Wine lovers choosing to visit Bordeaux are increasingly spoiled for choice. Sophie Kevany uses her local knowledge to select the very best boutique hotels, B&Bs and châteaux in the city and vineyards
Wine tourism is booming in Bordeaux, but nowadays that’s only part of the story. This year, two major hotel chains will open: an upscale Radisson Blu in July and a more affordable Hilton Garden Inn in June. It’s a clear indication that the city is no longer just for wine lovers.
‘Bordeaux is trendy now – even for French people. The Americans and Chinese mainly come for the wine, but people from all over Europe come to see the city, the 18th century buildings and modern architecture like La Cité du Vin and the Darwin Eco-Système,’ says Nicolas Martin, director of Bordeaux’s Tourist Office. ‘The top three questions we hear most often at the Tourist Office are: where is the Miroir d’Eau? Where is Darwin? And, where is the wine?’
While many will have heard of La Cité du Vin, the Darwin Eco-Système is famous for its large indoor skatepark, co-working spaces, bike repair workshop, barista and organic grocery store. Meanwhile the Miroir d’Eau is the world’s largest reflecting pool, located on the edge of the Garonne River. Built as an architectural showpiece, it’s an instant hit with children of all ages.
The number of nights that visitors spend in Bordeaux has risen from about 3 million in 2013 to 5.8 million in 2017 and is expected to hit 6.2 million this year. Asked what might come next, Martin would love to see an Asia-based hotel chain, such as Mandarin Oriental, in Bordeaux. On the wine front, the boutique vineyard chambres d’hôtes sector continues to grow, with the main addition this year being the Hotel & Restaurant Lalique at Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey.
For those considering a trip, the suggestions that follow offer a choice across wine regions and the city centre, and are based on a combination of their appeal for wine lovers and their newness. Vegans and vegetarian travellers will be happy to hear that both wine and food options have broadened considerably, at least in the city – from the affordable La Cuisine de Johanna, which stays open in August, to the extremely stylish Rest’O, where bookings are essential. Local producers offering vegan wines include Dauzac (the first cru classé to move to plant-based fining agents), Château Les Maubats and Château Couronneau.
Château Beauregard, Pomerol
- 5 doubles
- €165-€185 (£144-£161) per double, plus €15 (£13) for breakfast
Built by a pupil of Victor Louis (the architect of Bordeaux’s Grand Théâtre), the 18th-century limestone chartreuse and moat of Beauregard was so envied by America’s Guggenheim family that they built a copy back home in Long Island, and called it Mille Fleurs. Beauregard was bought for development in 2014 by the Moulin-Houzé and Cathiard families (owners, respectively, of the Galeries Lafayette department store and Château Smith Haut-Lafitte) and opened to guests in 2016.
Rooms are large, bright, contemporary and peaceful. Visitors can wander the gardens, explore the vineyard, loll on the terrace and indulge themselves in the well-reviewed restaurant. For those in need of more structured activities, tours and wine tastings explore the estate’s history via two or four different vintages.
Château de Léognan, Pessac-Léognan
- 4 doubles (plus the pigeon tower room available from July)
- €95-€120 (£83-£105); €250 (£218) per night for the pigeon tower
This charming B&B offers wine visits and tastings three times a day from Monday to Saturday all year round, plus Sundays in high season (May to September). Visitors can also join tasting workshops or tour the vines in a horse-drawn carriage, known as a calèche.
A new fifth room here is being added in the estate’s 18th-century pigeon tower and will be decorated with a suitably avian-themed interior. The estate also boasts a swimming pool, open from June to September, its own chapel – and a love story.
In the late 19th century, the château was owned by Emma and Mathieu Seurin. When Matthew died in 1890, Emma built the chapel in his honour and had it consecrated by the Bishop of Bordeaux in 1897.
Hôtel des Quinconces, Bordeaux
- 9 doubles
- €270-€580 (£235-£506)
This was built in 1834 on the land of Château Trompette, the medieval castle that protected Bordeaux city and was destroyed in 1818. (Place des Quinconces was created at about the same time.) It is thought the first family to live in Hôtel des Quinconces was that of former slave owner, Jean-Baptiste de Megret de Belligny, who had returned to France from Cuba. Since then it has twice been used as a consulate (by the UK in the 1860s and then, from 1981 to 1993, by the US). It changed hands again in 2014 and, after two years of intensive renovation work, the hotel opened in January 2017. Private châteaux tours can be organised by the concierge service, as well as private wine tastings with sommelier, Amelie Xu.
