A day in the Médoc

Sitting on Bordeaux’s Left Bank, the Médoc covers just over 16,500 hectares of prime wine real estate. The region covers eight named appellations: the Médoc and Haut-Médoc, as well as the more famous Saint-Éstephe, Pauillac, Saint-Julien, Margaux, Listrac-Médoc and Moulis. Interestingly, although the wines from these appellations come at a variety of different price and quality levels, they are appellations for red wine only.
I was lucky enough to spend last summer between lockdowns in Bordeaux and what an experience it was! Although I was working at a château in Libourne (on Right Bank Bordeaux where Pomerol and Saint-Émilion reign supreme), it was easy enough on a day off to venture to the Left Bank and explore the wonders of the Médoc.
If you’re anything like me and love lazy mornings, I’d suggest having a lie-in and a strong coffee before making the drive from Right Bank to Left Bank. Depending on where you’re based, I’d set aside up to two hours for this. Definitely double-check if your satnav is taking you on the ferry route though – the ferry schedule is a little unpredictable (!) and I’ve found that it’s safer to make the longer but more reliable trek via the outskirts of Bordeaux city itself.
Bordeaux Lunch
Salmon Tartare
Café Lavinal is a wonderful bistro in Pauillac – with several prix fixe options at various prices, it’s a great place to fuel up for the day ahead. I had foie gras followed by a delightfully fresh salmon tartare at an affordable 19€; four courses (including cheese) will set you back 39€ and you can also order à la carte. The bistro is part of Famille JM Cazes, who look after the famous Château Lynch-Bages (amongst other châteaux), so there’s an extensive selection of wines by the glass, carafe or bottle should you wish to imbibe over lunch.
Pichon Baron
Pichon Baron Wines
Less than five minutes away by car, you can find the magical Château Pichon Baron that looks as if it’s straight out of a Disney film. Classified in 1855 as 2ème Grand Cru Classé, this is one of Bordeaux’s most famous “super seconds”. With 73 hectares under vine across Pauillac, the estate produces three wines: the flagship Château Pichon Baron, Les Tourelles de Longueville and Les Griffons de Pichon Baron. A one hour tour and tasting of these three wines will set you back 25€ and, wow, is it worth it. AXA Millésimes Group, who took over in 1987, revamped both the winery and cellars – and it’s impressive to see how rigorous and militant winemaking can be. I did a 2016 horizontal tasting following my tour and it was really interesting to see how the wines were showing at such an early stage of their journey. Although a little too young to be drinking, they all had great fruit concentration and tannin structure that show a lot of promise for ageing – I’m very much looking forward to see how these develop over the years!
Chateau Gruaud Larose
Gruaud Larose
Next up, a short ten minutes in the car will take you to Château Gruaud Larose in Saint-Julien. Also 2ème Grand Cru Classé, the estate spans 84 hectares and is, interestingly, home to one of the few (and very expensive) hail cannons in Bordeaux. Far from being menacing, hail cannons are useful in the vineyard as they send out shockwaves that disrupt the formation of hailstones in clouds – which could otherwise be extremely destructive to both vines and grapes. This is especially helpful as the estate has been moving to organic and biodynamic farming since their 2019 vintage. Two wines are produced every year: Château Gruaud Larose and its second wine, Sarget de Gruaud Larose. They have various tour options, and I did the essential one-hour tour with a tasting of two wines (20€; min. 2 people) – the panoramic view from their tower is a must-see. The 2013 Sarget de Gruaud Larose had lovely black fruit notes together with some tobacco and leather characteristics. The 1999 Château Gruaud Larose was a real treat – still black fruit dominant, but with so much more of those fantastic earthy, savoury and meaty notes. Absolutely delicious!


I tend to find that two winery visits tend to be plenty enough for a day’s hard work (!), so I’d recommend heading straight to Bordeaux city centre (about an hour’s drive) for the late afternoon/early evening. If time permits, wander over to the Miroir d’Eau, or “Water Mirror”, that’s right next to Place de la Bourse. Unsurprisingly, it’s the most photographed place in Bordeaux and you’ll find both locals and tourists soaking it all in. A quick five minute walk will take you to Place du Parlement, which is one of the oldest squares in the city. It also conveniently has a picturesque fountain and lots of cafés around where you can partake in the famous French pastime of apéro! Once you’re ready, another five minute walk will bring you to my favourite restaurant: L’Entrecôte. It’s a no fuss or frills restaurant that serves steak and steak alone – you’re simply invited to state how you’d like it cooked. A simple salad starter followed by a healthy portion of steak and fries is only 20€, but there is a catch: they don’t take reservations. The queue can get quite long but it’s part of the charm and it’s, in my opinion, definitely worth the wait!
Bordeaux Fountain
Steak Frites