The world is full of wine these days – across America and in countries you’d least expect, like Mexico, India, and even Thailand. Despite the endless variety of wine-growing regions, it’s easy to pick the best wine itinerary. Everything you could want – and more – is in Bordeaux, France.

A rich history

When it comes to historic significance, Bordeaux is hard to beat. Wine has been made here since Roman times. It was even referenced by Shakespeare, who referred to it as “Claret.” But Bordeaux’s big moment came in 1855, when Napoleon III commanded that the vineyards be classified into five categories, or “Growths.” Today, First Growth Bordeaux remains some of the most expensive wines in the world.

Exploring the region

I recommend that you stay in the city of Bordeaux, which was designated as a UNESCO world heritage site for its beautiful 18th century architecture. A number of comfortable and affordable hotels are within walking distance of the tourist office (look for the blue sign with the letter “i”). There you can sign up for a bus tour that will bring you to the heart of the wine region. 

Before your tour, it’s a good idea to take a class at the Bordeaux Wine School. Here, local wine professionals will cover the geography, climate, grape varieties, and sub-regions of the area. You’ll also become familiar with the taste of Bordeaux wines – but make sure to spit your sips into the stainless steel sink (that’s what it’s there for), or you’ll miss most of the lecture.

Another option is renting a car and driving into the wine regions. One of the best drives is along the D2, which meanders up the left bank of the Gironde River and leads you past some of the most famous wine chateaux in the world: Chateau Margaux, Chateau Léoville, Chateau Talbot, Chateau Latour, Chateau Lafite Rothschild, and Chateau Mouton Rothschild, among many others.