Bordeaux’s first vineyards were planted by the Romans in 43AD. The invading Romans were occupying Gaul and wanted to make wine for their thirsty, war-weary soldiers. However it took a love story for the region’s reputation to really grow. In the 12th century Henry Plantagenet (King of England) married Eleanor of Aquitaine and claret, Bordeaux’s flagship blend, became a major export to England. Today the region has more than 120,000 hectares under vine, which makes it the largest region in France.
Just a train trip from Paris
You’ll find Bordeaux in the South West of France, a fast and easy train trip from Paris. For tourists, self-drive trips are hugely popular, but there are also plenty of tours. Bordeaux is most famous for its reds, which account for around 90% of production. The region is also known for its Sauternes, sweet or dessert wines, considered the world’s best.
Climate and geography
The geological foundation is limestone. The soils are sand, gravel and clay. With ideal rainfall and sunshine, the growing season is long and mild. Bordeaux loosely means ‘along the waters’ and is a reference to the Garonne and Dordogne rivers and the resulting Gironde Estuary, which irrigate the land and help create an Atlantic or oceanic climate.
Bordeaux reds are considered some of the most prestigious wines in the world. Wines are blended from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, with the occasional addition of Petit Verdot and Malbec. Local reds are generally medium-bodied and elegant, with dark berry fruits, cassis and violet floral notes. They are well-balanced, displaying cedary French oak complexity supported by fine tannins.
Bordeaux whites are mostly blended from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. They are generally young, fresh styles, displaying stone fruit, and grassy and citrusy freshness. Barrel-matured on lees, they show toasty, honeyed characters with rich texture.
Sweet wines produced in Bordeaux are renowned for being hedonistically sweet, with great concentration of flavour and intense botrytis richness.
The Bordeaux Wine Festival
Every two years in June, thousands of adoring food and wine lovers flock to Bordeaux for the Bordeaux Wine Festival. A key event is the famous ‘wine road’. Visitors walk a 2km stretch along the banks of the Garonne, enjoying the rich diversity of Bordeaux wines. Tasting workshops and master classes are also a feature.