The Medoc wine region in Bordeaux, France, is world-renown for its wine as well as its famous châteaux. Getting to visit a few of those Medoc wineries and sipping the wine yourself while standing among the very vines is a unique and wonderful experience.
The prospect of visiting a few of the famous wineries in Medoc can be quite overwhelming, not only because of the tremendous amount of choices, but because it’s intimidating. It is, afterall, one of the most prestigious wine areas in the world and one of the top wine regions in France.
» See also our guide to wine tasting in Bordeaux (including the Right Bank).
Where do you even start planning a trip when you don’t know all of the wineries and what they have to offer?
While you can start by just pulling up a map and searching for wineries, this won’t get you any closer to choosing the best and most enchanting wineries to visit in the area. That’s why we’ve put together a small guide that will help you make some choices of wineries to visit in Medoc.
Whether you have one day or a few to devote to a wine tasting trip on the Left Bank in Bordeaux, you will find that there is plenty to keep you busy, from simple tastings to elaborate wine process and vineyard tours, to tasting menu lunches.
» Visiting soon? Check out our France travel guide. You might be interested in visiting the gorgeous town of Annecy, France for amazing food, as well as the Savoie wine region and these three jaw-dropping destinations in the French Alps.
About the Medoc Wine Region
There are 8 appellations in the Medoc wine region covering 16,500 hectares, which include Medoc, Haut Medoc, Listrac, Margaux, Moulis, Pauillac, Saint Julien and Saint Estephe.
There are five levels of wine classification given to Medoc wine according to the Bordeaux wine official classification of 1855. These include 5 Premiers Crus, 14 Deuxièmes Crus, 14 Troisièmes Crus, 10 Quatrièmes Crus, and 18 Cinquièmes Crus.
If you don’t know much about this classification, the two things to note are that they were meant to distinguish a hierarchy of quality and expertise. Just because a wine isn’t from a Premiers Crus doesn’t mean it cannot be a superior wine. The second thing to note is that there has only been one single promotion of a winery since 1855. Take that as you may.
What Wines Are In Medoc?
The Bordeaux Wine Region has a strict set of guidelines it must follow in order to be classified. In general, Bordeaux’s regional wine rules dictate what grape varieties may be grown where and how.
In the Medoc, the wine is almost all red and the grapes that are grown are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet France, and Merlot – with Cab Sauv being the most dominant. There are also smaller quantities of Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Carménère.
Visiting a Premiers Cru Chateaux
There are five chateaux classified as Premier cru classé in the Bordeaux area: Château Margaux, Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Latour and Château Mouton Rothschild. The fifth is Château Haut-Brion in Graves.
As you might expect, the best of the best doesn’t really open its doors to the public. There’s nothing in it for them. So it will be exceptionally difficult to visit any of the 5 Premier cru chateaux in Bordeaux, unless you have a connection.
Never mind that though, it’s still possible to visit many of the others, even some Grand cru classe wineries, and these are still amazing expressions of the Medoc wine region. They will all be worth your time.
Self-Guided or Bordeaux Wine Tour
The first consideration you’ll probably be making is whether you want to take a guided wine tour with a driver or an expert along, or do a self-guided tour. If you don’t have a designated driver, or don’t wish to spit the wine instead of drinking it, you shouldn’t choose the self-guided route.
There are many guided tours to choose from – group tours and private tours.
A group tour often includes up to 30 people, but you don’t have to do any of the work to set up the tours. These tours typically go to great wineries and there’s a lot of information given, but you can’t choose or alter the schedule.
Below are two group tours we recommend:
A private tour is the best of all worlds. You get a driver/guide who does all the work, you can usually have input into the schedule, and it’s just for your group. But it’s rather expensive.
If you don’t want to build your own self-guided wine tour to the wine areas of Bordeaux, I suggest booking a private wine tour through B for Bordeaux, a wine tour company run by Berit Simonsen, who is very knowledgeable and works closely with the wineries to ensure your visit is great.
With this tour, the whole process is up to you. You can decide where to go yourself, or have Berit take care of all the details for you. You can book one day or 5 days – it’s entirely up to you.
Here’s a recent customer review: “We considered a few options for a day tour of the Medoc but chose Berit on the basis of her great communication, responsiveness, reasonable rate and her flexibility in meeting our requirements. Our expectations were fully met, even exceeded.”
Medoc Wineries to Visit
The Route des Châteaux runs through this wonderful region, on the D2 road, from Blanquefort (just north of the city of Bordeaux) to the top of the Medoc Peninsula.
On this route, you will pass by many large chateaux and dozens of rolling vineyards. You’ll go through the towns of Margaux, Pauillac, and Saint-Estephe. There are ample options for wine tasting along this route.
