The Wine Lovers Tour
Summary: A 7-night cycle tour for those who appreciate Bordeaux’s supremacy as the wine cellar of France or who just want to enjoy rural France at a leisurely pace. It leaves Bordeaux on a long-distance cycle path to reach Chateau Dardenac for a first night and then next day takes you on to St Emilion where you have time to enjoy both the town and the many opportunities for sampling ‘Grand Cru’ or less famous names. Heading south across the valley bottom you then recross the Dordogne to briefly regain the cycle path before heading to St Macaire on the river Garonne. Here you spend two nights that allow you to explore the Sauternes and other white wine terroirs before turning north to follow the Garonne valley through Graves vineyards to spend a night at Martillac in the Pessac-Leognan vineyards. Here you might like to make a circuit of this AOC or book a tour of a prestige chateau such as Chateau la Louviere or Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte. The final ride into Bordeaux is then a short one and provides time to enjoy further wine discoveries in the city itself or perhaps just a little retail therapy in the Triangle d’or.
The accommodation referred to below is typical of what we book, and often the actual accommodation, but availability reduces as the year progresses so contact us as soon as you can for the best choice.
The detailed itinerary: arrive in Bordeaux and check into your hotel in the heart of the city – usually the Quality Hotel Ste Catherine, just off Rue Ste Catherine or a similar quality 3-star and central hotel. In the early evening meet up with your bikes and host in Bordeaux, and while adjusting the bikes to a comfortable fit run through the route notes and maps and deal with any other queries before taking a stroll through the St Pierre quarter for orientation and to choose your restaurant menu for dinner.
In the morning you only need leave your bags in the hotel, and after breakfast cycle away to the riverside a few hundred metres away.
Leaving Bordeaux by the St Jean bridge, you ride upstream alongside the river Garonne to reach the Roger Lapébie cyclepath and then head into the Entre-Deux-Mers by a winding valley route. You could take lunch at little wayside bistros in Latresne or Lignan, or delay until you reach the 13th century bastide town of Creon. Here a convenient supermarket also offers picnic ingredients and the adjacent wine co-op can offer a sample of the local viniculture. Continuing on the ex-rail track you soon reach La Sauve to visit the ruined Abbey and the Maison du Vin in the old Tithe barn. This historic 12th century site is still a popular way-point for modern Compostella pilgrims on their way to northwest Spain. Your route however is less demanding, as when you return to the cyclepath you have only a further 6kms to ride before turning off to reach Dardenac where the Chateau’s proprietor, Francoise, is your host for the night.
Next day you regain the cyclepath briefly to then turn off and, crossing the river Dordogne, you can reach St Emilion for a late coffee in the square. Alternatively, if you wish to build up some bike time, you can stay on the cycle path to reach a riverside route that leads to Castillon la Bataille before you follow a country road to the foot of St Emilion. There is also the choice of a couple of circuit rides that show off the charming gentle landscape to the north and east of St Emilion. Alternatively, you may wish to concentrate your attentions on St Emilion itself with its narrow picturesque streets, underground church, cloisters, wine cellars and wine tasting school. A ramble around the vineyards just outside the town is a great way to appreciate the juristiction (the ancient guild’s territory) without the crowds, and there are numerous cellar visits on offer. Your hotel will be either one of the town’s two 3-star hotels: Hotel Palais Cardinal or the Logis des Remparts.
The following day you head south across the flat valley floor, past dozens of ‘wineries’, to reach another bridge over the Dordogne and by way of a little hidden valley, regain the cycle track. Following this for some miles brings you to St Brice where you turn off to ride across rolling countryside to Verdelais. This village’s main claim to fame is that it hosts the grave of the Impressionist artist Toulouse Lautrec whose family home is nearby. A short distance further, you reach the flood-plain of the Garonne and a backroad that leads to St Macaire. The ancient walled town was once a busy and prosperous riverport that was founded by a wandering Greek monk (Makarios) in the Dark Ages. Today it can still muster a choice of six restaurants/cafes and a splendid little hotel – Les Feuilles d’Acanthes – your home for the next two nights. Here the wine list always includes choices of the local Cotes de St Macaire wines and if you like simple desserts there is a Fruits de la Forêt ice-cream which is superb.
