In a nutshell: France's undoubted capital of the vine and bottle – but much more besides.
Don't miss: Wineries and wine tours, the Cité du Vin, Les Quais, the Atlantic coast
Few places – anywhere on the planet – are as closely associated with one particular drink as France's sophisticated sentry of the Atlantic coast. For many of us, Bordeaux is red wine, and red wine is Bordeaux. Of course, there is much more to what is the historic capital of the Aquitaine region than vineyards and viticulture – this is an attractive city, pinned to the banks of the Garonne, just below where it merges with the River Dordogne to form the Gironde estuary. It has epic churches, great restaurants and – not too far away – lovely beaches. But if quality claret is something which appeals, then Bordeaux can be only, and all, about its most celebrated product. Pass a glass; leave the bottle on the table.
Nor do you have to strive too hard to sample it. The wine region extends out from the city for about 60 miles, along all three rivers. Cabernet sauvignon, merlot and malbec grapes (90 per cent of the wines the area makes are red) thrive in the rich soil and humid oceanic climate. Some 7,500 producers, crafting 800 million bottles every year, are found in this fertile context, and many of them are accessible to the public for tours and tastings.
But then, should you choose, you do not really need to leave Bordeaux to enjoy its great gift to the globe. Opened in the summer of 2016, the Cité du Vin has become a popular landmark – thanks to a gleaming glass-and-aluminium exterior which, according to its creators, “does not resemble any recognisable shape, because it is an evocation of the soul of wine between the river and the city”. The museum does an excellent job of dissecting the allure of the fruit of the vine – explaining why this most distinct of drinks has been supped for so many centuries.
While it may be tempting not to, you can also look beyond the cellar – to a city which delights on many levels. Les Quais (“The Wharves”) is a splendid location for a stroll along the (west) bank of the Garonne; a waterside promenade where there exists a range bars for further indulging your investigation into the local nectar. The cathedral (of St Andrew) is a spectacular twin-spired slice of Gothic and Romanesque majesty, dating to the ninth century. At the other end of the modernity scale, the Musée D'Art Contemporain (housed in a onetime coffee and sugar warehouse) has a feast of 21st century installations.
You don't have to go very far to reach the Atlantic. It is just 40 miles to Arcachon, a town laid out on the sheltered bay of the same name, where the beach extends for several miles, and oyster restaurants serve seafood freshly pulled from the water. And there are gorgeous strips of sand along an Aquitaine shoreline that is surprisingly and stunningly unspoilt. Hourtin Plage, Plage du Pin Sec and Plage du Grand Crohot are all within day-trip range of the city, and worth every minute of the short journeys needed to reach them.
Content supplied by the Telegraph’s travel expert Chris Leadbetter