Bordeaux underwent a city-wide renovation recently / © Gilles Arroyo
Although the Festival features professional events, there is plenty to attract the public / © Gilles Arroyo
The rehabilitation of Bordeaux old town is worthy of a place in the history books. The architecture and artistic heritage of this small French city has always been admirable, but over the years it had become choked with traffic, the walls had blackened and it was reduced to a shadow of its former glory. Today, however, it is once more an A-list destination.
A little more than a decade ago, the city mayor and former French Prime Minister Alain Juppe suggested an unusual deal to the people of Bordeaux: in exchange for four nightmare years of public works and renovation, he promised a city that would be easier to live in for its residents, as well as infinitely more appealing to visitors. And he fulfilled his side of the bargain.
All the major projects were undertaken at once: great car parks were built on the outskirts to encourage people to access the centre by bike or on the new tram system, many of the streets were pedestrianised, dingy facades were cleaned, and the degraded riverside area was rehabilitated. If you visited before the reform works, you'll hardly recognise the place today. And, as an incidental result, in 2007, UNESCO declared the historic centre of Bordeaux and its Port of the Moon a World Heritage Site.
If you fancy checking out the new-look Bordeaux, this month offers the perfect opportunity: the weekend of June 24th to 27th, sees the 7th edition of the Bordeaux Fete Le Vin, a huge celebration centring on the prestigious wines of the region.
Although the event features a wine producers' conference and other professional meetings, the real star of this four-day celebration will be the general public. Armed with the wine glass and the tickets that are included in the 'Tasting Pass', visitors can choose their own route around the dozens of marquees and pavilions set up along by the river and exchange the tickets for a wine tasting of their own choosing – not to mention sampling the more solid culinary delights that are also on offer.
The 80 appellation d'origine controlee and major names of wines from Bordeaux and Aquitaine will all be present with their wares, ensuring a perfect atmosphere. What's more, there will be concerts, shows, fireworks, wine-tasting initiation courses and culinary workshops led by guest chefs. There will even be excursions to some of the most famous wine chateaux of the Medoc and local villages with mythical names for lovers of good wine such as Sauternes and Saint-Emilion.
Tips & suggestions
Bordeaux is about five and a half hours by car from Paris. Easyjet fly to Bordeaux from Bristol, Liverpool, Gatwick and Luton, while RyanAir fly from Edinburgh.
The Bordeaux Tourist Office sells the convenient 'Tasting Pass' tickets that let you sample a range of the wines on offer from the riverside marquees. A 15 € pass includes a glass and glass holder, 12 tasting vouchers and several privilege tickets; for couples, the Pass Duo is just 20 €.
The 'Vineyard Pass' - either 50 € or 90 €, depending on destinations - includes bus transportation from Bordeaux, a bilingual guide and three visits to wine estates or heritage sites with wine tasting and lunch.
French Tourist Board
Bordeaux Tourist Office
Complete Bordeaux Fête le Vin programme