Dan and I visited the city of Bordeaux and its surrounding wine regions in June 2016. For those unfamiliar with Bordeaux wine, there are no actual vineyards in the city of Bordeaux (it is a regular city with a large university). The famous “Bordeaux wine” comes from a number of small regions surrounding Bordeaux. Wines take their name from the specific small region in which their grapes are grown, and the flavor of grapes that make up the wine derives from the “terroir” of each specific area (roughly translated as a combination of the soil content, temperature, rain fall, sunlight, etc. of the individual region). See the map of the many wine regions and sub-regions surrounding Bordeaux:
As you can see, Sauternes is a small wine producing region south of Bordeaux on the left bank of the Garrone river. Saturerenes is famous for producing sweet white wine from the Sémillon, Sauvagion Blanc and Muscadelle grapes. There are a number of châteaux (translation: winery) in Sauternes and each one produces this type of wine. As discussed above, the Sauternes’ terrior gives the grapes the flavor to make the sweet white wines.
Since the Sauternes is about an hour south of Bordeaux, you will need to rent a car or join a tour to visit the area. We did not rent a car, so we joined a tour put on by the Bordeaux Tourism Office called the “Sauternes River Cruise” and described as a wine tour…spoiler alert – it was not a wine tour.
By of basics, the tour cost 48,00 per person and departed from the Bordeaux Tourism office at 13:15. The tour started promptly at 13:15 when THE NICEST BUS THAT I HAVE EVER SEEN picked us up for the drive down to Sauternes. Seriously, wood interior, wide leather seats, and picture windows with sunroofs. I was smitten. Aside from the bus, the drive down to Sauternes was largely unexciting (aside from the bus), and I napped most of the way. Although I am certain the drive was lovely. Here is a pictures that I managed to snap between naps….
About an hour later, we arrived at Château Guiraud, our first and only tasting stop… Château Guiraud is a stunning château reminiscent of a castle and surrounded by vineyards and the prettiest wildflowers! Château Guiraud has been in the same family since the 1700s and was classified as a 1er Grand Cru de Sauternes in 1855.
Our tour started with a history lesson of the Sauternes region and then we proceed to a tour of the cellar and bottling facility and a description of the vineyards.
The description of the vineyards was really interesting, as different types of grapes are grown in specific areas of the property for specific reasons! Château Guiraud has also received an organic certification and our tour guide showed us some cool aspects of organic grape farming, including this really bizarre spider house:
And the fact that they grow over 200 varieties of tomatoes on the property:
Our tour ended with a single, small tasting of their wine. Everyone on the tour was surprised at the small tasting (even our Guiraud guide wanted to give us more…). The wine that we tasted cost approximately 60,00 per bottle; we skipped since we don’t love sweet wines.
After our tiny tasting, we drove about 20 minutes to another gorgeous château, that we did not tour, and boarded a boat for a cruise up the Garrone back to Bordeaux.
Our tour mates were the only people on the boat and there was no food or alcohol for sale on the boat. However, once we were underway, our tour guide gave us half-pours of three different Bordeaux wines – a red, white and sweet. While fun, I did think that the pours were again light for a self-described “wine cruise” and there were no seconds.
Aside from the annoying wine tastings, the cruise was pretty, although the weather could have been better! The most interesting bits of the cruise were as we arrived into Bordeaux, which was absolutely stunning!
We disembarked at the river back and walked home from there.
Would I do this tour again: Unlikely. I thought the tour was a bit of a waste of time and definitely over priced. On the positive side, the Château Guiraud was nice, the tour was informative and the bus was AMAZING. However, on the negative side, the “wine tour” was very short on wine and the Garrone is not the most exciting. A person on our tour actually complained that she did not feel like she got her monies worth, and I would totally agree.
I would, however, totally recommend a visit to Château Guiraud if you visit Sauternes. Chãteau Giuraud is a quality château and the tour was fun and informative.
STEAL OUR TRIP
Sauternes Wine Cruise Tour: Wednesdays at 13:15 p.m. 48,00 € per person. Includes transport to and from the Bordeaux Tourisme office. Reservations should be made in advance online (bring print out tickets). I did not think this tour was worth your time or money.
Château Guiraud: Château Guiraud, 33210 Sauternes. Tél. + 33 (0) 5 56 76 61 01. Fax + 33 (0) 5 56 76 67 52. Open 7 days a week except Christmas and Easter. May – September 10:00 – 6:00 with tours departing in French and English at 10:00, 11:30, 2:30 and 4:00. October – April 9:00 – 12:00 & 2:00 – 5:00 with tours at 9:30, 11:00, 2:00 and 3:30. Reservations required. Email email@example.com for a reservation or make reservations online here. This château seemed very English-speaking visitor friendly. Can’t make it to Sauternes, Chãteau Guiraud exports to the US!
ON A BUDGET
Wine touring in Bordeaux can be very expensive. Bordeaux wine is not cheap and tours to various the châteaus can be very expensive, especially if you not a wine fanatic.
The Bordeaux Tourism office offers a number of tours to various wine producing areas which typically visit two chateaux, each with a small tasting, for around € 80,00 (which I do not think is worth it).
If you are on a budget, however, Bordeaux Tourism offers one discounted wine tour each day of the week – often to Médoc or St. Émilion. This discounted tour is called Chateaux and Terriors: On the Bordeaux Wine Road and only costs 38 € per person (worth it). Each tour, except the St. Émilion tour, includes two châteaux visits with tastings, lasts from 1:15 to approximately 7:00 and goes to the following: 1 April – 15 November: Monday – Cotes Borge & Blaye, Tuesday – Bordeaux and Entre deux Mers, Wednesday & Sunday – St. Émilion, Thursday and Saturday – Médoc, Friday – Graves & Sauterenes; 16 November – 31 March: Wednesday – Graves & Sauterenes, Saturday – Médoc and Sunday – St. Émilion. The St. Émilion tour goes to one château and tours the town of St. Émilion.