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Wine tasting in Bordeaux

Wine tasting in Bordeaux

Old Jul 18, 18, 12:27 am
  #1  
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Wine tasting in Bordeaux

A few of us will be in Bordeaux for 3 nights in October. We made reservations at a couple of "super second" chateaus for some tour & taste. The premier grand crus don´t seem to want our business, except for Haut-Brion, but they said to check back about a month before we go. Not sure what that means.
Anyway, I´m a life long Napa cab fan who just started to develop a deeper appreciation for Bordeaux style wine. Wondering if you guys have any tips for a successful tasting in Bordeaux if you have been there.

My main concern is whatever available for tasting is too young, and it would not really reflect well. From my research, they don´t really pour anything that we should drink now.
If we like something, is it a good idea to buy and ship back to the States? How does that work exactly with the VAT refund?
In case we actually got into Haut-Brion, is it worth it to go knowing we won´t buy anything there? Who are buying these first growth wines but Emirates and collectors anyway?
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Old Jul 18, 18, 7:13 am
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First of all, if you are thinking of buying either First Growths or super-Seconds, pack an outsize credit card, but I 'm sure you know that.

Second, don't get involved in shipping. All of these wines can be damaged if shipped incorrectly - heat will not be at all good for them. And, they are all very easily available in pretty well every major city in the world. I'm presuming the OP is from the USA if he/she likes Napa Cabernet and there are many many places that retail such wines. Likewise it's easy to pick up pretty well any vintage you want from the last 20 or so years. Finally, if you want to save some money, simply buy them from auction - an excellent source of mature Claret.

However, if the OP is looking for young wines to cellar for 20+ years, then the en primeur market is the way to go - they will be delivered in excellent condition (as there's no risk of poor cellaring under previous owners), and can go straight into a good cellar at home.

The final two questions strike me as odd. There will not be many people visiting Haut Brion, or any of the other top chateaux, intending to buy wine directly from them, if it's even available - that's not why you would go there. And surely, other than Emirates airline, collectors are the purpose of the exercise? The problem in Bordeaux is that there are too many speculators buying and too few collectors.
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Old Jul 22, 18, 10:15 pm
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Originally Posted by lhrsfo View Post
First of all, if you are thinking of buying either First Growths or super-Seconds, pack an outsize credit card, but I 'm sure you know that.

Second, don't get involved in shipping. All of these wines can be damaged if shipped incorrectly - heat will not be at all good for them. And, they are all very easily available in pretty well every major city in the world. I'm presuming the OP is from the USA if he/she likes Napa Cabernet and there are many many places that retail such wines. Likewise it's easy to pick up pretty well any vintage you want from the last 20 or so years. Finally, if you want to save some money, simply buy them from auction - an excellent source of mature Claret.

However, if the OP is looking for young wines to cellar for 20+ years, then the en primeur market is the way to go - they will be delivered in excellent condition (as there's no risk of poor cellaring under previous owners), and can go straight into a good cellar at home.

The final two questions strike me as odd. There will not be many people visiting Haut Brion, or any of the other top chateaux, intending to buy wine directly from them, if it's even available - that's not why you would go there. And surely, other than Emirates airline, collectors are the purpose of the exercise? The problem in Bordeaux is that there are too many speculators buying and too few collectors.
This post pretty much sums it up.

France in general, isn't like Napa where you can just roll up for a tasting or even just fire off an email and assume you'll be booked in.
Even as a sommelier it's almost impossible to get into the first growths unless if you have a prior contact. Sadly I don't.

I actually had a friend ask me for recommendations as well today but short of a few villages, I couldn't offer much.

Have you considered right bank Bordeaux around Pomeral and Saint-Emillion?
Supposedly (can't say I speak from experience) that area is less pretentious and more open to visitors.
From what I've heard (again, no first hand experience) it seems Cheval Blanc does offer tours.

I'm also trying to set up tastings (Germany and Burgundy) and might just have to wing it and hope for the best.
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Old Jul 24, 18, 3:39 pm
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Napa snob factor is getting up there. Plenty of cult wineries that are impossible to get in. In Bordeaux, I can count on 1 hand the places that I cannot get in. In Napa, both hands and legs.
So far, I have reservations at 3 super seconds and can confirm one more, but I'm not too crazy about their wine. Reading through tripadvisors, it seems like you can get a good deal at these chateau, but you have to deal with shipping and stuff.

I don't like the right bank blends. Too much merlot for my taste.
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Old Jul 29, 18, 4:08 pm
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Originally Posted by 5DMarkIIguy View Post
Napa snob factor is getting up there. Plenty of cult wineries that are impossible to get in. In Bordeaux, I can count on 1 hand the places that I cannot get in. In Napa, both hands and legs.
So far, I have reservations at 3 super seconds and can confirm one more, but I'm not too crazy about their wine. Reading through tripadvisors, it seems like you can get a good deal at these chateau, but you have to deal with shipping and stuff.

I don't like the right bank blends. Too much merlot for my taste.
Cult/boutique wineries also have lower budgets and price of grapes/ton is almost as much as my mortgage. I had no issues in January. Only a few places never got back to us. Granted, I was with another sommelier so that did help to open doors.

Merlot is wonderful and one of the few grapes that isn't $$$ from Napa.
Sad how Sideways ruined Merlot, and how a lot of people still look down on it. (not saying that's the case with you though)

On the other hand, it's better for my bank account!
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Old May 18, 22, 3:46 pm
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I too have a trip to Bordeaux coming up in June and I was looking for info here. This was the most recent thread I could find (the other being Bordeaux - more than just wine?).

