Wine Tasting in Bordeaux

Wine Tasting in Bordeaux

We love a city that's recovered its mojo, and Bordeaux has most certainly done so. The grand 18th-century boulevards and buildings - paid for by the proceeds of the wine industry - spent decades down at heel until a recent sense of urban renewal lured young entrepreneurs back. Now, with the arrival of a direct TGV high-speed link from Paris, the capital's Gallic 'ipsters may well also migrate to the west coast. If they do they'll find a city that's hipper, and more chipper, than any in France at the moment, with a foodie scene to compliment the region's fabled wines and a new cultural confidence. Put another way, it would be damn difficult to be bored in the new Bordeaux.



The best hotel in the region is Les Sources de Caudalie, 20 minutes from the city centre and surrounded by the vineyards of the famous Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte. The hotel's owners pioneered vinotherapie - spa treatments based on the healing properties of the vines and grape extracts - and you can enjoy a merlot wrap or cabernet scrub or simply over indulge in one of the two excellent restaurants before a drink in wine bar rouge. As you'd imagine there's quite some choice.



As the name would suggest, La Brasserie Bordelaise is a Bordeaux institution, with a classic French three course lunch menu and cheap and very cheerful wines by the glass, but if you see what the gourmandising locals are gorging on you may also want to choose the delicious local oysters, roast pigeon or Simmental rib steak.



Over at Le Quatrieme Mur it's a numbers game. This modish restaurant is owned by two Michelin star man Philippe Etchebest, whose alternative career as a celebrity chef on TV spawned the name (the 'fourth wall' of TV/cinema). Gastronomically speaking, three is the magic number, with just three courses of three choices each on the menu. Pray the pork loin is on the menu when you go.



On the subject of TV chefs, Gordon Ramsay's new restaurant Le Pressoir d'Argent at Le Grand Hotel has already received a Michelin bauble but you're here to enjoy the badly named but brilliant Night Beach rooftop bar. Order a Remember Me cocktail of rum, raspberries, ginger, lemon and ginger ale and watch night fall over the city.



C'mon: you're in Bordeaux! This time we're in a spot tinged with technical genius - Aux Quatre Coins du Vin, because to come to the capital of quaffing without sampling several of the finest wines available to humanity would seem a crying shame. The elevator pitch? There are 40 dispensers filled with perfectly stored top vintages that you can drink by the glass so you save on having to buy a fiendishly over-priced bottle that might even be corked. Try a vertical (same chateau, different years) or a horizontal (same vintage, different chateau) tasting before you end up simply horizontal.



The city's Bassins a Flot (Wet Docks) on the Garonne river are busy transforming into a hub of contemporary housing, cultural and retail spaces and are also home to La Dame, an old barge converted into a restaurant, art space and nightclub with a roster of international DJs entertaining the city's in-crowd.



You've drunk the wine, now eat the cheese and - more specifically - one of the 150 or so on display in Jean D'Alos Fromager Affineur, the finest cheese shops in Bordeaux, which makes it, by extension, one of the finest in the world. Snaffle some St Nectaire Fernier but also ask to see the three medieval ageing caves in the cellars.



Some wine tasting, either back at Château Smith Haut Lafitte (wine tastings and driving not going so well together) or on an Urban Wine Trail using the dedicated app to navigate through the winding alleyways of the city from wine bar to bar, with each offering a new take on the city's premier industry. We can also arrange private tastings and tours around many local vineyards for some real wine tasting in style.



The Cite du Vin, an extraordinary building Bordeaux hopes will do what Gehry's Guggenheim did for Bilbao. The eerie Gehry similarities are obvious in the building's curvaceous metallic exterior, designed by the architects to resemble wine being swirled in a glass to release the bouquet. Inside, you can enjoy (somewhat inevitably) wine tastings, interactive displays about the world's wine regions and grape varieties, and sensory immersions where you can learn about various wine bouquets. Even more instructive is the excellent section on which wines to best pair with food. Finally, you can eat at one of three restaurants or buy 800 wines in the shop.



Telling a Bordelais how much like Paris his hometown looks. He will almost certainly point out that Baron Haussmann was inspired by Bordeaux in the 19th century to transform the capital into a city of wide boulevards and magnificent municipal buildings.



Eat oysters in the Marché des Chatrons. Ask for Arcachons from nearby Archachon Bay, home to France's finest oyster beds and also (cue factoid) Europe's largest sand dunes, a mere 315ft tall.



The best time to visit Bordeaux is from April to October. June is the season of festivals, fairs, flea markets and events and September is when the region's population go into overdrive to pick the grapes (vendange, or harvest) and there's a palpable sense of tension and excitement in the air.