Rustic Blog

6 things you should know about Bordeaux’s Vineyards

Writer: Sara Harley


Hello fellow wine lovers! Whether you are a wine expert, collector or someone who has a little or no knowledge of wine, here is a list of 6 things you might want to know about the iconic Bordeaux wine region and its amazing viticultural traditions.

A great opportunity to impress and do something with your friends and family, or even better… treat yourself, to discover and taste … the uniqueness of this region wine once the lockdown is over!


1. The vineyards area are divided into 3 sections


I bet you didn’t know that right?

Bordeaux is located in the South-West region of France, and it’s also where the Gironde estuary –
the biggest estuary in Europe – splits into two rivers as you can see on the map below.

The Garonne River, located towards the South, crosses the city centre of Bordeaux whereas the
Dordogne River runs towards the North.

So Left-Bank is what we call the region located on the left side of the Gironde estuary and
the Garonne River. As you can then guess, the region located on the right side
of the Gironde estuary and the Dordogne River is therefore : Right-Bank.
Easy peasy!

The area between the two rivers is called Entre-Deux-Mers, more commonly known in English as : Between-Two-Seas. 


2. Appellation rather than Grape Varieties


Some of you might wonder what does appellation or AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) mean.

The initial creation of the Bordeaux appellation system began taking place in 1936. The purpose of
the AOC system, (Appellation d’Origine Controlee) which is used for food and other agricultural products makes very good sense. The purpose behind the AOC
system is simple.

When a product comes from one specific area, it’s the uniqueness of the place due, to its terroir
that gives the wine or other agricultural product its special character, style and identity. An appellation is a legally defined and protected area.

In Bordeaux there are more or less 64 different appellations that are planted on a wide variety of different soils and terroir. They represent a limited region (Saint-Emilion, Margaux, Pauillac etc.) where there are strict rules for wine production that must be followed by the winemaker.

We choose to use Appellation rather than Grape varieties due to the uniqueness of the Gironde area. The wine producers of Bordeaux, first and foremost, want people to understand the
uniqueness and individuality of this regions wine.

Instagram: hautbretonlarigaudiere


3. One word to describe it…. UNIQUE


Each wine region of France has its own particularities and traditional methods, which makes the wine so special everywhere you go. If you get the chance to travel to the variety of wine regions in France, have a look at the shape of the bottles: they change depending on the region! Their reason : sometimes it has reference to French history but most often it’s down to the shapes practicality.

In Bordeaux, there are several different grape varieties offered in the region, as a result, we mix and blend these grapes varieties together. In comparison to Burgundy for example, where they produce wine from only one single grape variety.

It’s the same story when looking at the wine colour, it’s also very different from region to region. Where Bordeaux wines are red, Burgundy wines get closer to a red ruby. Also the style of wine changes per region, some regions will produce fine, elegant wines, whereas Bordeaux produces are more complex, powerful and sometimes tannic wines. Come and see for yourself and compare the difference!


4. Do you know how many main red grapes varieties are found in Bordeaux?


You will find three main red grape varieties in this region: Cabernet Sauvignon, which also happens
to be the most popular grape variety in the world. Merlot, a fruity flavoured wine  and lastly Cabernet Franc.

In some Bordeaux regions it’s possible to find Malbec, in small quantities. This is very famous in Argentina.

From the Left-Bank to the Right-Bank, you have to opportunity to discover and compare two different Bordeaux style and blends.


5. Vintages which use a 0 to 5 grading system, are known to be the best in Bordeaux


Here is a good tip to remember when buying wine from this region:

When looking to buy a/some bottle/s to take back home! Since 1990, every five years produces
an excellent wine vintage for all 3 wine groups: red, white and rosé.

This is a pure coincidence.

A good vintage or a good year simple happens when all the best growing conditions coincide to
create a well balanced wine: good weather, good temperature, low disease impact through
the year.

Of course, prices are little bit higher for these amazing vintage bottles but the taste is worth it
guys! Just keep them in your cellar and in a cool area to save them for a special occasion. The best part: they get better with age!


6. Perfect winery location, here is where one of the world’s most expensive bottles of wine is produced!


It’s the wine that was served at Queen Elisabeth II’s wedding, it was also the Kennedy family’s
favourite wine… Can you guess what its name?

Château Petrus.

The starting cost for a bottle is around 2000€ and the price can increase according to the quality of
the vintage produced. This property is located in Pomerol Appellation, on  the Right-Bank of Bordeaux (the neighbour of the Saint-Emilion Appellation). Some people say Pomerol is the land of the expensive wines. Well, we don’t agree, as in Pomerol they do offer very
affordable wines that are still very good quality!


