Learn about the region’s wine-making traditions with an expert before testing your new-found knowledge on a tour of the city’s best bars
“There is a particular mosaic of soil here – the terroir – which makes our wine so special,” says Benoit-Manuel Trocard, winemaker and teacher at L’École du Vin in Bordeaux. The city is the epicentre of France’s largest wine-growing area. Around 450 million bottles a year are produced here, and, even to a connoisseur, the variety of blends and producers can feel intimidating.
Benoit-Manuel’s lessons demystify the Bordolaise way of making wine. “Wine should not be complex,” he says. “You don’t need to be an expert to appreciate it, you just need to follow your senses. There are no rules.” He explains the differences between regionally specific blends, and which châteaux specialise in different grape combinations. “Bordeaux’s winemakers are enthusiastic about innovation, and love to share their passion with visitors.”
Though it can be fun to drive out and explore those châteaux, a less sober alternative is a walking tour of the wine bars dotted along the city’s winding medieval streets and grand, straight boulevards. At the cellar-like Wine More Time, co-owner Alexandre Lahitte brings out a rare 1982 Château Soutard Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé he saves for special occasions. “Wine is meant to be enjoyed, and we do that well here,” he says, gesturing to a bar full of patrons of all ages, chatting and drinking.
At nearby Aux Quatre Coins du Vin, wines are available either as a taster or a full glass, allowing even those constrained by budget to sample expensive vintages.
One in three of the city’s inhabitants is under 25, and they love wine as much as their forebears. Young oenophiles favour Darwin, an artsy new district occupying old army barracks on the once-industrial right bank of the Garonne river. An emerging centre for gastronomy, the most popular restaurant here is Magasin Général. Its walls arc colourfully decorated with work by local graffiti artists, and families gather for brunch at wooden tables. Naturally the wine list is excellent, but one of the few people not drinking is Martine Macheras, whose bright yellow vintage Citroen 2CV is parked a few foot away. As a tour guide who seeks out the city’s secret comers, as well as the things Bordeaux does best, she is well-used to being everybody’s designated driver.
Rooms at Mama Shelter are designed by Philippe Starck, and t he hotel has a stylish roof terrace.
Take a class at L’Ecolé du Vin and book a Bordeaux 2CVTour.
Download the Urban Wine Trail from the Bordeaux Tourist Office, and find wines at Wine More Time, Aux Quatre Coins du Vin and Magasin Général.