For wine enthusiasts it is frequently not enough to just enjoy the finished product; they want to seek the source, to tour the facilities that produce their favorite wines. And so for them a trip to France means a tour of cha teaux.
Visiting France's great wine cha teaux is not difficult to do these days, but takes some planning ahead. And while most of the big-named Bordeaux cha teaux now have someone working there who speaks English, it helps if you can speak a little French.
For the maximum benefit from a tour of Bordeaux's cha teaux, you should write directly for an appointment or ask your local wine merchant to have an importer set up the appointment for you. Plan to visit cha teaux that are near each other, for example in the same appellations. And only the most hardy aficionados should plan to see four in one day. For example, if you wanted to visit Margaux at 9:30 a.m., you should allow 45 to 60 minutes for a visit. It is advisable to schedule only one other visit that morning, and that should preferably be in the commune of Margaux. If you schedule an appointment in Pauillac or St.-Este phe for 11 a.m., the 30-minute drive north from Margaux to either of these two communes would probably make you late for your appointment.
Here are several recommended itineraries that include visits to the most interesting properties and allow sufficient time to do so, although they do make a very full day of tours. Time for a two-hour lunch is allowed because this time is sacred to the French and no one will see you then anyhow.
You can expect to taste the last several vintages of wine at the conclusion of your visit. If no tasting is set up for you, ask to taste the wine. In 1985 that would mean a barrel-tasting of the 1984 and 1983 vintages and, if you get lucky, the bottled 1982. Spitting out such a wine is not only permissible, but expected. However, if you are tasting the 1982 Mouton-Rothschild or 1982 Pe'trus, spitting out such a wine might be ill advised. Recommended Itineraries
Itinerary I (Margaux)
8:45 A.M. Leave Bordeaux
9:30 A.M. Cha teau Giscours
11:00 A.M. Cha teau Margaux
2:00 P.M. Cha teau Palmer
3:30 P.M. d'Issan Itinerary II (Pauillac)
8:15 A.M. Leave Bordeaux
9:35 A.M. Cha teau Latour
11:00 A.M. Cha teau Pichon Lalande
2:00 P.M. Cha teau Lynch-Bages
3:30 P.M. Cha teau Mouton-Rothschild Itinerary III
8:30 A.M. Leave Bordeaux
9:30 A.M. Cha teau Beychevelle
11:00 A.M. Cha teau Ducru-Beaucaillou
2:00 P.M. Cha teau Talbot
3:30 P.M. Cha teau Le'oville-Las Cases Itinerary IV (St.-Este phe & Pauillac)
8:15 A.M. Leave Bordeaux
9:30 A.M. Cha teau Lafite-Rothschild
11:00 A.M. Cha teau Cos d'Estournel
2:00 P.M. Cha teau Montrose
3:30 P.M. Cha teau Calon-Se'gur Itinerary V (Graves)
8:30 A.M. Leave Bordeaux
9:30 A.M. Cha teau Haut-Brion and La Mission-Haut-Brion
11:00 A.M. Cha teau Pape-Cle'ment
2:30 P.M. Domaine de Chevalier
3:30 P.M. Haut-Bailly Itinerary VI (Barsac/Sauternes)
9:00 A.M. Leave Langon
9:30 P.M. Cha teau d'Yquem
11:00 A.M. Cha teau Suduiraut
2:00 P.M. Cha teau Rieussec
3:30 P.M. Cha teau Climens Itinerary VII (St.-Emilion)
9:00 A.M. Leave St.-Emilion
9:10 A.M. Cha teau Cheval Blanc
11:00 A.M. Cha teau Figeac
2:00 P.M. Cha teaux Ausone and Belair
3:30 P.M. Cha teau Pavie Itinerary VIII (Pomerol)
9:00 A.M. Leave St. Emilion
9:30 A.M. Pe'trus
11:00 P.M. Vieux Cha teau Certan
2:00 P.M. Rouget or de Sales
3:30 P.M. La Conseillante
When arriving in Bordeaux, the Maison du Vin, 1 Cours 30 Juillet, Tel. (56) 52.82.82, in downtown central Bordeaux is a good place to pick up information on the Bordeaux wine regions, in addition to some pretty good maps. Speaking of maps, there are no better maps than those in Hugh Johnson's World Atlas of Wine (RHS Ent England, 1981), and despite its weight, this book, or at least photocopies of the maps, should be taken with you.
For writing directly to the cha teaux in making an appointment, I have structured two letters, one in French and one in English, that say all that you need. To address the letter, just insert the name of the cha teau, its commune and zip code.
For cha teaux in St.-Este phe: Saint-Este phe, 33250 Pauillac, France
For cha teaux in Pauillac: 33250 Pauillac, France
For cha teaux in St.-Julien: St-Julien-Beychevelle, 33250 Pauillac, France
For cha teaux in Margaux: 33460 Margaux, France
For cha teaux in Graves (Pessac): 33602 Pessac, France
For cha teaux in Graves (Le'ognan): 33850 Le'ognan, France
For cha teaux in Sauternes: 33210 Langon, France
For cha teaux in Barsac: Barsac 33720 Podensac, France
For cha teaux in St.-Emilion: 33330 St-Emilion, France
For cha teaux in Pomerol: 33500 Pomerol, France
The zip codes will cover a great majority of the cha teaux, but some of the major properties are controlled by ne'gociants or brokers, and it is better to write directly to the ne'gociant to schedule an appointment. The following are the addresses of two of the top ne'gociants who own some of the major Bordeaux cha teaux.
1. Jean Cordier: owners and/or managers of Talbot, Gruaud-Larose, Meyney, and Clos des Jacobins; address: 10, Quai de Paludate, 33800 Bordeaux, France
2. Jean-Pierre Moueix: owners and/or managers of Pe'trus, Trotanoy, Magdelaine, La Fleur-Pe'trus, Latour a Pomerol, La Grave Trigant de Boisset; address: Quai du Priourat, 33500 Libourne, France. Recommended Form Letter
To: Cha teau Margaux
33460 Margaux, France
To Whom It May Concern:
I would like to visit Cha teau Margaux on Monday, March 14, 1985, to see the wine-making facilities and receive a tour of the cha teau. If possible, I would like to be able to taste several recent vintages of Cha teau Margaux. If this is agreeable, I will arrive at the cha teau at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, March 14.
I realize that you are busy, but I am an admirer of your wine and it would be a great pleasure to visit the property. I look forward to hearing from you. Form Letter in French
Cher Monsieur (Che re Madame),
Je voudrais visiter (Cha teau X) le (Day) (Month), (Year). Je suis admirateur de votre vin et je serais tre s reconnaissant(e) female writer si vous me permettriez de vous rendre visite.
Si c'est possible, je voudrais un rendez-vous a (Cha teau X) a ( Xh). Je voudrais de'guster les derniers mille'simes, 1982, 1983 et 1984 si c'est possible.
Malheureusement, je ne parle pas franc,ais.
Merci beaucoup. En attendant le plaisir de visiter (Cha teau X). this book, or a