Bordeaux continues its evolution from wine tourism laggard to excellent performer, with the range of accommodation options and activities expanding all the time. In the town centre alone, three new hotels will open this year. Two are at the luxury end: Villas Foch and Hotel Zoologie; while Eklo will offer affordable, eco-friendly rooms.
In the vineyards, luxury, family-run and other options are all increasing in number. You can expect anything from personal cooks and butlers to family dinners and sleeping in starlit bubbles.
The most noticeable trends recently in terms of visitors to the area have been the increased popularity of Bordeaux as a destination for groups of friends, and a rise in the number of families holidaying in the region. This has encouraged châteaux to add child-friendly options, says director of Uncorked Wine Tours, Caroline Matthews. She cites two examples: St-Emilion’s Château La Dominique offers adult wine tastings at €25 (£22) per person, while children can attend a wine aroma workshop at no extra cost; similarly, Château Beau-Séjour Bécot has a grape juice tasting for children for €5 extra on the adult wine tasting price of €25.
Head of wine tourism at Need Wine, Thibault Lemierre has seen vineyard accommodation drive a range of new services, particularly restaurant development. ‘Accommodation goes hand in hand with a gourmet offer in the vineyard itself,’ he says.
One way to cater for a range of different tastes is to base yourself in Bordeaux city centre. That way you can combine urban fun with nights in different vineyards, depending on your requirements.
All good news for foodies, families, non-wine-loving members of the party and anyone else visiting. The list below is best used as a tasting menu of the many different styles of vineyard overnights now available. Prices are per night, and range from lowest in low season to highest in high season. They include breakfast, unless otherwise noted.
Best visitor experience
Les Sources de Caudalie, Pessac-Léognan
- 40 rooms, 21 suites
- €270-€1,259 (£234-£1,089), breakfast not included
Les Sources de Caudalie would sit just as well in several other categories, but its overall visitor experience and the range of activities available are unparalleled. Attractions here include a vinotherapy spa, a two-star Michelin restaurant, vineyard bike rides and a choice of 61 rooms and suites. Other pleasures include a ‘five senses’ (touch, smell, sound, sight and wine tasting) walk through the vineyard up to Château Smith Haut Lafitte. The walk also takes in the estate’s eco-friendly underground cellar, purpose-built in 2013 for its second wine, Les Hauts de Smith. Forest bathing, a Japanese meditative practice that dates back to the 1980s, is available for individuals, couples and families. The session, which lasts most of the morning and includes a vegetarian lunch, will help you ‘reach a state of peace and harmony with nature’. It might also be the ultimate hangover solution.
The hotel’s green credentials are also impressive. To mention just one example: the bicarbonate of soda used at the hotel is made from carbon captured from its wine vats.
Also good for visitor experience Another highly regarded visitor experience is to be found at the four-star Relais & Châteaux Château Cordeillan-Bages located in Pauillac. The château has 28 rooms and suites, with large salons, open terraces, a 25m heated outdoor pool, Italian king-sized beds and stunning designer furniture that includes pieces by Frank Gehry, Andrée Putman and Achille Castiglioni. Should they feel inclined, visitors can explore the nearby village of Bages, with its restaurants, Café Lavinal and boulangerie.
Best for blowing the budget
The Chartreuse at Cos d’Estournel, St-Estèphe
- Entire Chartreuse with six rooms, two suites
- €20,000 (£17,297) per night, including breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus a private winery visit
Want to visit Bordeaux à la Posh, Becks and Eva Longoria? Look no further than Cos d’Estournel. Adjacent to the main château (home to hotelier Michel Reybier) is a very pretty, L-shaped chartreuse, or manor house. Available for private hire, it has hosted the above-mentioned celebrities, among others.
Inside the weathered limestone walls are six large bedrooms, two suites, a hammam, gyms and swimming pools. The Sino-Indian theme was designed by interior decorator Jacques Garcia. Think carved wooden doors, handwoven rugs, silk and velvet.
Visitors are looked after by a private chef and home manager, on hand to organise any and every possible activity, visit or culinary desire. They’re probably good at impossible ones too. Take a tour of the vineyard and gravity-flow cellar, followed by a tasting of estate wines with the technical director. Waft into the dining room for a candlelit dinner with live chamber music or a firework display.
At harvest time, join the vineyard and winemaking teams. Perhaps you’d enjoy a trip to a neighbouring château? Consider it done. Or maybe a jaunt into town to see the historic sites. Not a problem. Out to the coast for oysters and surfing? Of course. The event, experience or idea will simply be arranged and only your presence is required. You can of course also choose to do much less. Lounging about one pool or the other with a dip in and out of the steam? Yes. All while your chef prepares new temptations to accompany various Cos d’Estournel vintages.
