With 55 of the 70 Appellations d’Origine Contrôlées (Designations of Origin) in Aquitaine, the Gironde is almost completely covered with vines.
Undulating over the valleys of the Médoc, the Libourne region and the Entre-deux-Mers, vines are a familiar feature of the landscape, as are the carrelets* on the banks of the estuary, where anglers fish for shad, lamprey and white shrimp.
Saint-Estèphe, Saint-Emilion, Pomerol, Pessac-Léognan, Sauternes… These appellations are well-known, but are also the names of charming, magical villages…
The most famous is probably Saint-Emilion. This medieval citadel is listed as World Heritage by UNESCO, as is its wine area – a unique honour. Not to be missed.
The term “Château” in this region is specific, and stems from the fact that the big winemaking estates very often had their own castle. Margaux, Pichon Longueville, Yquem, Olivier – a historic monument dating back to the 12th century – and many, many more still embellish the Bordeaux region with their sumptuous architecture.
Other buildings well worth seeing are the wine cellars. Increasingly often open to the public, the estates take particular pride in these premises. The first of its type was the Cos d’Estournel. Built between 1810 and 1830, its pagoda roofs and the door from Zanzibar led to the owner being nicknamed the “Médoc Maharajah”.
Nowadays, the château-owners do not hesitate to mix ancient buildings with modern architecture. In Pauillac, Château Lafite-Rothschild commissioned the Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill to build the new cellar. It has three arena-style levels, a depth of 10 metres, and capacity of 2,200 barrels!
All these sights can be visited by car, but also on horseback or simply on foot. There are plenty of walking trails, guidebooks and service providers to help you. You can even visit the Saint-Emilion wine area in a little train!
*All along the Gironde Estuary, these shacks on stilts take their name from the square nets used for fishing.