Of all the local towns, the one my daughter knows best, is Sauternes. It’s not for the wine, but for their swing set in the playground overlooking the vineyards, behind the church.
It happens to be one of my favorite little villages as well. It’s one of five in the Sauternes AOC which also include Bommes, Barsac, Preignac and Fargues. It’s rather idyllic with well maintained, stone homes and rows of lovely grapevines streaming the slight hills, changing color with the seasons. In the center of the historic village is a beautiful church, Eglise Saint Pierre Es Liens, with its 17th century bell tower.
How to Get There :
You’ll want a car to explore Sauternes, as the closest train station is Langon (Nouvelle Aquitaine). There are car rental locations nearby the train station if you don’t arrive with one. It is a 40 minute drive from Bordeaux. The nearest airport is Bordeaux-Merignac.
What to Do:
There is a wonderful woman-owned wine shop of Chrystelle Desqueyroux (she also happens to produce Château Cherchy – Commarque Sauternes and Graves wines) called La Maison du Vigneron de Sauternes with bottles open for tasting and purchase. This cavist also acts as a tourist information point as the official Sauternes Tourism Office is only opened in summer during peek tourism season.
There is also the local winemakers collective called the Maison du Sauternes where you can go a sample and purchase 55 different producers (out of around 145 in the Sauternes AOC) as well as local preserves, foie gras and other Sauternes-centric items.
Both cavistes can arrange visits at the vineyards for you. Give yourself 60-90 minutes for a visit and tasting at each chateau*.
You probably would not spend more than an hour walking around the actual town, but you could easily spend a day in the area visiting the nearby chateaux. Chateau Filot is a large chateau near the center of town with its charming owner and decadent wines you can taste in the chai (cellar), generally without making an appointment.
If you’re lucky enough to be here in the autumn, you might just get to see ‘noble rot’, or botrytis, which makes these wines so sweet and unique. Even for people who don’t care for sweet wines, it’s a fascinating and unique winemaking process. Botrytis is a fungus that grows on the grapes due to the humidity and micro-climate created by the vines unique location between the Ciron and Garonne Rivers. The grapes dehydrate and the sugars condense, making them sweeter, and are picked in turns – sometimes harvesting over six times to get only those individual grapes that have reached the perfect concentration. Château Clos Haut-Peyraguey give a wonderful tour where you are able to sample the shriveled Semillon grapes (if you like!) while overlooking the Chateau Yquem in the distance.
Most chateau visits are free, or request a nominal fee of 5-20 EURO for a visit plus tasting. Larger chateaux will offer visits in English at certain times, but smaller vineyards might be more challenging. If you need someone to book your tours, translate, or give you a ride – contact us email@example.com, we have options for all budgets and needs. Check out Aquitaine Travel Guide on Instagram for posts on individual vineyards.
When to Go:
Always keep an eye out for events like the Portes Ouverts where the chateau offer tastes of their new vintages with arts, food and music. In 2020 this will be the 7-8 of November, check their Facebook page for more information closer to the date. Many visits will need to be reserved in advance due to covid restrictions https://www.facebook.com/vignerons.desauternesbarsac
The Sauternes Fete le Vin held in late May/early June every other year is held outdoors and has in past years featured Sauternes producers, food trucks, music and local vendors of all sorts from food to fashion. Programmed to be held on June 12th, 2021 https://france3-regions.blog.francetvinfo.fr/cote-chateaux/2020/04/28/sauternes-fete-le-vin-reporte-en-juin-2021.html
If you are a lover of classical music, you wont want to miss the Baroque Music Festival of Sauternes. Cancelled this year, it is planned for early 2021 so be sure to follow them and keep posted https://www.festesbaroques.com/. Last year was an incredible performance in the Sauternes church of Handel that gave me goosebumps!
