Guest Post by Pascale Bernasse of French Wine Explorers, a wine and culinary travel company known for their Bordeaux wine tours.
Bordeaux was recently awarded Best European Destination 2015, and for good reason. Its lively riverfront is bustling with chic cafés, wine bars, and boutiques, and it offers over 1,000 restaurants—5 with Michelin stars—so finding a good meal is never difficult. Its neoclassical limestone architecture is stunning; in fact Paris modeled many of its boulevards and buildings after Bordeaux’s. It is the second largest wine-growing region in the world, home to no less than 10,000 vineyards, and it accommodates hundreds of thousands of tourists each year.
With so many vineyards and chateaux to explore, and so much delicious food and wine to sample, visitors need to take note of the ideal times not to travel to Bordeaux, to enjoy all that the region has to offer with as few hiccups and headaches as possible.
Bordeaux Wine Tours: Top 5 Least Favorable Times to Go
- In April, be on the lookout for Bordeaux’s En Primeur or Future’s Market, which is held around the first week of April. This is when all the chateaux and vineyards make available to wine journalists and wholesale buyers tasting samples of their wines prior to bottling. During this time the better estates, in particular Classified Growths, may not have estate representatives available to lead tours so they will be closed. Other estates offer limited tastings, so a visit during the Future’s Market may leave you wanting more. Also in April, be mindful of when Easter falls. Be aware that the French take the Friday before Easter and the Monday after off.
- On odd numbered years—in the month of June—Bordeaux holds Vinexpo, where thousands of wine professionals and buyers flock to sample and buy wines from around the world. During this influx accommodations are more expensive and may be difficult to procure, and estates are often closed or offer tours on a limited basis because they send their best representatives to the expo.
- In July, travelers should consider scheduling their tour of Bordeaux before or after July 14th, as it is Bastille Day—France’s national holiday commemorating the revolution. On this day, it will be virtually impossible to tour any estate or sample its wines since it is likely they’ll be closed to celebrate.
- Travel during harvest between September and October can be a wonderful time visit Bordeaux. The leaves on the vines are starting to change from bright verdant to autumnal ochre, red, and purple hues. Some visitors can witness, and perhaps participate in, a manual harvest—a practice more chateaux are reverting back to. Yet they are the fortunate few at this time of year, as many estates close their doors to the public to focus on the harvest. So if you want to tour and taste wine in Bordeaux during these months, it is best to book ahead six months to a year to insure your trip is a memorable one.
- Another September event to avoid if your plan is to savor Bordeaux wines is Le Marathon du Médoc. This is a sometimes raucous half-marathon where its participants run the 26.2 mile course through the picturesque vineyards of Bordeaux. Its course includes 23 wine stops, winding its way through 50 chateaux. So it is needless to say that tastings on that day will be unavailable, and the crowds of people participating in the race and standing on the sidelines may linger in the area for a few days, clogging hotel rooms and vying for tours themselves.
Bordeaux has emerged as not only one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but one that embraces both modernity and cultural heritage alike. A well-timed visit to this nearly 500-year-old city is one that is not likely to be forgotten.