Bordeaux wine tourism 101

I have never visited Bordeaux, and while I am not presently planning a trip, I would hope and expect to go someday.

Speaking generally, what is the protocol for visiting Chateaux and tasting wines there for a foreign visitor who is enthusiastic and reasonably knowledgeable about wine, and who is a fairly experienced wine tourist nationally and internationally, but who doesn’t have connections, isn’t ITB, and doesn’t have any other particular angle to get access?

Do you just email places you want to visit and see if they will accomodate you? Do all or most of them take visitors, or do many or most of the more elite / expensive producers only take visits from people with introductions and connections?

What are the visits like? How long do they usually last, and what can you usually expect to learn and to taste while there? Do you pay a tasting / visit fee?

Besides obvious courtesies and timeliness, what sort of etiquette is there in visiting? Do they sell wines, and if so, should you plan to purchase some?

How many visits can you comfortably do in a day?

Thanks for any basic information you can share. I don’t really need specific recommendations, though if you want to throw any out, that’s great. I’m mostly just trying to get a mental picture in my head about how it would go, what is and isn’t possible, and how good of an experience it would be overall, so that I can slot it into my future travel plans.

Having been to Bordeaux once or twice, ask your retailer for help, if you’ve bought Bordeaux. If not, send the property an Email. Most chateaux allow and enjoy visitors. A few are not generally open to the public.

How long do they usually last,
90 minutes is an average. Some last longer, a few could be shorter.

Do you pay a tasting / visit fee?
99% of time no fee is requested.

Besides obvious courtesies and timeliness, what sort of etiquette is there in visiting?

Be polite and on time.

Do they sell wines

Most do not sell wine. The few that have a gift shop are usually more expensive than you would pay over here. There is no need to buy wine.
How many visits can you comfortably do in a day?

3 is ample for most people.
I don’t really need specific recommendations, though if you want to throw any out,

My best advice is, visit the chateaux that make the wine you buy and drink the most often. That personal connection will bring you a lot of memories.

Thanks so much, Jeff. I appreciate you sharing your experience on the subject.

Hi Chris,

You can visit most châteaux if you plan well in advance (ideally, let’s say something like 3-4 months for the biggies).
Please don’t be discouraged if you don’t receive a reply to your e-mail. Just patiently send reminders and call if necessary.
The name estates all have someone who speaks English.

The châteaux like to know who they’re welcoming, so your link with wine and, more especially, the estate in question, is very helpful to them.
Flattery will get you everywhere…

As for setting up your itinerary, be sure to leave enough time and do your homework as to estate locations and the distances between them.

You can comfortably fit in 3 or 4 visits a day if you are in the same region.
No way you can count on visiting anywhere between noon and 2 pm. The lunch hour. Sacred.

The average visit lasts about one hour.

More and more châteaux are asking for a small fee. Trade professionals never pay, but others do. Increasingly.

Jeff had a worthwhile suggestion. If you have good relations with a retailer, he necessarily has good relations with a distributor and or importer of Bordeaux. He can go to bat for you and arrange things beforehand.

Most of the time, it is pointless to buy wine at the estate. You will pay more than at a retail outlet, and how are you going to get the darned stuff home?

If you have any more questions please PM me. I’ve been in Bordeaux since 1978 and, without false modesty, know most of the ropes.

All the best,
Alex R.

Thank you for taking the time to educate me on that, Alex.

I went my first time to bdx earlier this year and would agree 100% with the comments above(actually their earlier posts were ones that helped me). As a novice to the area I ended up hiring a guide who handled all the logistics, driving, setting up appointment’s, etc. While I knew exactly where I wanted to go, I found having a guide to point out things along the drive to be very educational. It was probably a bigger help for my wife who doesn’t have the same interest in the region as me. Plus, we avoided those dreaded drives in a foreign land trying to find places on a map with my wife yelling at me, etc… For the first trip having the guide really helped me relax and just enjoy the trip, truly as a vacation. I can give further details if needed…