Are you interested in learning more about Bordeaux’s wonderful wines and visiting the regional vineyards? Buy a Voucher during lockdown and get 20% off on all our tours, there’s no time-limitation either! Why not visit an exciting, new destination when you for your next trip or day out after such a crazy, long but necessary lockdown.

Stay safe everyone! Cheers and hopefully see you soon.

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[WEBSERIE] WINEMAKER’S PORTRAIT : Château Coutet, a historical place

Adrien David Beaulieu is a Winemaker in Saint-Emilion, and he is also part of the family, since the 14th generation. Château Coutet, where he lives, is located in an area surrounded by prestigious Châteaux such as Angelus. His vineyard is historic!

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[WEBSERIE] WINEMAKER’S PORTRAIT : An ancestral know-how

FR: Adrien David Beaulieu vie et travaille au sein du Château Coutet, situé à Saint-Emilion. Le Château a gardé ses valeurs traditionnelles : la famille utilise encore de très vieilles machines, mais aussi la nouvelle technologie. Ils ont découvert, il y a quelques années, un trésor laissé par leurs ancêtres…

EN: Adrien David Beaulieu lives and works at Château Coutet, located in Saint-Emilion, France. The Château is still very traditional: the family still uses very old machines, but also new technology. They discovered, a few years ago, a treasure left by their ancestors inside the winery…

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After being introduced to Château Bernateau in the first and second part, it’s time to taste the Wine with the owners: Karine and Pierrick! They choose some vintages they like and explain the typicity of the Wine (in the mouth, in the nose…). Wines from Château Bernateau won’t have anymore secrets for you, and we hope those 3 episodes from the Serie “Winemaker’s Portrait” make you want to visit this winery, for real!

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[webserie] WINEMAKER’S PORTRAIT : Vineyards and Terroirs

In the first episode of this Webserie, Karine and Pierrick Lavau introduced the Chateau they live in, all year long and shared some Historical facts with us! In this second episode, let’s discover their vineyards, the grapes varieties they grow and the ‘inside’ of the winery!

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[webserie] WINEMAKER’S PORTRAIT : Welcome to Château Bernateau

Pierrick and Karine Lavau are two winemakers, living in Saint-Emilion Appellation, making Wine since the 11th generations! They share with us some facts about their life in a Winery… Especially during the lockdown in France due to the Corona Virus crisis.

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Bordeaux Wine : Saint-Émilion Village & Vineyards

Saint Émilion: a historic citadel, home to wines of historical importance

1300 years ago, a remarkable man- famous in his native Brittany for having performed many miracles- made his way south in search of a place where he might settle and dedicate his life to prayer. He chose a small settlement on a hill north of Bordeaux. The settlement was previously known as as Ascumbas; little did he know that it would in fact be his name that would become known around the world, adorning the labels of some of the most prestigious wines the world has ever produced.

bordeaux wine tours

By the time this monk arrived, the trade that would make his name famous had already been cultivated since as early as the second century. The poet and Roman consul to Gaul, Ausone, is rumoured to have owned an estate and some vines on the slopes of Saint-Émilion, hence the name of the famous Château Ausone. Some believe that this was the site of his winery.

Regardless, it was the monks who followed Émilion to his newly-built hermitage that began commercial wine production in this region, a production which made the fortune of the town that blossomed in the medieval period under English rule.

The Historical Village, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

In 1999, the village was listed as World Heritage Site for its cultural importance, notably for its historical traces and importance in the world of viticulture.

The history is visible everywhere. A walk around the town is a trip back in time. The village is peppered with landmarks such asthe old defensive watchtower la tour des rois, the old monastic cloister on top of the hill that produces effervescent wines, a giant arch among the vines that hints at the size of the monastery that once stood there, and then there’s the pièce de résistance: the monolithic church that dates from the 12th century.

saint emilion wine tour

The cultural history of the village is rich, but even this is almost outshone by the history of the many vineyards that have made the name Saint-Émilion famous around the world.

Surrounding the Saint-Émilion appellation are smaller appellations that are known as The Saint-Émilion Satellites: Lussac-Saint-ÉmilionMontagne-Saint-ÉmilionPuisseguin-Saint-Émilion, and Saint-Georges-Saint-ÉmilionAnd that’s to say nothing of its highly distinguished neighbour, the renowned appellation of Pomerol

What’s special about the wine?

Like most Bordeaux right bank wines, the ones produced in Saint-Émilion and its satellites are merlot-dominated blendsThey generally are composed of 60% Merlot, almost 30% Cabernet Franc and approximately 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.

