Between the rivers and the Côtes
By Jane Anson
This Guide was last updated on 03 March 2010
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Often overlooked on visits to Bordeaux, Entre-Deux-Mers, between the rivers Dordogne and Garonne, has the most gorgeous countryside. © Mick Rock/Cephas
There are plenty of changes happening in the Bordeaux Côtes. Not only the new appellation of Côtes de Bordeaux that reflects a genuine desire to look outwards, but also increasing numbers of winemakers working with the lesser-known Bordeaux grapes such as Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Muscadelle. And because almost all the properties here are family-owned and small-scale, you are likely to find open doors and a warm welcome. If all of this sounds like an antidote to the glamour and big business approach that you sometimes find in the Médoc, you'd be right. Spending some time in the Côtes and in its equally undiscovered neighbour Entre-Deux-Mers, reminds you firstly that there's far more to Bordeaux than the classified wines that get all of the attention, and secondly that 85% of Bordeaux wine is sold at under ten, or even five Euros.
The Côtes and Entre-Deux-Mers extend over a large area, full of contrasting landscapes that can be explored by car, cycle, foot, canoe, or even horseback. They may not be as easy to reach as some other areas, but they are all worth taking time to investigate, having some of the most beautiful landscape of Bordeaux. Another big plus is that almost all châteaux here sell direct, as they are not beholden to the négociant system - so you can taste and buy your favourite bottles.
The Bourg and Blaye vineyards lie on rolling hills, 30km north of Bordeaux city, and extend from the right bank of the Gironde to the north where they are bordered by Charentes. The vineyards are situated on the edge of the limestone Libourne plateau and their soils are mixtures of gravel, sand and clay. The Entre-Deux-Mers region is an enormous triangular area between the Dordogne and Garonne rivers, on a limestone plateau which even though it rises to no more than 100m is considered as the haut pays (high country). There are diverse soils; clay-limestone, clay-gravel and ancient alluvial soils. The Premières Côtes de Bordeaux vineyards run in a strip that hugs the right bank of the Garonne, with reds grown mainly in the northern zone, and sweet whites in the southern area around the communes of Loupiac, Cadillac and Sainte Croix de Mont, where, as in Sauternes on the opposite bank, proximity to the river encourages noble rot.
The area has a mild maritime climate influenced by the Gulf Stream and the rivers, with average annual temperatures of 7.5°C minimum and 17°C maximum, winter frosts being rare and little threat of hail. There is however plenty of rainfall coming in from the Atlantic, more than in the vineyards on the left bank. The summers are usually dry and hot with the good weather often extending into autumn, although rain can be a threat to the harvest.
The fastest route from Paris, by car, is to take the A10 which takes you straight to Bordeaux. To access the Bourg and Blaye vineyards take exit 38 off the A10, and continue along the N137 to Blaye. At Blaye you can choose to continue along the N137 through the centre of the region or take the D669 which runs parallel to the river bank and onto Bourg. The Entre-Deux-Mers region, located between the rivers Dordogne and Garonne, can be reached by continuing along the A10, but before Bordeaux city centre and the Pont d’Aquitaine take the E70 (the ring-road) heading south, and either take exit 24 to join the D936, or exit 22 and continue along the D10 and N113 which take you along the Garonne riverbank. By train, the TGV Atlantique service reaches Bordeaux in less than three hours from Paris, five hours from Lille and seven from Brussels. Also the local bus company Citram Aquitaine services this area. The closest major airport is found at Bordeaux-Mérignac.
Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vins de Bordeaux (CIVB),
1 Cours du XXX Juillet, 33000 Bordeaux
Tel: 05 56 00 22 66
Maison des Vins de l’Entre-Deux-Mers,
416 Rue de l’Abbaye, 33670 La Sauve-Majeure
Maison des Vins de Côte-de-Bourg,
1 Place de l’Eperon, 33710 Bourg
Maison du Vin de Blaye,
12 Cours Vauban, 33390 Blaye
Maison des Premières Côtes de Bordeaux et Cadillac
La Closière, 104-106 Rue Cazeaux-Cazalet, 33410 Cadillac
Tel: 05 57 98 19 20
Blaye Tourist Office
Les Allées Marines, 33390 Blaye
Créon Tourist Office
La Gare, 62 Boulevard Victor Hugo, 33670 Créon
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