Château du Tertre, Médoc
- 4 doubles, 1 twin, 5 en-suite rooms
- €250 (£218)
Opened in 2000, Château du Tertre received a Best of Wine Tourism Accommodation Award in 2014. One of its aims is to act as a catalyst for visitors to share their wine stories, feelings and opinions. The price includes a winemaking visit and tasting, though barrel tastings and wine workshops can also be arranged, while chef Manuel Calderon offers wine-oriented lunches for small groups. Rooms are named after grape varieties, with interiors designed by the collector, antiquarian, designer and curator, Axel Vervoordt. The clientele includes royalty, rock stars, financiers, tech tycoons and artists.
Hotel & Restaurant Lalique, Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey, Sauternes
- 10 doubles, 3 suites (opening July)
- €250-€575 (£218-£500) per double
Both wine sales and hotel developments have been slow in Sauternes, but new initiatives are now underway across the board. One of these is Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey’s Hotel & Restaurant Lalique which, acording to owner, Silvio Denz, combines ‘four worlds: wine, crystal, gastronomy and hospitality’.
The hotel, due to open in June, will include a restaurant run by two-star Michelin chef Jérôme Schilling. Fans of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited will also enjoy the fact that this château is mentioned by Sebastian Flyte: ‘I’ve got a motor-car and a basket of strawberries and a bottle of Château Peyraguey – which isn’t a wine you’ve ever tasted, so don’t pretend. It’s heaven with strawberries.’
Château de La Rivière, Fronsac
- 5 doubles
- €137 (£119) for one person, €312 (£272) for en suite rooms that sleep four
As well as its Disneyland-castle looks and five fairytale rooms, Château de La Rivière is famous for its massive underground cellar that covers an incredible 8ha, a warren of tunnels, which are now used as the setting for an interactive escape game. Purchased in 2014 by the Chinese Bolian Group (following the twinning of nearby Libourne with China’s Pu’er, famous for its tea), today the château offers both Pu’er tea and wine tasting.
Guests can swim in the pool, see the Lady’s Bath (a spring-fed private stone pond), scour the library, make their own tea blends in the Tisanerie and explore the gardens. In early July La Rivière hosts a three-day art and music festival called the Confluent d’Arts, which this year will feature Goran Bregovic and his orchestra. There’s also a pop-up restaurant at the château one Friday each month. Outside of this, and breakfast, guests should look to the surrounding towns of Fronsac, Libourne and St-Emilion for lunch and dinner.
Casa Blanca, Bordeaux
- 5 doubles
- €130-€210 (£113-£183)
Gildas Quellien opened the Casa Blanca B&B in 2016. His goal is simple: to provide a home for visitors, while also promoting products from local suppliers. The setting is ideal for anyone considering joining the 2018 Fête du Vin in June, which takes place on the quays nearby. Other attractions include the Les Chartrons area, where Bordeaux’s wine merchants used to congregate; now a feast of cosy bistros, noisy terrace cafes and antique shops.
Casa Blanca has bikes and skateboards that guests can use to explore the city, plus there’s a nearby Bikram studio for anyone who needs a yoga fix. For those who want to explore further afield, Quellien also welcomes guests at Château Lusseau, the family vineyard in the Graves, which has gîte accommodation in July and August.
Hôtel Cardinal, Bordeaux
- 10 suites with kitchen and dining area
- €176-€760 (£153-£663), gourmet breakfast €32 (£28)
Just off Bordeaux’s main square, Place Pey- Berland, where the St Andre Cathedral sits, the Cardinal offers a range of luxurious suites. The concierge here can organise vineyard picnics, private bicycle tours and châteaux visits. Breakfast choices are overseen by two pastry chefs and feature menus specially created by owner, Géraldine Meurisse.
Surprisingly for Bordeaux, there is also afternoon tea, with treats from the newly opened Pierre Mathieu pastry and chocolate shop just a few yards away. The shop is co-owned by Meurisse and Mathieu, formerly a pastry chef at the Mandarin Oriental in Paris. Other delights include the 400-bottle wine cellar, which is stocked by the hotel’s partner and wine merchant, Duclot.
Sophie Kevany is a wine and business journalist based in Bordeaux. This feature first appeared in the Decanter Bordeaux supplement, subscribe to Decanter here.