Sipping Red Wine in Bordeaux on a Backpacker’s Budget

Fields upon fields of grapes in St. Emilion

A Stop in Wine Country

Bordeaux, the word brings only one image to everyone’s mind, high grade red wine.  While wining and dining amid the vineyards of France may seem reserved for the wealthy, it can be yours to have for a fraction of what you might be thinking.

Walking around the endless fields of grapes

While I am not a wine person (Can’t wait to get to beer country), when in France it is hard not to try some of the stuff.  Bordeaux, being one of the most famous wine regions in the world, is a great place to do it.  It is important to remember that Bordeaux wine does not necessarily come from the city of Bordeaux itself as the label is used to define a region of French wine.  This means that most of the wineries are outside of the city and throughout the countryside around it.  As any liquid enthusiast knows, there is nothing better than trying alcohol directly from the source.  While you can sample and buy countless brands of Bordeaux wine in the city, you will not get the same appreciation for the stuff if you don’t get out to the chateaus themselves.

St. Emilion: A perfect place to try wines in Bordeaux

Accommodation in Bordeaux

Bordeaux is a fairly large city but has limited options when it comes to accommodation for budget travelers.  With only two hostels in the entire city, they book up fast and Claire and I ended up being one of the unlucky ones without a reservation in either of them.  This forced us to scramble in search of a place to lay down our heads when a local

Claire and I learning a little bit about the wine making process

recommended a cheap hotel they knew about three tram stops away from the train station.  After finding the hotel online, we found that it would only cost us 55 Euros for the night.  To our surprise, the room was actually quite nice and very clean for the price we paid.  It only ended up costing us a few more euros than 2 bunk beds would have at the hostel.  So after a few hours of desperate searching, B&B Hotel became our headquarters for finding fine wine in Bordeaux.

The best way to try wine is to get out to the Chateaus themselves

Where to get your Taste Buds Drunk

As mentioned before, The best way to try wine and experience the wine making process is to get out of the city and into the country side.  With hundreds of chateaus scattered throughout, this can be a daunting task to figure out where to go and where will be affordable.  After a little research, Claire and I decided to take a day trip to St. Emilion.

We found our wine!

Just a 9 euro and 30 minute train ride away from Brodeaux, St. Emilion is a tiny hilltop village dating back thousands of years.  Walking around its streets and its stone houses takes you back in time.   Legend has it that wine has been grown here since Saint Emilion himself did it here some 1,300 years ago and the town that developed around it never stopped.

The walk from the train station to St. Emilion

St. Emilion’s train station is a lovely 15 minute walk away from the town itself.  As soon as you step off the train, you are surrounded by fields of grape vines and large stone chateaus littered throughout the fields.  Most of the St. Emillion vineyards accept guests for tastings and visits but some are only by appointment and prices can vary considerably.  On top of this, if you’re depending on your feet to get you around, the number of chateaus you can visit declines considerably.  To find out where to go, head up the hill and go straight to the tourist office.  Here, you can get maps of the surrounding areas, descriptions of each Chateau, and how much each visit will cost.  After doing a little reading, Claire and I picked the Chateau we thought fit us best and set out to try some wine!

St. Emilion is a beautiful town to explore while tasting wines

We ended up at Chateau Cadet Pontet.  Located just a ten minute walk from town, this chateau was easy to get to and was in our price range.  Wines at this chateau ranged from 11-35 euros and tastings was 2 euros (most chateaus waive the fee if you end up buying some of their wine).  Upon arriving, we were warmly greeted by a young man

Cadet Pontet is located just a 10 minute walk from town

who worked at the chateau.  He spoke decent English and offered us a brief tour of the chateau and the vineyard itself.  Here we gained insights into the wine making process and also the amount of dedication that goes into producing a Bordeaux wine.  There are countless rules to follow and everything must be done within the chateau itself.  After the tour, we were invited to sample 4 of their wines.  After tasting, we ended up liking one of the wines so much that we ended up buying it.  While the two of us are not wine buffs to even the slightest degree, it was a memorable experience and we did end up enjoying our wine.

St. Emilion and the grape fields that surround it

Other than tasting, the area is great for walking around.  Take a walk down the country roads to get a feel for the French countryside as you look out to an endless sea of grapes.  Don’t forget to explore St. Emilion itself as it is truly a beautiful little town.  If you’re hungry, there seems to be as many eateries as there are wineries.  For cheap eats, there is a sandwich shop at the edge of town towards the train station.  You can get a quality sandwich, a drink, and a desert for 6 euro here.

Exploring the old town of St. Emilion

If one Chateau, is not enough for you, there are three or four wineries within walking distance of St. Emilion.  In the town itself, there are also numerous wine shops that offer free tastings throughout the day.  You can easily spend a whole day in the town and Chateaus, but unfortunately, Claire ended up getting really sick in the afternoon so we called our day short in order to get her back to the hotel.

Claire enjoying the view despite feeling under the weather

How Much did it Cost?

So there you have it, a wonderful day in wine country that didn’t hurt the wallet too much.  Here is a breakdown of the costs for the day:

Hotel: 55 euro (Hostel would have been 48)

Trains: 36 euro

Wine: 16 euro

Lunch: 13 euro

Snacks: 4 euro

Total: 124 euro for two

Enjoying some wine tasting in St. Emilion

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