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Travel Tip: Bordeaux Wine Bars

Our editors' top picks for a glass and a snack in the famed wine region

Robert Camuto, James Molesworth
Posted: April 8, 2013

Note: This is an excerpt of an article, "Something New in Bordeaux," that originally appeared in the March 31, 2013 issue of Wine Spectator.

2 Quai de la Douane
Telephone: (33) 5-56-44-51-97
Open: 9:30 a.m. to 2 a.m., daily

Bordeaux's oldest, most eccentric bar is not a typical wine bar, but it is worth a visit for its authenticity. The decor dates from the turn of the 19th century, and service is friendly and casual. Cheese, charcuterie and light fare complement 60 moderately priced bottles, including Margaux wines such as Château Palmer Alter Ego 2001 ($80) and Château Prieuré-Lichine 2003 ($78). The Castan also offers aged single malt whiskies, Armagnacs up to 50 years old and vintage Champagnes.—R.C.

MAX BORDEAUX 14 Cours de L'Intendance
Telephone: (33) 5-57-29-23-81
Website: www.maxbordeaux.com
Open: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday to Saturday

"We don't call ourselves a wine bar," the black-clad hostess coolly corrects a customer. "We are a wine gallery and cellar."

Depending on how you feel about design and technology, you'll either love or hate this place. Located in a black-and-white space with the feel of an Apple Store, the focus of Max Bordeaux is a series of Enomatic wine dispensers with 48 selections. Buy a card with a minimum of $33, slip it into an Enomatic, select the amount you want (25, 50 or 75 mls), then put a glass under the spout and out comes temperature-controlled, hermetically protected wine. Some tastes cost as little as 1 euro ($1.34), but the interest is trophy wines. A recent lineup offered 25-ml tastes, at $33 each, of Cheval-Blanc 2008, Mouton-Rothschild 2003 and Château Margaux 2006 (bottles of all three were available for $802 and up).—R.C.

40-42 Rue Lecocq
Telephone: (33) 5-56-23-01-53
Website: www.univerre-restaurant.com
Open: 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Monday; noon to 10 p.m., Tuesday to Friday

Owner Fabrice Moisan just opened L'Univerre, replacing Verretigo, his previous gem of a wine bar. Moisan has gone one better, with a short but well-executed menu of classic French comfort food that changes weekly, including a cassolette of ris de veau and cèpes or a tagine of roasted chicken and hearty root vegetables. But the main reason people come to this 20-seat jewel box is the wine list, which is so long that Moisan hasn't been able to price everything yet—so just ask, and if he wants to sell one of his rare bottles, he'll quote a price. The list is deep in wines from the Rhône, Burgundy and the Loire, and older vintages of Bordeaux are also priced to sell. Open only since November, it won't be long before this is the go-to place for out-of-town wine lovers to make a pilgrimage.—J.M.

19 Rue des Bahutiers
Telephone: (33) 5-56-48-56-99
Website: www.lewinebar-bordeaux.com
Open: Noon to 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. to midnight, Tuesday to Saturday

Giancarlo Savini opened this warm 25-seat wine bar on a quiet corner in Bordeaux's historic St.-Pierre neighborhood with his fellow Italian and brother-in-law Emmanuel Cadei, and their French wives. The result is what may be Bordeaux's best modern wine bar: a friendly, tasty mix of France and Italy. Lunch and dinner plates include Italian charcuterie, burrata and bruschettas, along with French foie gras and cured duck magret. The wine list spans Bordeaux, other French regions and the rest of the world, with about 60 offerings by the glass ($5 to $12) and nearly 300 wines by the bottle, ranging from Château Beauregard Pomerol 2008 ($43) to Elio Altare Barolo 2004 ($127).—R.C.

8 Rue St.-James
Telephone: (33) 5-56-52-85-61
Website: www.winemoretime.fr
Open: 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., Monday to Saturday

Another new entry on the Bordeaux scene, Wine More Time doubles as a wineshop, catering to a youngish crowd that packs the place on weekends. There is a rotating list of 11 featured wines by the glass ($3 to $9). An eclectic, reasonably priced selection of 400 small-production wines from France, Europe and South America is displayed around the store. Simply pick your bottle at the displayed retail price and add a corkage fee ($8 to $11) to consume on-site with some of the generous plates of cheese and charcuterie. Some of the most-prized Bordeaux bottles are grouped in the back room, where you'll find such gems as Château Margaux 1988 ($468).—R.C.

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