Bages village

A first-time visitor to Bages village could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled onto a film set of a small French village, with its perfect shop fronts and old paving stone surface. 

The reconstruction of the village

Yet the hamlet, located half a mile from Pauillac was a “collection of ruins: empty, unusable houses and sheds” before Jean-Michel Cazes - owner of Château Lynch Bages, awarded Best of Wine Tourism International -  decided to invest in it more than 10 years ago. It was in 2003 that the Cazes family made the decision to save their village to create a world of understanding and discovery of wine.

Shopping à Bages  

Jean-Michel Cazes guides us in his village, Bages

Jean-Michel Cazes from Château Lynch Bages : “In fact, Bages has been a village of wine for many centuries,” Jean-Michel tells us from his ground floor office which faces the square. “It was home to many immigrant basque and spanish families, working in the neighboring wineries and vineyards. In 2002 over a drink with Thierry Marx who was already making a name for himself next door at Cordeillan-Bages, Jean-Michel came up with the idea of establishing a bakery on the site of Bages. “Thierry’s father was a baker, as was my grandfather and we knew that we would have at least one customer, in the form of Cordeillan-Bages”. A year later, the Baba D’Andrea opened, named after Jean-Michel’s grandmother and her famous Rum Baba dessert. The popularity of the enterprise with the local community encouraged him to revisit some ideas which had been inspired whilst visiting wineries in Australia and California a few years previously.

Terrasse Café Lavinal  

From Château Lynch-Bages to Bages village

“We were already welcoming wine tourists to Lynch-Bages, and in the early days, anyone who visited was also invited to stay for lunch. Many visitors asked to buy wine after their tour and it was frustrating to not have a cellar-door policy, as wineries do in other countries.”

The desire to meet this demand, coupled with a notion of a buvette, where one could stop for a coffee or a glass of wine, formed the foundations for Café Lavinal and Bages Bazaar which opened their doors in 2006.

Taking its name from Jean-Michel’s other grandmother, Café Lavinal is a typical French brasserie designed in a 1930’s style with red benches and a long zinc bar. What pleases Jean-Michel is the fact that it attracts a mix of residents and tourists alike, affording visitors the opportunity to mix with wine makers and châteaux owners. Across the square, the Bages Bazaar is a one-stop-gift shop for any oenophile. In addition to the wines of the Cazes family estates, visitors can find regional specialties and a range of books on wine and the Bordeaux region.

Add clothes, jewellery and accessories to the mix and you have a shop that is also frequented by the local population.

Over the past 10 years the village has continued to grow, with the arrival of butcher Yves Bruneau in 2007, a bike workshop and Viniv in 2012. For Jean-Michel, the arrival of the latter venture, which allows private individuals the possibility of making their own Bordeaux wine, was a key point for the whole concept of Bages. “Setting up Viniv in the cellars which were originally used for Haut-Bages Averous, restored the function of winemaking to the village. Through Viniv, wine lovers can access grapes from some of the best vineyards throughout the region and play the role of winemaker. 

But why should visitors make the trip to Bages village?
For Jean-Michel, the answer is simple. “It’s a base camp for activities in the area. As well as providing services not found elsewhere, the village is steeped in the history of winemaking and important for understanding the spirit of the Médoc.”