What to Eat :
Auberge les Vignes – https://www.aubergelesvignes.fr/le-restaurant/ – great service, kid friendly, great value with local products and local clientele, nice fireplace in winter. rich Southwestern lunch of duck breast cooked on an open fire of grape vines at the locals favorite restaurant, Auberge les Vignes / 23 Rue Principale, 33210 Sauternes – open Tuesday-Sunday (lunch only) – Reservations required / phone +33 (0)5 56 76 60 06 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Chateau Guiraud / La Chapelle – Restaurant with interior and exterior dining (in summer months) is located in this beautiful biodynamic vineyard just on the outskirts of town. Part of the Maison Lascombes restaurant group, you are guaranteed quality food and during the week a very reasonable 25 EURO lunch menu du marche. Open Thursday-Monday / 5 CHAT Chateau Guiraud, 33210 Sauternes / +33 (0)5 40 24 85 45 / https://www.lachapelledeguiraud.com
Le Saprien – http://www.restaurant-le-saprien.fr/ – best in warm weather when you can sit on the terrace and look at the vines, good value set-lunch menu. 14 Rue Principale, 33210 Sauternes – open Tuesday-Sunday (lunch only) – Reserve via http://www.lafourchette.com or click link on website / +33 (0)5 56 76 60 87
Chateau Trillon – http://chateau-trillon.fr/z/index.php – little outside of central Sauternes, friendly service with family style food, good value. Chateau Trillon Cap Lanne – open – +33 (0)6 84 79 22 71 / email@example.com
Lafaurie-Peyragey – If you want to treat yourself, the one-star Michelin restaurant of the Lalique hotel in this stunning chateau is the place to go. Aside from the incredible setting, Lalique furniture and glassware…the food is a decedent multicourse experience. Lunch during the week runs under 90 EURO pp, where dinner on the weekends is around 200 EURO pp (before drinks). During COVID the restaurant is in service DRIVE, check website for 35 menu and pickup times https://www.lafauriepeyragueylalique.com/
Where to Stay:
There are plenty of good options in town and local chateau with guest rooms starting at around 70 EURO a night.
If you are looking for a luxury experience, try the Lalique Hotel at Lafaurie Peyraguey in Bommes. With nearly an equal number of staff to clientel, you will not be left wanting. Relais & Chateau rated. 200 EURO a night and up / http://www.lafauriepeyragueylalique.com / Lieu-dit Peyraguey, 33210 BOMMES / +33 (0) 5 24 22 80 11 / firstname.lastname@example.org
A wonderful Airbnb which past clients have loved is tucked in the Bommes vineyards with a pool and classical interior design is Chateau Mauras. It has six bedroom and five baths with an English speaking owner. D116, 33210 Bommes / +33 (0)6 62 64 92 35
Bommes Base Nautique / Aquatic Center – While completely wiped out during the flooding in 2019, this riverside park is a great place to stroll with your children or dogs (on a leash). Reservations required for boat rentals when in season (until end of September) / email@example.com / http://basebommes.e-monsite.com/ / +33 (0)5 56 76 61 42
The Wine Bar at Saint-Croix-du-Mont – is located on a ledge encrusted with oysters, overlooking the Garonne valley…which is a stunning view. While the owners seem to change yearly and hours vary, it’s always a nice place to stop and take a walk or look around. If the wine bar is open and you can grab a glass of Saint-Croix-du-Mont, all the better.
Basilique of Verdelais – This small village is centered around this historic Basilique, where centuries of people have come for the many miracles said to have occurred after visiting. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrecs’ mother made her trip daily from the family home in the hills above, his grave is also located in the adjoining cemetery. You will often find people praying inside or choral music playing / 33490 Verdelais, France / firstname.lastname@example.org / https://www.ars-sanctuaires-catholiques.fr/sanctuaire/item/33-notre-dame-du-verdelais
Chateau de Langorian – Imposing medieval stone chateau on top of a hill, be sure to contact in advance to see if if is open. 33550 Langorian / https://www.chateaudelangoiran.com/visites / email@example.com / +33 (0)5 56 67 12 00
You can read more about Sauternes with Jennifer Poe of My Bordeaux Tours.