What is a Wine Tour in Bordeaux ?
Firstly you have to know that wine tourism is still "new" in Bordeaux. A few years ago visting the estates or Chateaux was relatively uncommun but things are changing. However, don't be mislead into to thinking this is just like in "Napa" where you can stop at the first winery on the road, ring the bell and ask for a taste. Most of the Chateaux will be happy to welcome you, but it is better to make an appointment and to select the place where you want to visit and take part in tastings.
A visit takes around 1-1h30 hours, where the tour guide will explain you the history of the estate, the "terroir", the vineyard itself, and the process involved. You will then be able to have a taste of the wines from the estate. On average you can visit 3 Chateaux per day.
Rule 1: the more famous the winery, the more difficult it is to gain access. Forget about Cheval Blanc, Yquem, Margaux, Lafite or Latour. On the other hand, many other Chateaux are open to visitors and have their own staff who lead the tour and tastings.
Rule 2: The less prestigious Chateaux are also well worth a visit. Most of the time you will meet directly the owner or the winemaker as they are usually family run estates and they therefore don't have staff. A wine tasting is not just a glass of wine in your hand it is also an unique opportunity to share the owner's passion and products.
Depending on your expectations and budget a good solution is to use the services of a local wine tour operator as 33 Tour Bordeaux & Chateaux . They will organize visits for you and will drive you throughout the day to each destination. This type of tour has an added advantage in that it offers a bespoke and personal service with a guide who has a detailed knowledge of the wine region.
Understanding Bordeaux wines can be quite confusing, so the use of a guide is very valuable, they will be able to explain the vineyard in detail, as well as grape varieties, designations and the classification system. Also they will drive you safely from places to places as they are not drinking alcohol.
St Emilion, Sauternes, Pauillac vineyards are far away from each others. So you will need to think about one day per region. For example one day for St Emilion, one day for Medoc, one day for Sauternes. A full wine tour it is a minimum of 3-4 days. The city of Bordeaux offers the best location to start your journey.
A good value option is also to visit the Bordeaux Tourist Board , who organizes group tours.
The best time to visit vineyard is from April till October and harvest take place usually between Sept-Oct but, it is also very busy, so be sure to book early. From Nov to March you will have a greater chance to gain acess to the more famous Chateaux and vineyards.