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  • Writer's pictureEmma Cakmak

Cruising Bordeaux: Days of Wine & Châteaux

Bordeaux wine cork
Bordeaux wine region

A Bordeaux river cruise pairs wines of the region with their historic Château setting. You’ll

wake up every morning with anticipation of what the day will bring.

First, some background on how to arrive in Bordeaux and the geography of the region.

You'll find Bordeaux in the southwestern corner of France, near the Atlantic Ocean. To get there, you can fly into the international airport, Bordeaux-Mérignac, from many European cities, including London, Paris, and Barcelona. Or, you may opt to experience the TGV, a high-speed train that whisks you from Paris Montparnasse rail station into the center of Bordeaux in about 3 hours.

The city of Bordeaux
The city of Bordeaux

While the whole region is often referred to as "Bordeaux," the city of Bordeaux sits in the middle of the area, where the Garonne and Dordogne rivers merge to form the Gironde Estuary. You'll find the riverbanks named the left bank (west) and the right (east) bank.

Over a seven-day cruise, you will typically sail about 186 miles.

Your cruise will start and end in Bordeaux and take you to the areas of Cadillac, Pauillac, Blaye, Bourg, Libourne, and St. Émilion.

St. Emilion
St. Emilion

Since French wine is labeled by its originating region/appellation, instead of the grape variety, it's important to note that your river cruise will take you thru two distinct wine-producing areas, the left bank and the right bank. What's the difference? Read on to find out!

Left Bank

  • On the left bank you'll find the wine regions of Médoc, Haut-Médoc, Graves, Margaux, St. Julien, Pauillac, St. Estephe and Pessac-Léognan.

  • Cabernet Sauvignon is the predominant red grape variety. You'll generally find blends to be 60-65% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25-30% Merlot. You may also discover a small percent of Petit Verdot or Cabernet Franc.

  • The tannins of the wine produced are noticeable but unobtrusive. The aroma is pronounced black currant, with green peppercorn notes

  • The land on the left bank is generally gravelly and flat, offering excellent drainage and proximity to the Atlantic Ocean.

Right Bank

  • The right bank features the appellations of St. Émilion, Pomerol, and Fronsac.

  • Merlot is the dominant red grape variety found on the right bank. The wine produced consists of smoother tannins and more red fruit notes.

  • Cabernet Franc is the second most important variety of the right bank.

  • Wines from the right bank are generally ready to drink sooner than those of the left bank.

  • The right bank's soil contains clay, silt, sand, and limestone.

Your cruise will take you to a different region each day, and as you cruise thru the area, you will discover if you are a "left-banker" or a "right-banker." If you think you already know, you may be surprised!

Here is a map of the various appellations around the Bordeaux region:

Bordeaux Wine Map
Bordeaux Map - Courtesy of

There you have the "know before you go" geography of the Bordeaux Region. It's important to note not all river cruise companies sail the Bordeaux region. Cruise lines such as AmaWaterways, Scenic River Cruises, Uniworld and Viking River Cruises all sail this region. If you'd like more information about a Bordeaux river cruise, get in touch with me.

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