That said, the range of soils across the appellation creates an enormous diversity in the wines of Saint-Émilion, perhaps the largest diversity found in any of Bordeaux’s appellations.

The majority of châteaux ranked higher up in the Saint-Émilion classification are found on the limestone-rich plateaus under and around the village. As you get to the bottom of the slopes the soil becomes gravelly and sandy, which changes the characteristics of each grape varietal, as does the clay found under the topsoil on the eastern side of the appellation. Hence the importance of the appellations!

How can you tell which are the best?

The classification system here is often compared to the Bordeaux Official Wine Classification of 1855, a system used for ranking the wines on the other side of the Garonne. The left bank system hasn’t changed in over 160 years, with a very small number of exceptions.

bordeaux wine tours

On the other hand, Saint-Émilion’s is updated more or less every decade. As such, the classification of a Saint-Émilion wine (Premier Grand Cru Classé A, Premier Grand Cru Classé B and Grand Cru Classé) is a more reliable indication of its quality compared to the almost unchanged ranking system on the left bank.

The four highest ranked wines- the Premier Grand Cru Classé A wines in Saint-Émilion are Château Angélus, Château Ausone, Château Cheval Blanc and Château Pavie. Cheval Blanc is held up as the greatest Saint-Émilion wine producer by many wine lovers.

Why visit?

If you’re not already sold on the history, the culture, the village is a tourist hotspot for its artisanal shops and gastronomyMichelin-starred restaurants are dotted around the area, including in the centre of the village. Artists, knife makers, carpenters and macaroon bakersline the charming old streets and the rocky paths that connect the lower and higher parts of town.

It’s a wonderful place to take a stroll and the perfect place to indulge the senses. If you’re staying in or around Bordeaux, it would be a shame to miss out on this remarkable testament to Aquitaine’s heritage.

Check Out our Famous Monk Tour of The Saint Émilion Appellation !

For more on the Bordeaux Wine Region, don’t miss the series ;

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Rustic Vines & Co’

If someone traveled to Bordeaux in a dream, they will wake up to astonishing blue sea, lush French countryside and most definitely a taste of the world’s best wines. And if someone was to travel to Bordeaux in reality, Rustic Vines blends all these elements into what Trip Advisor has been calling the number one Wine tour in Bordeaux for last three years in a row.

bordeaux wine

The wine capital of the world, Bordeaux, has maintained this status for the last two hundred years and does not reveal its secrets. The flavourful world of Bordeaux’s wine culture can only be enjoyed in the company of someone who has been accepted by the city as its own…

You might not know, but Rustic Vines was founded by Tim Cowley, an ex-professional Rugby player, wine enthusiast, sea lover, and most importantly a committed Francophile.His tour business is a combination of the love of grapes, local knowledge, and tourist curiosity. Tim himself was an outsider once and knows exactly what attracts visitors to Bordeaux. Thanks to Tim’s passion, his team knows exactly what makes a tour truly rewarding, and this understanding is the true spirit of this wine tour business.

While playing professional Rugby in the UK, Tim desired to play in the French Top 14 that brought him to France about six years ago. He was presented with an opportunity soon after to play with Bourgoin Jallieu, which he did for a full three years until he finished his pro rugby career in 2012. Free to answer to the call of the sea now, he soon found himself in Bordeaux visiting a friend… This trip would totally change his life, as he fall in love with the city like thousands of others before him, and decide to stay for good!

Yet how could a wine lover be in the very city of wine and not explore? It was only a handful of years ago that Tim borrowed a friend’s car and went on his first ever wine tour around Bordeaux. Needless to say the beaches, the wine culture and the French village life, all left a deep impression on him. So he decided to share this thrilling, and tasteful adventure with everybody and Rustic Vines came into existence. It’s no surprise that a Rustic Vines tour by the one and only Tim Cowely quickly became a major tourist attraction in Bordeaux. Tim’s fun-filled tours introduce tourists to the intricacies of Bordeaux’s world famous wine culture, excellent food, and wonderful local life. Although it’s not just about drinking tasty wine; Rustic Vines teaches novice and expert connoisseurs the right wine drinking etiquette, all with the luxuriant rusticity of a French village backdrop.

In addition to great wine and excellent food, there is also the satisfying comfort of a close-knit community of English speaking expats in Bordeaux. Tim is quick to claims that his journey could not have been the same without support from this unique groupe of native anglophone bordelais. In fact, the support and affectionate friendship of the expat community has been an important factor for the quick growth. The enthusiastic team of guides, and administrators at Rustic Vines, is a group of individuals not only from inside Bordeaux but also from many of the far off corners of the globe. Making diversity one of the strong points of this unique tour company.

