Top 10 chateaux to visit

First published in Decanter 2007 Bordeaux supplement


1) Best Cellars : Chateau Pontet Canet
Since 2005, this property has upped the stakes for fermenting grapes in the Médoc. The new vat room houses 32 cone-shaped ‘triconic’ vats (tapered from a wide base to a narrow top), built in cement to encourage slow, gentle fermentation. One floor up is the traditional vat room dating back to 19th century.
33250 Pauillac. Tel: 05 56 59 04 04,

2) Best Tastings : Château Lanessan
The ease of access (no appointment necessary) combined with the wide range of tasting options makes Lanessan worth the drive. Options include a vertical tasting of old wines, an introduction to the ‘Art of Blending’, and a children’s tasting of grape juice and the aromas that they’ll one day discover in wine.
Cussac-Fort-Médoc - Tél : 0556 58 94 80,

3) Best Gardens : Chateau Kirwan
Chateau Pape Clement is a close contender here, but Kirwan swaps the well manicured approach for a more country-garden feel. Last year, the chateau began offering picnics in the grounds, with the full rug-wicker basket-cheese-hams-bread -wine experience
33460 Cantenac. Tel: 05 57 88 71 00.

4) Best Bedrooms : Chateau Franc Mayne
Within walking distance of Saint Emilion centre, this Grand Cru Classé has five individually-decorated rooms. And they mean individual – choose from British candy stripes, Asian dark woods and pink silks, or Japanese kanji and birdcages.  Doubles €170-€210.
14, La Gomerie, 33330 Saint Emilion. Tel: 05 57 24 62 61.


5) Best for Families : Chateau Cablanc
Cablanc is only ten minutes from Saint Emilion but in a tiny hidden-away valley. The family tour offers tastings of grape juice and has games for children with small prizes. Owner Jean Daniel Debart is currently setting up a nature walk and play areas in the grounds…
33350 St Pey de Castets. 05 57 40 52 20 

6) Best All-rounder : Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte
You can’t really beat Smith Haut Lafitte for a one-stop visit – there’s not only the dramatic cellars, but also a traditional barrel makers, a wine spa, two restaurants and a glamorous hotel.
33650 Martillac. Tel: 05 57 83 11 22,


7) Best Restaurant : Café Lavinal, Chateau Lynch Bages
This Parisian style bistro is actually located in the little hamlet of Bages behind the main chateau, but is also owned by the Cazes family. Simple locally-sourced menu, and wide range of wines, both local and further afield.
33250 Pauillac. Tel: 05 56 73 24 00,

8) Best Wine Shop: La Winery de Philippe Raoux
There is a wonderful shop in Chateau Prieure Lichine (33460 Cantenac 05 57 88 36 28) that was one of the first in the region, and still easily one of the best. Or try the latest addition to the Médoc at La Winery de Philippe Raoux, which sells over 2,000 references from France and all over the world.
Route D1, 33640 Arsac

9) Most Romantic : Chateau Guiraud
Sauternes generally is a very romantic area, with stately chateaux dotted among the vines, and lots of lovely walks along the river Cerons. But to really impress someone, take them for a stroll up the tree-lined driveway of this highly regarded 1855 classified estate.
33210 Sauternes. Tel: 05 56 76 61 01,

10) Best Architecture : Chateau La Tour de Bessan
Great contrast is offered here between the 12th century tower and the sleek, futuristic and very beautiful winery and cellar.
2036 Chalet, 33480 Moulis-en-Médoc,