The ultimate guide to Tour the Bordeaux Region's Wineries

20 June 2023
Vine leaf_ext Spa_MCellard 2011

Uncover the exceptional wineries of the Bordeaux region. Get insider tips on wine tasting and find the perfect starting point at Les Sources de Caudalie.

The Bordeaux region benefits from both limestone soil and an abundance of fresh water from the Gironde estuary. Its tributaries, the Dordogne, Garonne and Drone rivers, water the Bordeaux vineyards throughout the year, creating ideal conditions for wine-growing. The Romans were the first to take advantage of this fertile land when they first planted vines in the first hundred years of the Julian calendar. Wine production has been prolific ever since. Bordeaux is in the county of Aquitaine, so when the future King Henry II of England married Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1154, it was only a matter of years before the finest Bordeaux vineyards began exporting their precious wines to England, as they had greatly impressed his majesty and his guests. This led to the explosion and diversification of wine production as wineries multiplied in the region over the following centuries. It also made Bordeaux the best and most versatile wine-tasting region to visit to this day.

Les Sources de Caudalie: the ideal location for a Grands Crus wine tour in Bordeaux

In order to classify this myriad of Bordeaux winemakers for the forthcoming sales at the Paris Universal Exhibition, Napoleon III demanded that the wines and the Châteaux in which they were produced be classified. Published in 1855, this classification gave rise to the name 'Grands Crus Classés', a classification which - to the frustration of some oenologists - remains the same today. Les Sources de Caudalie is ideally located for a wine tour of the Bordeaux region. The hotel is in the Graves region, a little further down the road is the Sauternes region, where its sweet white Grand Cru Classé wine is produced at Château Eyquem. In addition, most of the Grands Crus Classés châteaux mentioned above grow and bottle the world's most expensive and luxurious wines north of the city of Bordeaux, about an hour's drive from Martillac. For lesser-known, off-the-beaten-track and more affordable but still exquisite vineyards, visitors should sample the wine produced at Château Citran in the north of Bordeaux. And just a 10-minute drive from Les Sources de Caudalie is Château Carbonnieux, which produces an exceptional dry white wine. The hotel's concierge service will be happy to answer any questions you may have about visiting vineyards in the Bordeaux region. Self-guided tour plans, recommendations for guided tours by passionate experts and cycling tours such as the one guided by Julien, the hotel's personal trainer, which starts at the gateway to Les Sources de Caudalie, are available to guests.

Touring the Bordeaux region : wine-tasting tips

When embarking on a tour of the different wineries across Bordeaux, knowing how to taste wine is key.

First, the eyes. When swirling wine in a glass, a wine connoisseur will pay close attention to the 'disc', the area where the precious liquid comes into contact with the glass. The colour of the 'disc' will tend towards reds and purples when the wine is young, while older wines will generally display a coppery, almost golden hue.

Then there's the nose. By swirling the wine, the aromas attach themselves to the oxygen, making it much easier to get past the smell of the alcohol and allow its bouquet to reach the nostrils. When you 'sniff' a red Bordeaux wine, you should look for a scent of undergrowth and mushroom mixed with fragrant nuances of berries, such as blackcurrant or even cherry.

Finally, the mouth. A sip of wine should be swirled around the mouth for each taste bud and each part of the tongue that signals one of the five flavours - sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami - to receive sensory information. Rustling also allows the wine to warm up a little, a technique that will reveal all its aromas, some of which may linger and become more complex on the palate after just one sip. This length is measured in "caudalie", hence the name of the 5-star hotel Les Sources de Caudalie!

Visiting Bordeaux wineries, whatever their prestige or price tag, means educating your palate and discovering your taste. It may all seem rather complicated, but the main question is: does it taste good? Visitors should never hesitate to discuss and engage in dialogue with cellar staff and winemakers, because what stands in their glasses is often the result of generations of hard work and passion.
Bear in mind that preferences and opinions or comments will sharpen as you try as wide a variety of wines as possible. There's nothing like visiting the vineyards of Bordeaux to get that kind of education.