Pablo and I decided to go wine tasting during a long weekend to France. Bordeaux is the world’s major wine industry capital. And it’s absolutely crazy! It has has about 116,160 hectares of vineyards, 57 appellations (try to learn what this is before going) and not less than 10,000 wine-producing châteaux. That is crazy. Isn’t it?
Bordeaux produces 960 million bottles per year approximately. A lot of is regular, table or everyday wine, but also some of the most expensive wines in the world are produced here in Bordeaux.
When planning the trip, we faced the difficult task of choosing amongst thousands of chateaux. Oh mon dieu! But after some research, we ended up deciding on three. They were all good in their own way.
Our choice of châteaux
Best value: Château de La Dauphine
Tour: Tasting Tour
Cost per person: 10 EUR
Wine: Very good!
This was with no doubt and by far the best value tour we did during our weekend in Bordeaux and the one I enjoyed the most. The tour ended up being private as it was only us doing it that day. Our guide walked us through the castle, telling us its story. A visit to the vineyards is what followed, where we tasted the grapes and were introduced to biodynamic wine agriculture.
We then went to the technical facilities where the wine vats and other tools live. The technology used was very interesting and very well explained. Then, we visited the cellar which is kind one of the last steps of the wine process, just before blending and bottling.
And last, the tasting! Our guide explained us how to best taste the wines and gave us various cool tips. This is the only tour where they did this so meticulously. We then played a game where we had to guess certain smells that are found within the wines.
Wine tasting followed! We tasted three wines. The amount of wine poured was the most generous in the three tours, and all the wines we tasted were delicious. We bought a bottle and we actually hugged our tour guide on the way out.
Best wine and chateau: Château Pape Clement
Tour: Tour and Tasting
Cost per person: 20 EUR
This tour was extremely enjoyable, mainly because of the beauty and history of the estate and also because of the great wines we tasted. This is the oldest wine estate in Bordeaux and also a Grand Cru. The tour begins in the wine shop just outside the château. This time, a group of 6/7 people joined us. The format is very similar to the one explained for the first château. First, the vineyards, then the castle, followed by the vat storage and last, the wine cellar. There are of course differences between all châteaux in how things are done in the wine making process, which materials are used, etcetera, but the foundations are generally the same.
The big difference here is that because the estate is so old, there is history everywhere! The château belonged to an archbishop who later became Pope and had to leave the estate to the church. Later, the revolutionaries of the French Revolution confiscated the estate from the church. There is a tree standing which they planted! Then, there is a replica of the Pope’s grave, a chapel, and a mini cellar where we can see wine bottles as old as 1893. And I know what you are thinking but that’s just too old for wine, they are undrinkable!
Last, there is a conservatory in the garden which is not only gorgeous but whose architect was Gustave Eiffel. I am also quite positive I saw a Degas in the toilet! I think you get the point.
The last part is always the tasting. Both the effort in explaining how to taste the wine and the liquid quantity poured were less than in Château de La Dauphine, but still quite good. The wines however, were heaven. We even tested a 2007 worth 99 EUR. The only bad thing is that they didn’t change the glass between the wines, they just re-poured it without cleaning it.
For both its history and wine his is a château you must not miss!
Most original tour: Château Lamothe Bergeron
Cost per person: 12 EUR and 25 EUR respectively
Wine: Not good
Reflections: The first sight on the estate is a magical château. Again, the tour happened to be private. Our guide told us that this tour was going to most likely be more original than others. At first I couldn’t really understand how that could be but I soon did.
We started inside the castle which looked like a very modern house, and that’s because the château was restored recently. We soon walked over to a painting in the castle which actually was a screen hence it was “alive”. It was a really cool way of going through the history of the estate!
After that, we moved on to the vineyards. There is a wooden platform standing in altitude just outside the vineyards in order to view them better, also quite thoughtful. Next came the visit to the vat storage room. This was quite interesting. The room was completely dark and the only lights were pink and purple. At a certain point of the explanation, a video projection started. The projection was right on the shape of the vat, in order to explain what actually happens inside the vat in the wine making process. It was just perfect.
The next step, as usual is the cellar where the barrels are. This time, the cellar was a glass box, and soon enough a video began displaying in the front glass wall explaining the blending process. Also super original!
And now, the tasting. Originally both Pablo and I had the Enthusiast tour which included tasting of three wines, but Pablo asked for a last minute change for the VIP one which has 5 wines. They were able to make this change and the tasting began.
The VIP tasting included a smelling game which was exactly the same as the tour we did in Chateau de La Dauphine (although some smells were different). Having already done the game in the tour that was even cheaper than the cheaper version of this castle which didn’t include the game was a bit of a bummer. The good thing is that they they let me play despite having the cheaper version.
After the game, the wines. The amount they poured was minimal, much less than what we had at Chateau de La Dauphine and Pape Clement. The wines lacked body, and the 2007 which was the “best” one tasted a little bit off.
The tour was enjoyable overall, and the techie side of it made it special, but I would suggest that given that the wines are not so good, you take the cheapest version of the tour which is 8 EUR and includes tasting of 2 wines.