower, where you’ll have fantastic views over the town’s picturesque scenery. It’s the kind of fairy-tale location that’ll make you feel so thoroughly immersed in Europe and French culture. Salute your wine weekend CF-style with some al fresco gourmet food and some final cork popping as the sun goes down on this delightful medieval town. It’s the perfect way to round off your voyage to the vineyards.