Go to Bordeaux !

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Go there. Make arrangements with your friends and go. It's not as complicated as it might seem.

 

You can make your own travel arrangements, without a travel agent. It's really not that complicated - buy a ticket, arrange accommodation and a rental car.

That's all you need.

Of course, you can go with a travel agency. But I think that's completely unnecessary and also limiting. The travel company has its conditions, you usually can't choose where you go because the program is set, you sleep somewhere you may not be comfortable ... etc, etc.

But when you go for wine on your own or with friends, you don't have to look back on anything. You set your own travel dates, choose the accommodation with the comfort and price that suits you. On the spot, you decide which chateaux to visit, as well as where and when to stop for a meal. It's much more freedom, fun and to some extent adventure.

I don't know how much a week's tour of the Bordeaux wineries costs with a tour operator, but it works out to about € 600 for me and my friends, not including meals. The price includes airfare, accommodation with very decent amenities and car rental. As elsewhere in the world, prices are lower outside the summer season.

Eating cheaply in France is not a major problem. For fresh croissants you can pop into a bakery in the morning, get lunch at a food truck (in every other chateau if they have an "open door" event) or go to one of the local restaurants or cafeterias where the cooking is impeccable and the lunch menu is around 15€ (I recommend these). And for dinner you can go somewhere or cook something in your accommodation. You can buy ingredients in the supermarket, the choice is more than enough. You can also enjoy a nice evening with dinner while barbecuing with a good bottle of wine! Practically every accommodation (except the hotel) has a grill available.

They say the French don't speak English. That was once upon a time. In the vast majority of wineries, English is easily spoken. There are occasional exceptions - in smaller family-run wineries, with older generations of owners. But even that can be managed. The winemakers are nice and friendly, so where there is a will, you can speak and taste the wine even without knowing the language. :)

 

How to organise it on the spot

If it's your first time touring the wineries around Bordeaux, it's easiest to choose one of the weekend events, which are usually called Portes Ouvertes, or 'open doors'. You can find a list of them here.

Practically every appellation (wine region) around Bordeaux organises this event once a year (some even twice). Usually dozens of Chateaux in the appellation sign up for this one. They then open their doors on Saturdays and (most of them) Sundays as well, usually from 10am to 6pm, and anyone who wants to stop by and taste their wine.

The event includes guided tours of the wineries (also in English), some Chateaux cook food or have a food truck, and the accompanying programs, from music to a vintage car show, are no exception.

These weekend events have two significant advantages:

1, you don't have to arrange visits in advance, you don't have to be anywhere on time. You just go wherever you want

2, there's no charge for the action, it's free everywhere.

 

Of course, it is also possible to arrange a visit to your favourite Chateaux outside the open days. Many of them even offer several options on their websites for tours and tastings. But be aware that all of these visits are paid.

When it comes to driving and sobriety, know that a person who sacrifices to get behind the wheel doesn't have to be completely abstinent. For one thing, it's legal to have 0.5‰ of alcohol in your blood while driving in France, and for another, you don't get very drunk at the tastings in each Chateaux. In fact, only a little is poured into the glasses, no more than a quarter of a deci of each wine. The number of wines to be tasted varies, it can be just one, but I have experienced more than twelve samples of wines. :-)

It also takes a while to take a tour, walk through the beautifully landscaped garden or have a nice meal. So as long as the driver is at least a little bit watch yourself, he's pretty sober. :-)

From my own experience, I must say that I have passed dozens of days when we drove from chateau to chateau and never met a police check. By which I do not in any way want to encourage anyone to disrespect the 0,5‰ in the blood. And I hope I haven't jinxed myself now. :)

 

In summary, I recommend this procedure:

1, check where and when the flights to Bordeaux depart from.

2, choose a weekend event or arrange to visit individual wineries in advance

3, arrange your accommodation

4, book a rental car at the airport

5, you can start look forward :)

 

 

Appellations - Orientation in the terrain

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Where to eat

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