Bordeaux is a port town on the river Garonne in South West France and is the capital of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region. It’s known, in part, for its historical significance, beautifully restored architecture, and lovely, pedestrian-friendly city center.
It is also known as the world capital of wine. Bordeaux is home to the world’s most important wine exhibition, Vinexpo; and while that exhibition takes place in uneven years, Vinexpo is helping put a spotlight on Bordeaux in 2022 by building a wine extravaganza around the city’s returning bi-annual Bordeaux Wine Festival. Wine lovers won’t want to miss it.
Bigger Than Ever
The Bordeaux Wine Festival, or Fête le Vin in French, has been held every 2 years since 1998. After a pandemic-induced hiatus in 2020, the festival returns to Bordeaux this year from June 23–26. With extra time to plan, though, comes extra festivities — and alas, wine-centered events will begin in Bordeaux on June 16 courtesy of the first ever Bordeaux Wine Week, co-organized by Vinexpo.
The Bordeaux Wine Festival, as it has since the turn of the last century, will showcase wines from Bordeaux and the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region. Wine previews will begin on June 16 in restaurants, wine shops, and pop-up cafés on the Garrone riverside. Come June 23, the festival will be concentrated on the Garonne waterfront and in the fabulous Place de Quinconces, one of the largest and most spectacular squares in Europe.
To give you just an idea of the festival’s size, Rising Vacations reports that eight pavilions in Place de Quinconces will offer 57 appellations of Bordeaux and 23 of the surrounding Nouvelle-Aquitaine region.
Bordeaux Wine Week, like the previews, will begin on June 16 with the Grands Crus Weekend: a showcase of Bordeaux’s Grand Cru–classified wines through exclusive dinners, a golf tournament, and more. Then a two-day public symposium called Act For Change will commence on June 20; hosted at Cité du Vin, prominent figures in the wine industry will speak and debate the industry’s future regarding sustainability. This will give way to the Vinexpo Meetings, a closed-to-the-public gathering of wine-business bigshots on June 22–23. A who’s who of wine will occupy the town.
All told, Bordeaux Wine Festival and Bordeaux Wine Week will run from June 16–26. They will give the public a unique opportunity for wine tastings as well as culinary and cultural experiences.
Things To Do At The Bordeaux Wine Festival
The beauty of the festival is not only in the sampling of the endless varieties of wines and spirits, but also in the chance to explore one of the most beautiful cities in France — especially since Mayor Alain Juppé decided to give a neglected and dirty city a new lease on life in 1995. Sandblasting throughout uncovered the beautiful, honey-colored limestone of the historical, elegant buildings that now make Bordeaux one of the most desirable French cities to live in. Any spare time you have between events and wine tastings, you should use to just walk around and admire — or even take a boat trip on the Garrone.
Visit Cité Du Vin
Dominating the skyline and the river is one of Bordeaux’s most iconic landmarks, the modernistic Cité du Vin.
This interactive museum documents wine cultivation through the ages with videos, artifacts, graphics, and paintings. A circular walkway leads through the various levels of the museum, with huge windows that give views over the Garrone flowing below, the majestic buildings of the city (like the beautiful Bordeaux Cathedral), and the Water Mirror, the world’s largest reflecting pool, outside Place de la Bourse. The museum provides audiotapes to guide you on your tour.
The museum also offers wine tastings at any time of the year and has a shop that sells a great selection of local wines.
Pro Tip: Cité du Vin is rather dimly lit, so watch where you step so that you don’t stumble over the carpet or the odd cable on the floor.
See Picasso: The Effervescence Of Shape
From June 15 onward, the Cité du Vin will host Picasso: The Effervescence Of Shape. The exhibition will be the first to celebrate the role and route of wine in Pablo Picasso’s work. Many of the paintings and sculptures will be on loan from other museums.
Bordeaux Grands Crus Weekend
From June 16–19, along the waterfront, the Bordeaux Grands Crus weekend will provide the opportunity to taste 120 Grands Crus of the region at various events. Enjoy the wines during a golf tournament, a vineyard tour, or a dinner at Château Lynch.
Bordeaux Wine Festival Pro Tips
To discover all the beauty and secret corners of Bordeaux, it is best to go on a guided walking tour. A good one will lead you, among other places, to the most famous book shop, Mollet; the best pastry shop, Baillardan, where the local dessert canale is made; the Bordeaux Cathedral; backstage at the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux; and along the river. I found this walking tour, conducted by local guide Hubert, to be the best. Be prepared, the tour takes several hours but does not include a visit to Cité du Vin.
Most nights, a sit-down meal is not really necessary. During the wine week, you will taste and nibble so much to soak up all that wine that you’ll hardly find room for a three-course meal.
If you stay for the full Bordeaux Wine Week — and it is highly recommended to take in all there is to offer, including talks and wine symposiums — you need to plan for your accommodations.
When I went, I did not stay in Bordeaux but in a delightful little village called Bouliac, just a few miles south. The luxury hotel Saint James Bouliac is located in a renovated farmhouse with plenty of rustic charm. It is surrounded by vineyards, and the hotel produces its own wines and features a first-class chef. They even offer cooking classes. Apart from the hotel restaurant, there is a small bistro a few feet away, as well as a church, a little convenience store, and not much else. A bus runs from Bouliac to Bordeaux center, but a taxi is more convenient if you want to go out in the evening, if only to admire the fountains and water effects on the Place de la Bourse when they are illuminated.