The castle road in the Médoc region

Today I decided to go to see castles. And what more beautiful region for this day than the Medoc? So I take the road towards the north of Bordeaux, along the left bank of the Garonne which will become the Gironde further north. This Southwestern version of Route 66 is known as Departmental 2. Its name may be less evocative of adventure and much shorter (100 km), but in my rearview mirror I have the happiness to see long sandy beaches, the undulating vineyards as well as pine forests waving in the wind.

Grands Crus classified to visit

Through this road, you will come across many vineyard properties that crisscross the landscape. Among them, very large vineyards have large and beautiful homes open to visitors. The Médoc is also the place to visit for all wine lovers. The Château du Taillan and the Château Marquis de Terme open their doors for a refined tasting of their wine.

The Départementale 2 is doable by car, motorbike or even by bicycle- if you can allow for a long afternoon pedalling- and it takes you though some of France’s most famous winery villages such as Margaux, St.Julien and Pauillac. Some of the wine appellations that you will certainly hear whilst passing through the vineyards are: Médoc, Saint-Estephe, Pauillac, Saint-Julien, Listrac, Moulis, Margaux and Haut-Médoc

Chateau d'Agassac  

The first château on the list is Beychevelle. It is everything you would expect of a grand French castle: stunning architecture, a prestigious family name and an intriguing history. With its impeccable gardens, beautiful flower beds and 90 hectares of vineyards, the chateau is a beauty and its wine making is legendary- with its harvest still carried out by hand.  

 

Slightly further north along the D2, you will come across Château Leoville Barton- bought by an Irish family who originally moved to France in the 18th century. One of the descendants, Hugh Barton, lived a particularly interesting experience concerning the French revolution and his temporary imprisonment!  

Château Beychevelle  

Another castle that is particularly eye-catching is Mouton-Rothschild. It has a fairy-tale look to it with its four pointed towers. It forms part of the English Rothschild family estate. Every year the wine label changes and is often decorated by a prominent artist- in the past this had included Picasso, Dali and Miró. One of the chateau’s bottles, produced in 1945 held the record for the most expensive wine in the world when it was sold at an auction in 2006 organised by Christies: six magnum bottles reached $345,000- over 20 000€ per bottle at the time!

 

For something a bit different, check out Château Cos d’Estournel - its oriental style goes back to the times of the West Indies and pays tribute to its commerce in Asia. The front door was actually taken from a Zanzibar palace.

Cos d'Estournel (Saint-Estèphe) 2  
Château Lilian Ladouys  

 

When arriving in Saint-Estèphe, you can check out château Phelan Segur- another stunning property enveloped by its vineyards. Like all the other wines produced in the region, the quality is exceptional thanks to the characteristics of the land.

 

Of course, the route is ridiculously spoilt for castles and it is difficult to make a choice. If I were to add one more to the list, I would go for Château Verdignan in Saint-Seurin de Cadourne, next to the Saint-Estèphe commune.

Château Phélan  

Not to be forgotten, if you are eager to discover more in the Médoc region after having your fill of the castles, there are two lakes on the western side of the Médoc region. Lac d’Hourtin-Carcans (the biggest lake in France) and Lacanau, further south, are two spectacular spots to enjoy with friends or family. Another spot, great for wildlife fanatics, further inland from Lacanau, is the Reserve Naturelle de l’Etang de Cousseau.

These nature spots offer an alternative route for your way back to Bordeaux!