From here you can cycle the next day across the Garonne to reach Chateau Roquetaillarde or Chateau Malle, taking in a slice of the Sauternes vineyards on the way. If it’s market day in Bazas, you might however prefer to head upstream to Castets before riding through Auros to reach what may be the best country market in the Department. But here again there are options of shorter day rides or guided visits to some of the premier cru chateaux, including one that you approach by canoe before a tour and a picnic lunch, or the choice of riding in the shade of the Plane trees lining the Garonne canal to La Réole.
The next day you take the left bank of the Garonne as you cycle northwards into the Graves region, perhaps en route stopping off at Barsac and Cerons, or even paying a visit to the Lillet distillery or the Maison des Vins at Podensac. Cadillac may be a little ambitious as a lunch stop but there are picnic spots by the Ciron river and if you have purchased a bottle on the previous day, the hotel will be happy to chill it for you. That night you reach Martillac by way of Rions, Langoiran and Portets, and stay at Chateau de Lantic a couple hundred metres from the village centre and its restaurant – le Pistou.
With Bordeaux scarcely a dozen miles to the north, that day you can choose to follow the Pessac-Léognan Route des Vins to the village of Léognan, take a pre-booked tour of a premier chateau such as La Louviere, or perhaps book into a spa treatment and lunch at the upscale Sources des Caudalies, a few miles away and on your route back to Bordeaux.
Back in Bordeaux, you are at the Hotel Ste Catherine on Rue du Parlement Ste Catherine, where you have a choice from the literally hundreds of restaurants in the St Pierre quarter or nearby. To round off the day you might like to take a stroll along the riverside to view the neo-classical frontage reflected in the Miroir d’eau and enjoy a night cap in the Chartrons district further along the quays. Rue Notre Dame has some interesting bars, or heading in the opposite direction, Le Port de la Lune has live Jazz on most nights.
- 7 nights 2 star/3 star hotels and 3 epis Chambre d’Hotes on B&B or half-board basis
- Hire of fully equipped hybrid bicycle
- Supply of detailed maps and route notes
- Luggage transfers
- Greeting on arrival day by your host who will offer a short walking tour of the centre
- He will also check you are comfortable with the bikes, routes, any other details, PLUS
- He will be on call during the week should any significant problems arise and may meet up with you during the week in person
Some variations in the category of hotels. This tour can be booked with evening meals included on some nights.
Average 27 miles daily with a maximum of 33 miles. Four days cycling place-to-place and the option of cycling circuits on the stay-put days.
Staying for one or more nights on wine-producing properties (the itinerary described above can be adjusted as necessary).
- The tour passes through (or close by) almost half of the recognised Bordeaux appellations with the option of adding extra days to ride out of Bordeaux to sample the Medoc terroirs.
- Numerous opportunities to sample the local wines with the local dishes they would have originally been matched to and enough time to enjoy a short wine-tasting workshop at St Emilion or Bordeaux.
A gentle gradient along a former railway track to Creon before descending to the Dordogne river and a walk up through St Emilion on day 1. On day 3 there is an undulating area north-west of St Macaire and thereafter little else that isn’t flattish.
First-time tourers, who ride occasionally and of course particularly suitable for wine lovers who would like to visit the sources of the nectar.
A wine pick-up service: if you buy a dozen or two ‘at the farm gate’, then telephone to let us know the location and we will pick them up and include them with your luggage (but how you get them back to the UK or elsewhere we‘ll leave to you).
Cost of travel to and from Bordeaux city centre. Cost of any rail fares, admissions, other incidentals, and any meals not specified.
It is a condition of all our tours that guests are responsible for purchasing adequate insurance for a cycling holiday on public highways.
£846 per person for two adults sharing a double room on a B&B basis. £507 for a child (under 12 at tour end) sharing a bedroom with parents (prices are indicative – actual prices can vary with your accommodation preferences).
Any day of the week 1st May to 4th October