Also good for blowing the budget The three-bedroom, 18th-century Château La Lagune in Ludon-Médoc is only rented in its entirety, to offer complete privacy. The main bedroom is decorated in royal Louis XVI style, with a canopy bed, taffeta curtains and matching tapestry. Guests will enjoy the services of a chef, butler and housekeeper, while concierge services include restaurant bookings, oyster farm visits and boating in Arcachon.
Best for quirkiness
Les Bulles de Bordeaux, Entre-Deux-Mers
- Five rooms
- From €205-€280 (£177-£242)
If you have ever dreamed of a transparent tent, this is the place for you. Each bubble (with a choice of semi or totally transparent) contains a bed and night-time basics, including water, light and a bathroom. Bubbles have their own secluded terrace, some with jacuzzi, enclosed by plants and trees. Beyond the comfort of your bubble, tours of nearby wineries can be arranged, as can vineyard tours in a buggy. If you prefer to leave your car behind, airport and train station pick-ups can be arranged.
If the bubble concept doesn’t appeal, why not spend the night in St-Emilion in a large wooden vat, designed by one of France’s best-known barrel makers, Seguin Moreau? Tours of the vineyard, Château de Bonhoste, and wine tastings are also available here.
Best for foodies
Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey, Sauternes
- 10 rooms, three suites
- €250-€545 (£216-£471)
There are so many good places to eat and stay in the vineyards these days that choosing just one is tricky. But by popular (and expert) acclaim, Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey deserves the slot. The hotel offers luxurious rooms, discreet personal attention, a wine shop, a chapel for weddings, vineyards, cellar visits, vertical tastings, Lalique homeware throughout and a Michelin-starred restaurant.
There are various gourmet menus at Restaurant Lalique, with the most extravagant option priced at a cool €245 (£211) per head, including a glass of Lafaurie-Peyraguey with dessert. Some of the dishes on offer include spinach and Pyrenean peanut ravioli with honey and ginger chutney, acquerello rice with plankton, crispy sweetbread veal with morels and white asparagus in red bourbon and arabica coffee juice, followed by gin and lime sorbet or elder-poached rhubarb. If you feel the need to work up an appetite, golf, visits to Bordeaux and to other nearby châteaux can all be arranged, along with pretty much anything else the heart desires.
Also good for foodies The other foodie option worth considering is the delightfully combined services of Château Haut-Bailly and Château Le Pape, near Léognan. Château Haut-Bailly has a much-praised ‘private table’ gourmet lunch and dinner service for between four and 15 people, also offering cooking classes and a wine boutique. Wine tastings with either cheese or chocolate pairings are another possibility. Meanwhile Château Le Pape, only five minutes away, has five bedrooms priced €200-€430 (£173-£372), a pool, and picnics for those who would prefer an informal lunch in the estate’s extensive parklands.
Although they do not offer accommodation, other châteaux restaurants that come highly rated include: L’Atelier de Candale at Château de Candale, St-Emilion; La Terrasse Rouge at Château La Dominique, St-Emilion; La Chapelle de Guiraud at Château Guiraud, Sauternes; and Les Secrets Château Pey La Tour at Château Pey La Tour, Entre-Deux-Mers.
Best for families
Château Tifayne, Puisseguin St-Emilion
- Four rooms
- €65-€95 (£56-£82) for two people
About an hour’s drive east from Bordeaux’s centre, Château Tifayne sits in the middle of its own vineyard. Its wines cover the full range of red, white, rosé and crémant, and span two appellations: Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux and Francs Côtes de Bordeaux.
The first covers about 2,800ha around Castillon-la-Bataille, the site of the famous battle that ended the Hundred Years’ War. The second is one of the smallest wine regions in Bordeaux with only 400ha, mainly red, but there is also a sweet white. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Muscadelle all grow in the vineyards.
The renovated château has wheelchair access and four large rooms that can accommodate up to 13 people. Offering a warm welcome, Tifayne accepts pets, has a heated swimming pool, and can arrange wine tastings as well as – with advance notice – relaxing shiatsu massage. For those who wish to self-cater, use of the main kitchen can be arranged. Nearby activities include riding, walking, golf and tennis.
