Bordeaux is arguably one of the most famous wine-making regions in the world. It is also the largest AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée: "Controlled Designation of Origin") vineyard in France with 57 appellations and 7 sub-regions. One of them, north-west of the city of Bordeaux, is Médoc.
Médoc wine tours depart from Bordeaux on a daily basis to visit this world-famous wine-producing area located on the left bank of the Gironde estuary, precisely on the 45th parallel. It is bordered by a large coniferous forest that has a tempering effect on the oceanic climate of the area, which encourages vine growth. This, combined with its gravel soils, means its “terroir” is exceptionally apt for producing high-quality red wines.
The Médoc is divided into the Haut-Médoc (the southern portion including the Saint-Estèphe, Pauillac, Saint-Julien, Moulis en Médoc, Listrac-Médoc and Margaux appellations) and the Bas-Médoc (the northern portion).
The Médoc appellations are collectively known as the “Châteaux Route” as left and right of the main road that traverses the region, we discover a succession of imposing French castles, each one more beautiful and elegant than the other.
More than six thousand châteaux cover the distinctive landscape, which is why the Médoc is wine tourism heaven. Exclusive Médoc wine tours grant visitors the unique opportunity to step into these magnificent wine castles and enjoy the wonders their vines and cellars have to offer. Some châteaux are small family-run vineyards; some are historic domains with art collections and ancient caves and others are fine examples of modern architecture with signature features that set them apart: all are equally extraordinary.
The best way to make the most of a trip to the area and enjoy its beauty to the maximum is to create a customized wine tour of the Médoc during which you can visit the châteaux that better suit your preferences and interests. With such variety to choose from it might be difficult to know where to begin: in those cases, a local travel expert is your best ally to ensure you don’t miss out on anything worth visiting.
A Médoc wine tour guide will probably start the day by sharing with you one key factor about all wines made in the region: they are always a blend of grape varieties. The proportion of each one may vary, as there is no legal policy regarding this, but there is an assumption that winemakers use the local “recipe” for making reds in the area. The classic (red) “Bordeaux Blend” means that the wine is made by blending two or more of the traditional Bordelaise grape varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec.
The Médoc area is known for its gravelly soils and graphite-driven red wines with Cabernet Sauvignon predominance in the blend. These wines are some of the boldest and most tannic of Bordeaux, which makes them perfect for aging and pairing with red meat.
One topic that will definitely come up during your wine tour in the Médoc is the story about how it acquired its reputation as the most prestigious wine-making region in the world, over 160 years ago.
In 1855, for the Exposition Universelle de Paris, Emperor Napoleon III requested a classification system for French wines: he wanted to know which were the best ones in all of France to display them for visitors of the world fair. The Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce entrusted the Syndicate of Commercial Brokers with the task: the wines were considered according to the wine estate's reputation and trading price -which at that time was directly related to quality, and then ranked in importance from first to fifth growths (crus). The resulting list is known as the “1855 Great Growths Classification”: in it, the red wines ranked are only from Médoc (plus one from Graves), proof of the area’s exceptional terroir. Undoubtedly, this helped position the Médoc as the best wine-making region in France.
Although often criticized, the 1855 Classification has remained the sole official, historic benchmark of the best wines in the world and over a century and a half later, Médoc still proudly boasts the 60 most prestigious wine names on it.