Virtual Tour of Bordeaux

In our Bordeaux Summit last month many people, especially on this side of the Channel, thought there should be no hurry to release the 2019s, given the extraordinary global circumstances.  Furthermore prices, never more than before, needed to reflect those circumstances rather than be dictated by the quality of the vintage, and give wine lovers a real incentive to purchase on release.  

However, in a move that has surprised merchants and collectors worldwide, the Union des Grands Crus has gone ahead with the 2019 En Primeur campaign, a futures market where chateaux recoup costs by offering a first slice of the wines to collectors while they are still in the barrel. Under normal circumstances they may have perhaps postponed it further, but 2019 has been celebrated as a landmark vintage for the region so as of late May the first wines have started to be released and in many cases with prices up to 30% less than last year's release, it's looking like a five-star vintage at three-star prices. Read our vintage and buying guide here.

Bordeaux is of course renowned not just for its wines but also its natural beauty and rolling vineyards. So, while it’s not possible to visit the vineyards now due to the pandemic, we'll take you on a virtual tour of the region, down through the Gironde and Dordogne whose banks play host to the illustrious chateaux of Bordeaux, the bedrock of any cellar and investment in your future drinking pleasure. 

Tom Harrown and Jonathan Maltus
Tom Harrow and Jonathan Maltus in Saint Emilion, France

It would make sense to start on the prestigious Right Bank in Saint Emilion where Merlot is king, and there are few figures more interesting and enigmatic in Bordeaux than 100-point winemaker Jonathan Maltus. His coveted stable of leading chateaux includes the legendary Chateau Teyssier, the exclusive Pontet Labrie of which only 300 cases are produced annually, and of course Le Dome, which catapulted Jonathan to stardom. Lord Norman Foster has also designed a new winery for Le Dome which will reach completion next year and provide a five-star dining experience, as well as boutique sleeping arrangements when travel opens again. 

The Le Dome Winery
Aritstic rendition of the Le Dome Winery

Moving across the Dordogne and the Gironde we arrive in the Left Bank, home of Cabernet Sauvignon and the five First Class growths of the original 1855 classification. Just south of Bordeaux lies the appellation Pessac-Leognan, most famous for its Haut-Brion, but rising star Smith Haut Lafitte is well worth a visit. Regularly lauded as one of the greatest wines of the region, Smith Haut Lafitte also produces an excellent Sauvignon Blanc white that shows there is so much more to Bordeaux than red wine. For accommodation the 5-star Hotel Les Sources de Caudalie is really quite special, with an unmissable Vinotherapy Spa (perfect after a long-day walking around vineyards) and Michelin two-star restaurant La Grand’Vigne where Chef Nicolas Masse serves up some of the best local cuisine in Bordeaux. 

Heading north through the main city of Bordeaux, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, takes you to arguably the most famous vineyards in the world, spearheaded by the Pauillac appellation whose wines are idolised for complexity, power and astonishing aging potential. Here there is no more illustrious Chateau to visit than Lafite, one of the five First Growths of Bordeaux and its Grand Vin is often used as a benchmark of the investment market. Incidentally the 2019 Lafite was released today on 5 June 2020 to considerable demand at £2,556 per case, 15% less than last year. Whilst in the area you should also visit Chateau Lynch-Bages, a wine that consistently overperforms its Fifth Growth status and has been a favourite of collectors worldwide. The owners of Lynch Bages – the Cazes family – also run a fabulous luxury hotel called Chateau Cordeillan-Bages with a legendary cellar that comes highly recommended. 

Lynch Bages
The amazing team behind Lynch Bages

Just south lies of Pauillac lies Saint-Julien, whose wines possess a finesse and elegance that make them some of the most sought-after in the whole region. Some of the most distinguished estates include Chateaux Branaire Ducru and Gloria, both wonderfully hospitable to visitors and able to organise memorable tastings. You should also visit Second Growth Leoville Barton, which almost uniquely in Bordeaux does not possess is its own Chateau but shares ownership with Chateau Langoa-Barton

Pauillac shares its northern border with Saint-Estephe, renowned for producing some for the most languorous, tannic wines that, with sufficient aging, offer unmatched complexity and power. Saint-Estephe doesn’t have an official First Growth wine but Chateau Cos d’Estournel regularly competes with the top wines of Bordeaux in good vintages, receiving 3 potential 100-point scores for its 2018 release last year. There is also a charming hotel nearby, La Maison d’Estournel, which offers spectacular views across the vineyards from its shady terrace. 

Cos d'Estournel
Cos d'Estournel is one of the most sought-after wines in Bordeaux

The last appellation on the Left Bank worthy of praise is the esteemed Margaux. Located further south than Saint Julien along the banks of the Gironde, just north of the Haut Medoc, Margaux boasts a number of leading estates, including the eponymous First Growth Chateau Margaux whose Grand Vin is one of the most famous wines in the world. Two other estates also lead the charge in terms of quality: Third Growth Chateau Palmer and Second Growth Rauzan Segla, both producing some of the best wines of the region noted for their investment potential. 

To end our virtual tour of Bordeaux we head back to the Right Bank to Pomerol, a region that possesses a certain mystique with many chateaux producing wines in a manner more akin to Burgundy, with very few barrels produced annually and prices beyond the reach of most collectors. The most famous estates include Petrus and Le Pin, two of the most expensive wines in the whole world, although a regular favourite is the far more affordable Chateau Beauregard. There’s also a guest house as well which provides charming accommodation.