Bordeaux has become a leading cosmopolitan city of wine, food and culture. And soon it will be easier to reach: On July 2, the super-fast LGV train will start running, connecting Paris to Bordeaux in just two hours. Timed to coincide with the arrival of the LGV is a four-month-long festival called Paysages, a tribute to the area's "landscapes," celebrating design, dance, art, architecture and music. Here is a sample of the variety and quality that visitors can expect in this vibrant town.
Located on the seventh floor of the Cité du Vin, this contemporary bistro boasts a panoramic view of Bordeaux's cityscape and river. Run by Nicolas Lascombes, with Jules Vernes alum Bruno Grand-Clément as executive chef, Le 7 revisits the French classics, with an infusion of international flavors and seasonal ingredients. Service is friendly and quick, with a knowledgeable sommelier staff to help navigate the iPad wine list's 500 bottlings from 50 countries, largely sourced from the wineshop on the ground floor.
The daily lunch special offers one course, like the light, flavorful chicken ballotine with spelt risotto, for $19, and adds a glass of wine, such as the Château Hellha Furmint Tokaji 2015, or a café gourmand—an espresso served with bite-sized desserts—for a total of $27. From the à la carte menu, a recent order of shredded pork Parmentier seasoned with vanilla and bergamot married nicely with a glass of Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion Le C 2013 ($10). And you can't go wrong with the cheese plate ($9) sourced from Jean d'Alos, Bordeaux's famous fromager-affineur with a shop at Marché et Galerie Les Grands Hommes and 15th-century aging caves. A small-plates and wine menu is available between lunch and dinner.
There is a prodigious choice of wines under $60 from around the world, and wines by the glass cost as little as $4. Look for more recent vintages of affordable Bordeaux like Château Haut-Bailly Pessac-Léognan La Parde de Haut-Bailly 2012 ($91) and older vintages of first-growths like the Château Mouton-Rothschild Pauillac 1995 ($748) and Château Haut-Brion Pessac-Léognan 1995 ($556).
Steps from the quay, Julo is an épicerie-wine bar that's part of a new wave of sophisticated spots in the Saint-Michel Capucins quarter. Julian Chivé, a former executive with Bordeaux négociant Sovex Woltner, is the owner. There are just 20 seats inside, including a communal high-top table. Weather permitting, additional seating appears on the square next to the gothic Saint-Michel basilica.
Try the aged black Bigorre ham, the local foie gras mi-cuit with pepper, and the hard Italian sausage with truffles from Piedmont. It's hard to beat Charles Rozan oysters from Cap Ferret (six for $9), with a side of pâté du Cap Ferret ($6) and a glass of Vacheron Sancerre 2015 ($5). There's also fresh crusty bread and Provençal Bastide du Laval oil, made from picholine olives for a flavor profile that's more fruity than bitter.
The eclectic selection of 260 wines is mostly French, plus a few from Italy and Spain. There's something for everyone: François Chidaine Montlouis Les Choisilles 2014 ($21); Didier Dagueneau Pouilly-Fumé Silex 2015 ($102); Dujac Chambolle-Musigny 2014 ($54); Jean-Michel Gerin Côte-Rôtie Les Grandes Places 2012 ($109); and Château Pontet-Canet Pauillac 2012 ($129).
The gourmet shop sells products such as artisanal olive oils, fleur de sel, colorfully packaged tins of Portuguese sardines and a balsamic-style vinegar made from Ugni Blanc grapes and aged in Cognac barrels.
Le Point Rouge
Walking into the cavernous Le Point Rouge feels like entering a nightclub. The colors are flashy, with stone walls and high ceilings framing a bar glimmering with liquor bottles. Like others lining Bordeaux's quayside, the venue was a négociant's cellar and then a discothèque. It reopened as Le Point Rouge in December 2015.
The well-executed food is mostly French and conventional. A recent meal folded foie gras into a chestnut puree. In a carbonara dish, spaghetti was wrapped around a chunk of melted cheese, the shape reminiscent of a tamale. The main draw, however, is the wine. There are nearly 50 wines by the glass, served from Enomatic and Coravin in four pour sizes.
The wines by the bottle are predominantly French. Champagne lovers will not be disappointed, as the list boasts five pages of it, with many vintages from the 1990s. Bordeaux is the best-represented, with deep verticals of big-shot classified-growths, and the Burgundy section is also substantial.
There is good value among the trophy wines, like the Domaine Huët Vouvray Le Mont Sec 2007 ($47). Keep an eye out for the magnums; the Château Canon-La-Gaffelière St.-Emilion 1996 ($310) and the Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage La Guiraude 1998 ($139) are particularly good deals.
Le Marché des Capucins
This eclectic, historic farmers market on the outskirts of the Saint-Michel district of the old town is enlivened by the many walks of life and cultures that make up Bordeaux. The tapas and oyster bars are packed on weekends, but the market itself is open Tuesday through Sunday, as early as 5:30 a.m., depending on the vendor. Some of the exceptional sellers are Gautier (meats and charcuterie), La Ronde des Fromages (cheese) and La Cabane aux Aromates (fresh and dried herbs). You'll find seafood, local fruits and vegetables, artisanal bakers and a variety of foods prepared on the spot.
To get here, do like the locals and walk, take the tram or hail the No. 47 electric shuttle ($2), which follows the blue line painted on the road through the pedestrian zone from Quinconces to Capucins.
Le Marché du Saint James
On the grounds of the Saint James hotel in the village of Bouliac, this upscale pop-up market is the brainchild of chef Nicolas Magie, who wanted to promote the two dozen or more local suppliers of his gourmet restaurant at the hotel. You'll find oysters and caviar, truffles and wild mushrooms, cheeses, savory preserves, artisanal jams, lamb, beef and fowl. The market is open on a few select days only (July 2, Oct. 1 and Dec. 1), and each day features a guest chef.