First of all I will be arriving into BOD airport quite late, around 22h00, so I am hoping to find a hotel within reach of the airport. There is a new Holiday Inn at Merignac, but it's not accepting bookings yet, and there is the HI Pessac, about 5km away. There also appears to be a Mercure, an ibis Styles and a Novotel at the airport, as well as a Best Western.

The following nights I plan to spend in Bordeaux and I would be interested in doing a half day tour to any nearby vineyards. Thanks to Flyertalk I found a couple of amazing places when I visited the Napa Valley in California, but these places were old, traditional vineyards, including one of the original winegrowers in Napa. I managed to avoid the bling that Napa is really known for. I expect the Bordeaux experience to be completely different, of course, but maybe some of you have some suggestions based on personal experience.
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Old May 24, 22, 9:17 am
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My wife and I were in Bordeaux Aug 2021. We booked a tour that included a really instructive morning tasting followed by a trip to Saint Emillion with stops at 3 different wineries.

The morning tasting included trying different blends of cab and merlot after trying the pure varietal of each. Very illuminating to get the difference between right back and left bank bordeauxs

Were they first growths? No but still great wine to be had. Kinda like saying the only California wines I want to try are Opus One

This is not a bad option to consider

Bordeaux Wine tours
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Old May 26, 22, 12:29 pm
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In Bordeaux, it would be unthinkable to not visit the Cité du Vin if you are interested in wine. The ticket includes a glass of wine at the end of the visit and plenty of people to advise you about other places worth visiting for the wine.
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Old May 27, 22, 1:02 am
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Thanks very much for the suggestions guys, I'm going to book one of those tours, probably to St Émilion, unless you recommend Médoc over St Émilion. I will also visit the Cité du Vin.
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Old Jun 5, 22, 3:39 pm
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Originally Posted by davidgrahammd View Post
My wife and I were in Bordeaux Aug 2021. We booked a tour that included a really instructive morning tasting followed by a trip to Saint Emillion with stops at 3 different wineries.

The morning tasting included trying different blends of cab and merlot after trying the pure varietal of each. Very illuminating to get the difference between right back and left bank bordeauxs

Were they first growths? No but still great wine to be had. Kinda like saying the only California wines I want to try are Opus One

This is not a bad option to consider

Bordeaux Wine tours
The tours to St Émilion or Médoc with this operator cost €99 and are 5 hours long and include some tapas. Get Your Guide is offering tours for €75, but they last for 4 hours and there's no mention of tapas (a bit of food might be good if we are tasting wines). I think I will stick with your recommendation in your post. It's just a feeling, but I think it will be better.

Get Your Guide is also offering tickets for the Cité du Vin which cost the same price, €21, as booking directly. For an extra €4 I can get a combi ticket which includes the Picasso museum. Is that worth doing, do you think?
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Old Jun 16, 22, 5:31 am
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So in the end I booked a St Émilion tour using the link provided by davidgrahammd. I also booked a visit to the Cité du Vin through the Get Your Guide site. It seems that they still limit the number of visitors, which I am happy about because I don't like crowds (seriously, who actually does like crowds?) I am also considering booking the light show at the Palais de Lumière.
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Old Jun 23, 22, 3:15 am
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The wine tour to St Émilion yesterday was great. We had Rémy, a really nice driver, who spoke impeccable English (I was the only one there who spoke French). We began at Château Saint George, a lovely winery on higher ground which afforded wonderful views over the vineyards all the way to the church spire of St Émilion village. It included a visit to the working part of the winery, with explanations about how wine is produced, followed by a walk through the vineyards and then a tasting. This winery was a newcomer for the tour company and it was very welcoming and easygoing.

Remy then drove us to St Émilion village for a quick visit and walk, including seeing the extensive underground cellars where thousands of bottles were lying, maturing. Following that, we continued to Château Côtes de Baleau, which began with a lovely glass of white in the sun dappled grounds. Inside, we enjoyed a serious tasting session of their excellent wines, accompanied by cheese, local sausage and chocolate, all of which paired beautifully with the various wines.

After that, Remy drove us back to Bordeaux in time for dinner, or more wine tasting! I ended up in the Bar à Vin, which is connected to the school of wine in Bordeaux and offered generously filled glasses of excellent wine for as little as €2.

The day before I had visited the huge, modern Cité du Vin museum all about the history and making of wine. Each to his own, but I really didn't like it. Apart from being totally soulless and without any feeling whatsoever, the place consisted only of electronic rubbish, much of which didn't work properly (as usual). By this I mean that the entire exhibition consisted of interactive electronic displays, some of it quite clever, but in normal museums I almost never touch the screens and devices for obvious reasons. The view from the top floor, where a glass of wine was offered, was amazing. But the €21 entry price was a bit of a cheek, IMO.

Last edited by Concerto; Jun 23, 22 at 2:10 pm Reason: typo
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Old Jun 23, 22, 12:53 pm
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Give the Bassins de Lumières a chance then.

Bassins de Lumières - Bordeaux | Any Port in a Storm (proboards.com)
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Old Jun 23, 22, 2:09 pm
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Yes I had planned to, but didn't have the time in the end. The cathedral St André and the Tour Pey Berland are worth a visit. And the Miroir d'eau too.
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