Bordeaux and the Wine Country: Places to Explore

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Route du Médoc and the Wine Country

Northwest of Bordeaux city is the most famous wine district. All along the western side of the Gironde estuary south, until you hit the meeting point of the Dordogne and Garonne rivers just north of the city, you will encounter the Médoc wine region. The farthest north is the Médoc appellation itself. To the south of this, the Paulliac appellation surrounds the Saint-Estéphe and Saint Julien appellations, which lie nearer to the estuary. Nearer Bordeaux, and just south of the Paulliac region, is the conglomeration of the Listrac, Moulis, Margaux, and (nearest to the city along the Garonne) the Haut-Médoc appellations. The D2—or Route des Châteaux—to the north of the city cuts northwest through the majority of the wine country along the Gironde all the way to Talais, and the D1215 (farther west) runs through the other side of the region, giving access to appellations like Listrac and Moulis, which the D2 bypasses.

Wines from the Médoc are made predominantly from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape, and can taste dry, even austere, when young. The better ones often need 15 to 25 years before "opening up" to reveal their full spectrum of complex flavors. More fabled vintages are found 35 km (36 miles) to the east of the city in the medieval region of St-Émilion. Here, vineyards that are family owned and relatively small (with an average of 7 hectares to each property) are divided into two appellations, St-Émilion and St-Émilion Grand Cru. At the region's heart lies the beautiful wine town of St-Émilion.

North of Bordeaux, the Route du Médoc wine road (D2)—sometimes called the Route des Châteaux—winds through the dusty Médoc Peninsula, past the townships of Margaux, St-Julien, Pauillac, and St-Estèphe. Even the vines in Médoc look dusty, and so does the ugly town of Margaux, the area's unofficial capital, 27 km (17 miles) northwest of Bordeaux.

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