Harvest season is starting in Médoc – the grapes are soon ready to be picked and bottled into vintage ‘crus’. There’s something in the air that’s so powerful and potent these days, as if it was nature’s way of saying: “I am ready."
This is the best period to learn about wine: following the grapes from the vines to the vat-room, observing the first fermentations, being able to taste the wines during the different vinification stages; this is the best introduction to the know-how and the methods necessary for the production of a great wine. At this time of the year many wineries welcome you at their table for the wine-grower lunch and of course tasting!
In the Médoc area, Château Paloumey and Château du Taillan open their doors to the public and give explanations about the harvesting techniques. It is a once in a lifetime experience to assist in the harvest of Bordeaux wines and to have the opportunity to participate in this yearly ritual.
If you just have one day to spend in this wonderful region, start your day in the city of Bordeaux with a coffee at the terrace of the Regent Café in Place de la Comédie to look at the Bordelais rushing to their work while you admire the Opera house, the temple of the Arts and Lights with its neoclassical facade. Do not forget to stop at Maison Larnicol, just at the corner, 1 rue de l'Intendance, where you'll taste a mouth-watering selection of chocolates, macaroons and specialist cakes from Georges Larnicol.
Stroll down to the quais towards Place de la Bourse, originally built as a royal square, dedicated to the French ruler Louis XV. It is, also known as Place Royale, one of Bordeaux’s most beautiful squares. Place de la Bourse and its surrounding buildings are seen as a perfect example of Bordeaux architecture at the end of the 18th century. Across the street, along the Garonne river you'll find “Miroir des Quais”, “The Quay Mirror”. This water mirror covers a massive 3450 m2, which makes it the largest water mirror in the whole world!
Now it is time to treat yourself to a fantastic lunch at the elegant and sophisticated Le Gabriel Restaurant overlooking the Place de la Bourse. One couldn't ask for a better view of bustling Bordeaux and the opportunity to savor traditional Bordeaux cuisine in a restaurant that received its Michelin star after only 8 months in operation. The decor is elegant to match the food and wine. Business menu: 39 € and Gastronomic menu: “Menu du marché” (4 course meal) runs at 65 €.
Now take your car to leave Bordeaux and head towards the Medoc. Driving along France’s D2 highway, the Route des Châteaux just north of Bordeaux on the Médoc peninsula is hemmed in on both sides by row upon row of vineyards as far as the eye can see. The names on road signs tick off a fabulous list: Margaux, Latour, Lafite and Mouton Rothschild, Palmer, Léoville Barton, Pichon Longueville, Cos d’Estournel…If you wish to visit some of the wineries call a few days ahead to schedule your visits.
Make a stop in Margaux village to have a look at the famous Château Margaux’s stunning Palladian façade, especially when you are strolling along the long tree-lined footpath leading to it.
On the way to Pauillac, in Cussac Fort Medoc, drive to the river and visit Fort Medoc. This Vauban fortification was built under Louis XIV's decision in 1689, to protect Bordeaux from intruders.
Arriving in Pauillac, take time to stop in the minuscule hamlet of Bages and have a coffee at the Café Lavinal—both a brasserie and café where vintners and tourists converge. Facing Lavinal is a traditionally styled boulangerie, Au Baba d’Andréa, with terrific bread, pastries and cakes; and a boutique, Bages’ Bazaar, offering wines, gourmet food items, tablewear and linens. There is some good eating in the Médoc as well, and you should be sure to try the region’s tender and delicate Pauillac lamb somewhere along the way.
After a well-deserved pause, return to Bordeaux along D1 highway, back at your hotel indulge yourself by drinking a glass of an 1855 Grand Cru Classé wine. Santé!
Thanks for the tantalising itinerary, Beatrice! If any travelers are fortunate enough to be heading to Bordeaux this fall, consider getting in touch with Beatrice to explore this charming region with a charming local.