(Sept. 2016) When in Bordeaux it is almost impossible to “throw a rock” without hitting a wine bar or wine shop. They are all over the city, and this is only fitting, because Bordeaux is one of the largest wine producing regions in the world, with more than 8500 wineries. Though there are many great wine bars and shops, I have three favorites, described below:
CIVB Bar a Vin – Where You Can Drink Amazing Wine for Two Euros!
This great wine bar called Bar a Vin, located across from the Tourist Office in downtown Bordeaux, is the brainchild of the CIVB (Council de Interprofessional Vin Bordeaux). It is a brilliant concept designed to showcase the many regions of Bordeaux wine by allowing the visitors to taste a full glass of wine for only a few euros. For example, you can order a glass of bubbly (Cremant de Bordeaux) for only 3 euros, and a glass of Bordeaux white or rose' for only 2 euros. A great Sauternes is only 6 euros, and a Grand Cru Pauillac is only 8 euros. Even better, you can order a half a glass for half the price.
|Wine at Bar a Vin - Half Pours for only One to Two Euros|
The wine menu changes daily, so it is always interesting, and the staff is well educated and can provide solid information on the wines. They also offer a wine map of the region, as well as platters of cheese, foiegras, and charcuterie for 6 to 8 euros. The décor is beautiful with stained glass, statues, tapestries, and paintings.
I ended up going here six times in the two weeks I was in Bordeaux – sometimes with friends, and other times alone, where I could enjoy a relaxing glass of wine and read a book. The CIVB is now wisely opening up more bars in major cities around the world, with a new one just established in New York City.
|With Friends at Bar a Vin in Bordeaux|
Bar Max – Where You Can Taste First Growth Wines
Bar Max features small tastes of wine from an enomatic wine-dispensing machine for a fee, as well as educational workshops. They are famous for the fact that you can taste many of the Grand Cru wines, and even First Growth wines. Though they charge anywhere from 20 to 30 euros for these famous wines, it would cost hundreds of dollars to buy a bottle, so it can be a good deal if you just want to try them.
Last time I visited Bar Max I was with with a Sonoma Wine CEO who had never tasted any of the First Growth wines. She thought it would be good for her professional development to know how they tasted, so she paid $125 euros and was able to taste all five. I think she got a great deal, because buying a bottle of Chateau Margaux, Lafite, Latour, Mouton-Rothschild and Haut-Brion would have cost her anywhere between $3000 and $10,000 or more, depending on the vintage.
|Poster of Bar Max Wine Machines|
The selection at Bar Max varies, and so the First Growths are not always available, and the vintages are usually not the best, but there are plenty of good wines to try. Prices range from 1 euro for a Bordeaux rose taste up to around 30 euros for the high end wines.
L’Intendant Wine Shop – A Dizzy and Dazzling Tower of Bordeaux Wines
This amazing wine shop is located in downtown Bordeaux, very close to the CIVB Bar a Vin and next door to the Grand Hotel. From the outside L’Intendant appears quite small, but when you enter, you see a winding staircase and discover it climbs up five flights – with the wines becoming more expensive as you climb. Magnums are on the top floor.
|From the 4th Floor of L'Intendant Looking Down the Spiraling Tower of Wine|
The staff is friendly, and invites you to look around even if you are not buying. I wasn’t planning on buying, but the prices are good and I decided to pick up a few nice bottles to take back to the house for dinners. All of the great wines of Bordeaux, including First Growths in multiple vintages, can be found here.