Regardless if you are an oenophile, a vin lover or just getting your feet wet in the wine world, Bordeaux is the most renowned region for wine. Exploring wine, understanding the vinification process and sampling wine, Bordeaux is known for high quality, aged wines, and being the world wine capital. Here you can enjoy some of the world’s most expensive reds and deliciously sweet white wines.
Wine’s existence in Bordeaux began with the Romans who occupied the area in the 1st century. Today Bordeaux is one of the oldest continuously producing wine communities in the world. The key success to the wines of this area is the combination of the maritime climate, the calcium rich soils, and the rivers, the Garonne and Dordogne that provide irrigation year round for continued vine growth.
The heart of the region, centered around the town of Bordeaux, is well known not just for their wines, but as an international destination filled with history and medieval architecture and for its connection to the rivers that flow through the area. The famed Cabernet Sauvignon producing Medoc region is where you will find some of the most esteemed wine villages along the left bank of the Garonne river. And the popular Saint-Émilion region on the right bank of the Dordogne produces Merlot with a reputation for superior wines. But this is not all Bordeaux has to offer, the region is also established for White Bordeaux wines produced from Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadet grapes. Vinified in the cooler parts of Bordeaux, sweet dessert wines are fermented naturally using a process called Botrytis. Botrytis concentrates the sugars in the grapes as they ripen and develops unique flavors that can only be found within this part of the region.
In a nutshell, Oenotourisme is the purpose of traveling that centers around wine. Exploring and enjoying the production of the region plus the cultural heritage that unites it all together is a wine traveler’s dream. With almost 300,000 acres of vineyards and a multitude of wine options, Bordeaux is a top destination. So one might wonder the best way to explore the vast and largest wine growing region of France. The answer is by bicycle. Bicycles will take you on the streets that create Bordeaux’s iconic towns, past the historical monuments, along the rivers, and through the villages that are home to the wineries locally known as châteaux. It is within these villages where you will taste the most respected wines in the world and venture into the vineyards that grow the famed blends.
City of Bordeaux
The heart of the wine region is a bike friendly city offering paths of approximately 400 miles of bicycle trails. Traveling by bike through the walled city centre, you can explore sites like the grandiose Place de la Bourse square with a grand reflecting fountain and the iconic Bordeaux Cathedral. You may also find yourself stopping along the way to enjoy dining in a local cafe, popping into a shop on the Rue Sainte-Catherine or even finding unexpected historical treasures throughout this UNESCO World Heritage city centre.
Within the city of Bordeaux, there are many paths to take you on adventures well beyond the wine regions. Bike through forests, into the outer regions to visit one of the many beautiful parks, like the nature reserve in Barails and you can even cycle all the way to the beaches on the Atlantic coast. Jumping onto one of the many paths available, you never know what hidden discoveries you will find as you explore the area guided or on your own.
A relaxing hour-long ride is all it takes to lead you along both sides of the Garonne river. Start from the bell towers at the Place Pey Berland, cross the Pont de Pierre stone bridge to the right bank of the Garonne. Ride along the shores of the right bank, admiring the views of the city of Bordeaux across the river until you reach the Chaban-Delmas bridge which will take you back to the left bank. Crossing the river, you will find you are near the popular Chartrons district, the perfect stop to enjoy one of the many bistros or taverns before continuing along the river back to the bell towers where you began your ride.
Within reach from the historic centre are the prestigious appellations of the Médoc region. Following “La Route de Vins des Bordeaux” by bicycle, you can enjoy a relaxed ride along the Garonne river into the countryside and through the villages where you will find yourself upon the famed vineyards of Bordeaux.
Traveling from the city of Bordeaux in just 3 hours each way, you pass through some of the highest respected elite first growth wine producing château in France. Château Margaux, Château Pichon Longueville, Château Latour, Château Lafite Rothschild and Château Mouton Rothschild, produce Bordeaux’s most valuable and esteemed wines. By bike, you can leisurely stop along the way and visit the vineyards of these most prestigious wine producers with plenty of time to sample some of the most expensive wines in the world.
Alternately starting in the city, you can head south along the “Route des vins” into the birthplace of the region. The city of Graves is home to the only Premier Cru château outside the northern Medoc region, Château Haut Brion. Continuing on this path, you will pass some of the oldest château, and historical castles as you ride along the vineyards leading you into the Sauternes region to the Château d’Yquem whose vineyards are famed for its sweet White Bordeaux’s.
Although not as accessible as the Left Bank from the city of Bordeaux, with the superb public transportation that Bordeaux offers, visiting the right bank is just a train ride away. Starting from the Gare de Bordeaux St Jean, a 30 minute ride will take you to the city of Libourne, the second largest city center in the Bordeaux region. Located in Saint-Émilion, Libourne is the main city of the Right Bank along the Dordogne river and the commercial location for the wines of the Right Bank and the Entre Deux Mer region.
Saint-Émilion is the prime wine region of the Right bank and along with its neighboring area, Pomerol, as Grand Cru vineyards, produce the highly desired Merlot based blends of Bordeaux.
Embarking on your two and half hour bike ride (without stops) will start from the train station in Libourne. Cycling northwest along the Right Bank of the Dordogne, you will find some of the largest castles, smallest villages and most approachable wines from world famous vineyards as you enjoy your ride to the town of Fronsac. Exploring Fronsac you will find historic sites dating back to Charlemagne and the Roman Empire as well as some highly reputable château vineyards.
From Fronsac, moving east and passing through the French countryside vineyards of the picturesque Pomerol region you will find yourself traveling to the rustic village of medieval St-Émilion, a UNESCO World Heritage site and another historic center for Bordeaux wines. Arriving in St-Émilion, explore the beautiful hilly town, visit the historical church and stop in at a local bistro to enjoy a meal with some locally produced Grand Cru vin before traveling on.
Making your way back towards Libourne from Saint-Emilion, you will reach the Dordogne, and cross the river into the Entre Deux Mer region on your way to Graves de Vayres. Graves de Vayres is known for its terraced vineyards that produce both red sweet Merlot wines and dry white wines produced from Sauvignon Blanc. A reward for your biking travels will be reaching one of the most prestigious medieval castle’s built in the region, the Château de Vayres. Sitting on the left bank of the Dordogne river, a visit to this historic location will offer you a fantastic view into the past royal presence within the Bordeaux region. Exploring the beautiful château and the French and medieval gardens will be the perfect stop before your 30 minute ride traveling back to the Libourne train station.
As the premium wine producer in France, Bordeaux offers many opportunities to fully explore the famed region as a wine traveler. However biking through Bordeaux will offer an immersion that you can not otherwise experience by motor vehicle and is a way to connect with Bordeaux on a more personal level, path by path.
Did you know, many of these biking adventures, in addition to others, are provided excursions on a Bordeaux river cruise starting at the city of Bordeaux. What better way to enjoy seven days of vinitourism on both the Garonne and Dordogne rivers visiting the many châteaux along the way. Familiarizing yourself with the region and sampling some of the finest wines are all expected when visiting Bordeaux. But imagine your experience when you explore on one of the bicycles included onboard, guided or on your own. Spend your time cruising the rivers, bicycling the beautiful French countryside and enjoying the wines that have made this the most famous wine region in the world. Wine travel doesn’t get any better than this!
If this sounds like your perfect vacation, join us starting on June 9, 2022 for a 7 night Bordeaux river cruise. Let us guide you through this fantastic wine experience. Space is limited. Learn more about Traveling the Rivers of Bordeaux and inquire for more information here.