After starting the company Tim found a trusted friend in Scott, another larger-than-life Kiwi with the patience of a nun and smooth New Zealand accent, who has worn the hat of Rustic Vines Manager ever since. Scott rarely gives up the chance to take a tour himself, and flaunt his love for Bordeaux and vast knowledge of its wines.

Another wine loving Kiwi from New Zealand, Sarah and Chelsea from Canada both worked with us for a whole year in 2016. They still manage to sneak in now and then, and we think the more, the better. In the same year we also met another inspiring individual, Rob, who after building our Bordeaux Bike experience and mastering the perfect route, now owns La Musette a unique Café-Bike repair workshop on the south center side of town. His shop brings all the three most important things Rustic Wine loves, great taste, memories and bikes under one roof.

Furthermore, Dan Rock the founder of Le Map Bordeaux, who must have been an outsider once is as much bordelaise as someone born here. A passionate of French pop culture, anything history and the everyday locals life in Bordeaux, Dan has recently been helping Rustic Vines’ with referencing and web presence.

In the end, this mix of cultures, languages and loves make Rustic Vines tours full bodied blends of rustic, unadulterated, French culture, excellent food and some of the world’s best wines paired with a delicious mix of picturesque rural France, clear blue sea, friendly locals. Most importantly, the Rustic sense of familiarity with Bordeaux is what spices up things so well. Our team and the locals that we meet on the tours, are all happy to welcome you in their hearts and cellars and give you an unforgettable experience!

*The chances are that as a wine enthusiast, you may have noted a few puns in the above paragraph. They are all intended but if you missed out on them, do not worry. All you need is one tour with Rustic Wines, and you can start feeling like a proper wine connoisseur yourself.

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Former Guide blends his passion

Expat Rob loves bikes. In 2016 he played an integral part in the development of our Bordeaux by Bike Tour which is a great 2.5 guided tour on beach cruiser bikes around the best sites of the historical city of Bordeaux. During the tour you will even taste some wine, which Rob says was obligatoire in a tour of Bordeaux, the city of wine.

bordeaux by bike guided tour

Fast forward 2 years and Rob has a business of his own, Musette Bike Cafe and we wanted to tell our readers about this hidden secret.
Simple concept: Bikes & Coffee. Along with his business partner Chris you will find them at 72 Cours de la Somme in Bordeaux where Rob handles the bike repairs and sales and Chris is busy in the kitchen whipping up quality cappuccinos and baking tasty banana cakes and more.  Bordeaux is a super flat city and tourists in general find it very cycle friendly with dedicated bike lanes almost everywhere. This shows by the number of cyclists you see commuting or just going for a cruise along La Garonne river. If you are after good local advice on cycle routes in the region around Bordeaux, the guys at Musette can help you out.

Victoire & Saint Michel Quartier

Musette Cafe can be found in the dynamic area of Victoire, only a short walk from Saint Michel and the famous Marché des Capucins. We encourage you to check them out, taste the dish of the day and receive friendly service. So yes, even if you are not travelling by bike, it is worth stopping by and having a chat.

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What’s NEW for the 2018 Season

We have never been more excited than now at Rustic Vines. Why? Because we want to show our worldwide audience the new tours we have created starting April 1st and explain why. Of course, we still have the tried and tested original tours because why fix something when it is not broken. Here we provide an overview of the 2 additional tours, The Napoleon Morning Tour and the Bike-Electric Saint-Emilion Half Day Tour helping to create more diversity and more enjoyment for when you visit Bordeaux and the greater Gironde area of South-West France.


Tasting. The only way to learn!

The Napoleon Morning Tour is our small group, half day guided tour to the Medoc region and in particular the world-renowned appellation of Margaux located on the left bank of the Garonne river. You will get to see many Grand Cru Classé Chateaux as you drive up the Route Des Chateaux before visiting one of our fantastic partners for a tour of the facilities and grounds and then finish up with a tasting of Cabernet Sauvignon dominant wines (find out why this is). Our partners in the Medoc include Chateau Lascombes, Chateau Marquis de Terme and Chateau Siran and more. Continuing on, we will accompany you to our friends at the local wine merchant in Margaux for tastings and further explanation of left bank wines. We are sure you will see the passion the local people have for the industry from the vineyards to the last (but most important) part, the tasting. To end this journey we take you to THE Chateau Margaux. They do not actually do tours of the Chateau, but we provide you with the history of the 1855 Classification and the opportunity to take some memorable photos outside the Chateau and visit the information area. We keep the tour fun and exciting because we know what our customers want. We developed this tour to give customers a shorter and more concise look at this region and by returning to Bordeaux around midday you have the opportunity to then take part on the Famous Monk Tour to St Emilion which departs in the afternoon. So if you really want to appreciate the two main styles from Bordeaux, book a Package Deal: LEFT BANK vs RIGHT BANK Do it all in one day or over two separate days.

