This UNESCO world heritage site is not only visually breath taking but also the home of the best wines in the country. Its 13,000 acres represent 67.5% of the total area of wine producing communes and 6% of the total Bordeaux vineyard. If you want to taste great wines, a visit to Saint-Émilion is a must.
Nestled along the steep and narrow streets lie exquisite Romanesque churches and ruins. The town is named after a monk called Émillion who resided in a hermitage carved into the local limestone. The monks that followed suit were the ones to start wine production on a commercial basis, although wine production in the area predates this to the 2nd Century. We strolled the streets munching on macaroons while taking in the sights and sounds around us. This is truly a magical place to visit.
2. Dune of Pyla
2.7km long, 500m wide and 100m above sea level, these golden sand dunes are the largest in Europe. The dunes are located about 60km from Bordeaux in the Arcachon Bay area and visited by more than 1 million people a year.
At the summit we experienced the breath taking view of the Atlantic coast, the inlet of the Arachon Bay, the deep green pine forest and in the distance the peaks of the Pyrenees range. There are steps, which lead you to the top and activities such as paragliding cater the more daring amongst us. One bit of advice would be to get there early to avoid the crowds and congestion. We managed to get there at 7.30am and had the place to ourselves.
Cognac is home to the World’s greatest brandies. A twenty-mile area called the ‘golden circle’ of cognac production encompasses Cognac and the second distilling town of Jarnac. Two of the largest brandy distillers are based in Cognac town and well worth the visit.
Martell is one of the oldest dating back to 1715. A tour of the House costs in the region of €10-€25 and finishes up with a tasting of the brands unique collection. The tour is informative and interesting and leaves you feeling warm and satisfied, and that’s just from the brandy!
Hennessey is a quick 10 minute walk from Martell and well worth a visit if time is of the essence. Also founded in the 1700s the tour begins with a boat trip across The Charente River where visitors can soak up the architectural heritage and learn about the history of the Hennessey story. To finish off the tour, an impressive spread of Hennessey’s finest blends is laid out to taste.
4. Bordeaux and The Bordeaux Wine Festival
The city of Bordeaux is a listed UNESCO site. One evening strolling through the pretty streets and hidden squares will allow you to capture what the city is all about. We were lucky enough to be there the night of the famous Bordeaux Wine Festival. Along the quays is a wine trail where visitors can discover the variety of Bordeaux wines in a very unique atmosphere.
During the festival, firework displays, art exhibitions, live music and vineyard tours are organized as well as activities for children and light shows every night. A wine pass can be purchased which allows each holder to enter Bordeaux museums and benefit from discounts on specific Bordeaux wines all over the region. At just €20, it’s a steal.
You won’t find any beaches in Bordeaux but you will find an artificial one at Bistro du Grand Louis. This old style French bistro has elegant interior, delicious fresh seafood, a classic wine selection and more than impressive waiting staff. The restaurant is closer to the airport than the center of the city but worth the trip none the less.
5. Wine tasting
There are numerous vineyards to visit for wine tasting but as we were staying in the heart of it all, what better way to do it other than on foot.
Plassac is littered with picturesque vineyards. The proximity to the Gironde estuary, clay/limestone soils, and free draining, south facing slopes all combine to make a benevolent microclimate for maturing grapes.
Upon arrival at any, you might be wrong in thinking wine production does not exist. The lack of hustle, bustle and general noise is evident and completely different to the busy vineyards and cellar doors in Australia and California. There are no sounds of machines, excessive tourists or gift shop registers; just quiet, calm and sheer originality before your very eyes.
After the tasting, you are invited to purchase the wine where prices may range from €3-€8 for a bottle that has been produced on that very site. A great vineyard to visit and taste wine in the Blaye region is Chateau Monconseil Gazin.