Also good for families Located in Entre-Deux-Mers, the six-bedroom Château de Seguin can accommodate up to 15 people when rented as a whole – €500-€900 (£432-£778) per night, breakfast not included but can be arranged for €12 per person. As of May, the property also offers five new guest bedrooms, which can be rented individually (€99-€129 per night with breakfast). Facilities and activities include a swimming pool, wine tastings, a son et lumière Vitishow in one of the underground cellars, and grape juice tastings for children.
Château St Ahon is another good family option in the Médoc. There are three independent cottages and four 48-hour vineyard-facing parking spaces for motor homes, as well as woodlands, winemaking tours and tastings.
Best for history lovers
Château de Camarsac, Entre-Deux-Mers
- Five rooms
- €90-€120 (£78-£104)
At the end of the 11th century, on the high plains of Entre-Deux-Mers, a fortified wooden house was built. A few hundred years later, on 15 February 1312, English King Edward II, who was also the Duke of Aquitaine, authorised the construction of a fortified manor house for the Canteloup family on the same site.
That work transformed the wooden structure into Château de Camarsac. By the late 14th century, according to local legend, the château was home to the Black Prince, Edward of Woodstock. Edward was the oldest son of England’s King Edward III, and was known for the black armour he wore and his merciless warrior nature.
The 17th century saw one of the region’s most imposing dovecotes built at Camarsac, followed by the construction of a courtyard and a residence in the 18th century. Fast- forward to the mid-19th century and the entire castle again underwent major repair work. This enhanced the more decorative aspects, in keeping with the then popular neo-gothic style of construction.
Today the château is home to the Lurtons and their four children. In line with the greener thinking of today, solar panels have been added and a rainwater recycling system, along with five guest rooms in the chartreuse, Clos du Prince, just across the road from the main building. A new project to restore some older parts of the castle will see the creation of two banqueting halls and a terrace on the keep. The work is due to finish later this year.
The atmosphere at Camarsac is both heavily historical and very familial. Visitors can enjoy a 90-minute tour of the castle, which takes in the wine cellar and a tasting of the estate’s red, white and rosé wines. Camarsac’s 74ha of vineyards are filled with an interesting mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc for the reds, plus Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadelle and Sauvignon Gris for the white wines.
Visitors who want more history can also undertake a self-guided visit with the help of written text panels dotted around the main castle and grounds. Those who want more wine can make their own – almost – at a blending workshop, choosing from available barrels. Participants leave with their very own creation. Hard to beat.
Best for culture
Château Chasse-Spleen, Moulis-en-Médoc
- Three rooms
- €190-€220 (£164-£190)
With its art centre and wine bar, Château Chasse-Spleen is the top pick for culture. Although it is relatively small, with only three bedrooms, the thought that has gone into their design is impressive. Each one has direct access to the art exhibition, so guests can contemplate the permanent and visiting collections at any time of day or night.
All three rooms face south onto a terrace that surrounds a monolithic concrete pond, making for an abundance of light and the gentle sound of water. Special rails in each room allow for the easy installation and rotation of paintings from the main collection, and the rooms are painted in suitable backdrop colours.
The wine bar, meanwhile, is intentionally locavore. Wines on offer include Château Chasse-Spleen, L’Héritage de Chasse-Spleen, Blanc de Chasse-Spleen and Château Gressier Grand Poujeaux, while food is sourced from a maximum distance of 200km. This includes the Landes, Périgord, Charentes, the Basque Country and the Pyrenees – areas all known for their rustic duck, pig and cheese products. Salads are available for non-meat eaters.
Best for eco-friendly holidaymakers
Château du Payre, Entre-Deux-Mers
- Two rooms, one suite
- €85-€110 (£74-£95)
To put environmental issues in context, the past 10 years have seen 60% of Bordeaux’s vineyards enrol in environmental certification programmes, such as the ISO 14000 series of environment standards or HVE (Haute Valeur Environnementale – high environmental value). The ultimate goal is to have 100% eco-friendly vineyards.
Many are also moving away from strictly organic cultivation, due to concerns about its over-reliance on copper. One of those, which also welcomes guests, is Château du Payre. The vineyards are farmed using sustainable agriculture (agriculture raisonnée), processes that are certified according to the Terra Vitis environmental certification and recognised by the French ministry of agriculture.
The certification rests on three sustainable development pillars: social, environmental and economic. The château recycles its water, encourages biodiversity by letting grasses and hedgerows grow wild, uses only natural fertilisers and avoids all glyphosate treatments throughout the 40ha property.
Accommodation is in a sumptuously restored château, which has passed from mother to daughter since 1881. Your hosts, the Labrousse family, offer wine workshops for adults and children, a combined sophrology (mindful breathing) and wine course, aroma garden and annual harvest activities.