Experience the wine harvest in Bordeaux

Bordeaux-hero

For wine lovers, Bordeaux is the ultimate destination. Plan a visit to witness the remarkable harvest season.

If you consider yourself a lover of wine, you’ll no doubt hold the Bordeaux region in Southwest France in high regard. With regimented rows of grapevines lining the rolling hills of vineyards as far as the eye can see, it’s an oenophile’s paradise. One of the most interesting times of year for wine lovers is undoubtedly the harvest season, but the city of Bordeaux itself has plenty to offer all year round.

Bordeaux

Where in France: Gironde, Nouvelle-Aquitaine
Drive from Calais: 867km / 7h 50m

When somewhere gets the seal of approval from Her Majesty, you know it’s special. After her last visit to Bordeaux, the Queen remarked that the city is “the very essence of elegance”, and of course, she wasn’t wrong.

The Miroir d'Eau in front of the Place de la Bourse is most spectacular at night
The Miroir d'Eau in front of the Place de la Bourse is most spectacular at night.

Around half of the city has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the largest urban area of anywhere in the world. It exudes charm with its majestic 18th century architecture, nowhere epitomises the grandeur of Bordeaux as perfectly as the Place de la Bourse. With regal airs reminiscent of Versailles, the elegant symmetry of the Palais de la Bourse is really brought to life by the Miroir d'Eau in front of the building, particularly at night when the reflection in the shallow water is illuminated.

Bordeaux is home to many beautiful churches, but none quite match the splendour of the Cathédrale St-André. The oldest section of the cathedral dates back to 1096, but most of what you see dominating the skyline is from later additions made in the 13th and 14th centuries. The main attraction for visitors is climbing the 231 steps up the 50m-high Gothic tower to be rewarded with panoramic views of the city below. There are also often concerts held in the church where you can go and see live music.

Admire the views from the Gothic tower of the Cathédrale St-André
Admire the views from the Gothic tower of the Cathédrale St-André.

Before you head out of the city to explore the vineyards, pay a visit to the Cité du Vin museum dedicated to wine. The building itself, beautifully situated on the banks of the River Garonne, has been thoughtfully designed to resemble a decanter, clad in silver and gold metal that catches the light just right. Inside you’ll find sensory exhibitions covering everything from grape varieties and cultivation methods, to new trends and famous personalities. The tour ends with a glass of wine or grape juice to whet your appetite before exploring the region further.

How to make the most of the Bordeaux harvest season

The Bordeaux wine harvest begins in early September and is one of the best times to visit the châteaux of the region. The sun is still beaming its warmth down upon the countryside, and the vineyards are alive with activity. As you can imagine, there are numerous beautiful vineyards in the Bordeaux region to choose from, each with its own unique qualities and reasons to visit. At some, you can join in with the harvest – be warned, though, it’s hard work – whilst others simply offer expert-led tastings.

The wine harvest season begins in early September
The wine harvest season begins in early September.

Maison du Vin de Saint-Émilion

This is the wine school of the Saint-Émilion region and the perfect place to start your visit, whether you’re a seasoned wine enthusiast, or new to the game. The oenologists at the Maison du Vin de Saint-Émilion will talk you through all the basics, as well as some of the finer points for more advanced tasters.

There are a number of short courses for you to choose from on which you’ll learn what to expect and look out for when tasting specific wines, which will steer you in the right direction for the rest of your trip. Head to their website for more information.

Château Pape Clément

One of the oldest wine estates in the region, you can feel the history of Château Pape Clément emanating from every grape at this stunning vineyard. The first harvest dates all the way back to 1252, which means that fine wines have been produced on the estate for over 750 years, however back then it was known as the Domaine de la Mothe.

Your visit to Château Pape Clément will really be brought to life with one of the tours or workshops they offer their guests. From simple wine tastings, ranging from three to eight wines, to more elaborate pairings with cheese, to winemaker workshops where you’ll learn to make your own souvenir bottle, you won’t soon forget your visit to this estate.

The iconic Château Lafite Rothschild as seen on the labels of some of the world’s finest wines
The iconic Château Lafite Rothschild as seen on the labels of some of the world’s finest wines.

Château Lafite Rothschild

For one of the most exclusive tours in the region, visit the spectacular Château Lafite Rothschild vineyard. The wines from this estate were the first of only four to be classified in Bordeaux’s coveted Premier Cru, or First Growth, grouping in 1855, the highest ranking bestowed on wine.

Places on vineyard tours are limited to just 15 people, so make sure to book early. You will explore the estate in all its grandeur before being invited to taste some of the finest wines in the world in an unparalleled experience. If you fancy buying a souvenir bottle to take home, however, be prepared to pay for quality.

If all this talk of wine has whet your appetite and inspired you to drive down to Bordeaux, remember to book your tickets with us in advance to take advantage of the best fares available.