It’s best to choose only 2 or 3 chateaux per day. Most of them will require advanced reservations and the visit usually takes somewhere around 1.5-2 hours, with a vineyard and winery tour plus tasting. You don’t want to rush. And you need to leave ample time for travel in the middle.
This well-known chateau is owned by members of the Rothschild family and is highly regarded in Bordeaux. The average age of the vines used in the Grand Vin is estimated to be 45 years. The oldest plot, called “La Gravière”, was planted in 1886.
Monday to Friday by appointment only. Make a request by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Tours are available at 9:30am and 2pm
Closed holidays, bank holidays and from August until the end of October
Bought in 1853 by Baron Nathaniel de Rothschild, this winery holds great prestige and history. They also make the world’s leading Bordeaux AOC brand, Mouton Cadet, created in 1930. In 1962, the Museum of Art & Wine was added to the chateau.
Tours of the estate are by appointment only. They must be booked at least two months in advance and are subject to availability. Fill in the form on their website’s contact page.
Located on a hill at the highest point in the Saint-Estephe appellation, this is a family-run winery, a 4th Grand Cru Classe, that borders the famous Chateau Lafite Rothschild. The property is gorgeous and the wine tours are fantastic.
Château Lafon-Rochet and its cellars can be visited by appointment only. The owners live on the property and welcome guests year round. During high season, they are open Monday – Saturday 9:30am – 1pm and 2pm – 5:30pm. Contact email@example.com to request a visit.
This is a Grand Cru Classé with a really nice, modern visitor center that still retains the beauty and tradition of their interesting past. They do a large production, and you can see the entire process in their equally modern cellar. We like this winery because you can involve yourself in many different activities like tasting and wine knowledge workshops, historical or sensory visits, and discovery trails of the terroir.
The Discovery Tour of Château Prieuré-Lichine guides you through the development of a Grand Cru de Margaux. The tour of the property and the cellars continues with the tasting of 1 to 3 wines. Prices are very reasonable. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for an appointment.
A highly regarded cellar, this Margaux Grand Cru Classe hosts tours and tastings, as well as lunches and dinners in their grand castle location. The family has been involved in the production and trade of Bordeaux wines for 8 generations. They’ve managed to keep an authentic, warm and intimate environment.
You can do a tour of Château Kirwan and a tasting. They also have workshops and exclusive wine experiences. If you have time, stay for a fine-dining meal at their restaurant.
Another great experience they offer is the Margaux Gourmet Trail, which is a day in Margaux, including a visit and tasting at Château Prieuré-Lichine, lunch at Château Kirwan, and ending at Château La Tour de Bessan with a tasting of single grapes’wines and a blending training. See more here.
Contact email@example.com for an appointment.
Another Fourth Grand Cru Classe in Saint-Julien Beychevelle, this winery formerly belonged to the family of the Marquis d’AUX, but has been with the Cordier family since 1918. Their vineyard covers 110 hectares with mostly red grapes, and a small portion of white.
You can choose from 3 complimentary visit options: a classic tour, a garden tour, or a prestige tour. All visits are private, limited to 12 people, and only available by appointment. They are only open during the week. Fill out the form on their website to book an appointment.
Where to Stay in Medoc
One of the biggest choices you’ll make when booking your trip to Medoc is where to stay. Since there are so many towns along the route, you really could stay in any of them. Or you could stay in the town of Bordeaux so you can reach other activities as well.
In the Medoc, I recommend these hotels:
- Château Cordeillan-Bages in Pauillac : Modern chateau with individually decorated rooms and many things included like valet parking, an outdoor pool, and a restaurant. There’s also a winery on the premises.
- La Maison d’Estournel in Saint-Estephe : Beautiful grounds and lovely charming rooms. Located just steps away from Cos d’Estournel in what used to be the private home of Louis-Gaspard d’Estournel
In Bordeaux city center, this is where we stay:
- Intercontinental Bordeaux Le Grand Hotel : It’s a gorgeous property and you can’t get a better location. Very much worth the extra cost.
- Mama Shelter Bordeaux : If you want something more casual and less expensive, we’ve stayed at Mama Shelter and thought it was a super fun and convenient hotel.
A wine tasting trip to the Left Bank in Bordeaux, specifically to the Medoc wineries and chateaux, is an experience you’ll always remember. It’s an absolutely must for all wine lovers, to see the origins of wine making in France and to understand the techniques of the old world wine. We hope you enjoy our guide and find some great wine adventures in Medoc.
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Laura Lynch, creator and writer of Savored Journeys, is an avid world traveler, certified wine expert, and international food specialist. She has written about travel and food for over 20 years and has visited 70+ countries.