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24 Excellent But Lesser Known Wines To Try From Southwest France

Ancient tower, or ‘tour,’ in the Graves region of Bordeaux

Tom Mullen

The French wine region of Bordeaux includes an annual series of events that are mutually beneficial for both producers and consumers. Named Portes Ouverts, or ‘open doors,’ these are weekends during which dozens of wine châteaux within any one specific wine appellation allow visitors to come taste their wines, and—should guests desire—tour the vines and facilities, all free of charge. There is no pressure to purchase wines and no fees unless you want to purchase lunch or food.

These events take place from spring through fall. Bordeaux has about 60 appellations (although not all host ‘open doors’ weekends) and these events are conducive to marketing as well as to those who want to explore wines. From Graves to Castillon to Bourg to Haut-Médoc, wine châteaux at these events are listed in brochures showing a map of the region pinpointed with participating producers.

French labor laws can make hiring seasonal labor a challenge. This results in most wine châteaux not having regular visiting hours. Instead, visitors often need to call in advance to arrange a tasting. A benefit of this less than consumer friendly system is that often wine tastings are quite intimate: visitors may meet and taste with the owner and/or winemaker rather than with a harried staff member who rattles off memorized tasting notes.

Church in Moulon in the Entre-Deux-Mers region of Bordeaux

Tom Mullen

This portes ouverts system serves as one institutionalized solution to wine châteaux tasting rooms not being perennially open.

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