Click to book Napoleon Morning Tour €55 per person

Available with the following packages deals:
-Left Bank vs Right Bank (also includes The Famous Monk Tour)
-Vines by Day, Wines by Night (also includes Taste of Bordeaux Tour)


ebike tour st emilion
Cheerful group cycling around the St Emilion village

After great feedback last year from the Bike Electric Full Day tour, we have created another option to visit the stunning Saint Emilion by electric bike over half a day. This tour departs directly from St Emilion so if you are staying on Bordeaux and want to do the tour, please consult the train times from Bordeaux to St Emilion. This is a perfect tour if you don’t want to be out all day visiting the region but still want a leisurely cycle around the vineyards and ofcourse taste the wine. Or maybe you want to visit La Cité du Vin or the Marché des Capucins in Bordeaux in the morning. An afternoon departure means you can do what you want in the morning before setting off from our St Emilion office. The undulating landscape of the St Emilion plateau is no match for these bikes as we guarantee to show you the most scenic of routes possible. That is the number one advantage of this tour and we make it as safe as possible by avoiding main roads. The region is stunning and is classified by UNESCO so we include photo stops. Enjoy a tour and wine tasting at one of our partner Chateaux including, but not exclusive to Chateau la Gaffeliere, Chateau Coutet and Chateau de Pressac. We also include a classic French moment of some more wine and cheese in the vineyards, Rustic Vines-style. We return to the medieval village for more tastings of the Merlot dominant right bank at a wine merchant before finishing with a historical walk through the village including stops at the Monolithic Church, the Cloistures, the fortifications and the place where the Famous Monk is buried. We assure you that your guide will provide a fun and comfortable service, also providing bottled water, extra carry space for your clothes and wine and taking photos along the way. We love what we do and hope it shows. Your job? Relax (pedal a little) and enjoy. After all, you are on holiday.

Click to book Bike Electric Half Day Tour €60 per person

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You can't wait to discover Bordeaux ? Check our Wine Tours !

Starting at 63.20€ instead of 79€ !

The Famous Monk Wine Tour

Enjoy the comfort of the van as you tour the St-Emilion wine region, and its beautiful Chateaux. Tour the UNESCO-listed medieval village! It also includes a tasty lunch and many wine tastings.

79€ pp

The Napoleon Tour to Médoc Wine Region

The best way to discover the Route des Châteaux and see some of the most prestigious Châteaux in the world.

Starting at 104€ instead of 130€ !


Take a fun ride through the stunning vineyards, visit 2 Châteaux as well as our famous picnic lunch. Experience a guided walking tour of the UNESCO-listed village.


Looking for something special? Build a Private Tour !

Get in touch and we’ll help plan a Private Wine Experience tailored to you.

Napoleon Winter Tour
"As promised in my previous review in 2017 where we had the Famous Monk tour, I did not hesitate to book another tour with Rustic Vines. This time I booked the Napoleon Medoc Winter Tour for myself and a couple of friends. We were not disappointed. Our guide Thomas was very knowledgeable. We visited 2 chateaux, one in Saint-Estephe and another in Margaux, a wine merchant and had a very good lunch at Restaurant Le Savoie, a pleasant surprise since we did not expect that a lunch included in a tour would be that good."
Custom Wine Tour
"This tour was a treat from start to finish. It was particularly special because it accommodated my niece (6 years) and my nephew (3 years). Our tour guide, Julie, was fantastic. Julie provided lots of interesting and helpful information about the Bordeaux, Saint-Emilion, wine, wine making, architecture and the history of the region. I would highly recommend Rustic Vines and Julie!"
Famous Monk Tour
"An excellent tour with a very knowledgeable guide. (...) We had a picnic lunch, excellent narration by a young man who is studying wine-making, a tour of two vineyards and a surprise picnic at the end of the tour with wine, bread, cheese, and sausages. We walked around St Emiliion, an old city that was originally a monastery. A good variation of riding, walking, and sitting in a beautiful countryside."
Christel P
- TripAdvisor, Jul 2018