FAQ - Food and Wine, or is it Wine and Food?

French cuisine was classified by UNESCO world heritage as an intangible gift for mankind. Bordeaux is truly one of the best destinations to enjoy this gift along with the best wine in the world. What are the cultural differences and what should I be aware of? The team at MyDestinationBordeaux has put together some commonly asked questions when travelling to the Bordeaux area. If you have other queries about Bordeaux food and wine contact us. We’ll be happy to get back to you with an answer and add it to the list to help other travelers planning a visit.

1 - What time do people eat?

Breakfast is usually taken from 7am to 9am and is very simple, a croissant or bread and coffee. That's it.  Lunch is from 11:30am to 1:30 pm and by many considered the main meal of the day. Typically a French meal consists of a first course, a main dish, cheese and a dessert. Dinner is from 7:30 pm to 8:45 pm. Restaurant dinner service, another meal which celebrates food and company, often starts at 8 pm and can last three to four hours. 

2 - Where can I find food if restaurants are not open?

Check out the large grocery chains like InterMarché, LeClerc, Auchon, Super U and Carrefour for ready made salads, pastas, sandwiches, pate, cheeses, fruit and drinks. They’re usually open through lunch and until 19.00h or 7 pm weekdays and later on Friday but sometimes closed by noon on Sunday. In smaller communities they may be closed at lunch as well though. 

3 - What restaurants are open all day?

These are few and far between! In Bordeaux - try Karl open 7 days a week 8:30 – 19:30h serving savoury and sweet dishes. He also has Wi-fi, (6 Place du Parlement in the Saint Pierre district) For an upscale and historic presence try the Grand Opera Theatre located centrally for breakfast, lunch, dinner and after theatre fare. There are also the usual fast food outlets near some of the large supermarkets. 

4 - What are the food specialties of the Bordeaux region?

UNESCO world heritage designated French food as an intangible gift to humanity and the Bordeaux region is one of the best examples of why. There are so many specialties including a big list of cheeses. A short list would include oysters from the Arcachon basin, eels or Anguilles caught in the Garonne River and cooked in copious amounts of red wine,  caviar farmed near Saint Emilion, foie gras, confite of duck or goose, macaroons and mushrooms. The Bazas beef or entrecote de Bazas is superb.

5 - Is Bordeaux water safe to drink?

Bordeaux drinking water is refreshing and very safe. Instead of asking for mineral water at restaurants you can always request a carafe of water or "Une carafe d’eau, síl vous plait." Bottled water is inexpensive and offered at all restaurants and grocery stores.

6 - What’s the drinking age?

The drinking age is 16 and moderate drinking is part of everyday life in France but know that France does not tolerate drinking and driving, in fact legal blood alcohol limits and penalties are likely more strict than most places including the UK. The UK limit is 0.8 mg per ml and the limit in France is 0.5 mg per ml. See also Drinking and Driving.

7 - Is tipping common practise for service or at restaurants?

Tipping is not as common as in the UK, USA or Canada. ‘Service Comprise’ means tip is included and is usually included in all restaurant bills. On the other hand if you have exceptional service it’s a good idea to leave extra. Hotels usually include a 15% service fee. In bars and cafes there may be a service charge if you sit at a table but not if you stand at the bar, or, menu items may cost slightly more at a table.  Suggested amounts and those who are usually tipped might be: porters, 1€ per bag; tour guides, 2€; taxi drivers, 10-15%; and hairdressers, 10%. In some venues tips are forbidden ‘Pourboire interdit’. If you are resident in France, Christmas is a time to tip everyone – the garbage collector, the mailman, fireman etc. 5 – 15€ is acceptable.

8 - What are the 1855 classified wines ????

The 1855 Classification is only for wines of the Médoc. The list came into being when the Bordeaux wine brokers were asked to classify the Médoc wines according to price which at the time was directly equated to quality. Apparently they agreed to do this as long as the classification never became official. It didn’t quite work out that way and the 1855 list is still considered the Holy Grail. The only change to the 1855 list was in 1973 when Château Mouton-Rothschild was elevated to a ‘first growth’ vineyard from a ‘second’. 

9 - What's the best place to get information or take a quick lesson on wine in Bordeaux?

The CIVB House of Wine is one of the best authorities on all things related to Bordeaux wine. Their L’Ecole du Vin’ or wine school is located accross from the Bordeaux Tourist Office and  offers a variety of excellent courses for all levels. For a quick start, their two hour course will launch you into the world of vines. While you're there do take advantage of the opportunity to taste some of the top tier Bordeaux wines at the Bar à Vin. 

10 - What are some cool things to say when I’m drinking wine? 

"Wine is bottled poetry." Robert Louis Stevenson
"Up to the age of forty eating is beneficial. After forty, drinking." The Talmud, 200BC
"Wine is the most civilized thing in the world." Ernest Heminway
"Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance." Benjamin Franklin
"Nothing more excellent or valuable than wine has ever been granted by the gods to man." Plato
"Men are like wine - some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age"  Pope John XXIII
In this house we only serve "fine wines" Did you bring any???
"Wine from long habit has become indispensable to my health. Good wine is a necessity of life for me." Thomas Jefferson
"Wine is the intellectual part of the meal, meats are the material part." Alexander Dumas
"Wine cheers the sad, revives the old, inspires the young, makes weariness forget his toil, and fear her danger, opens a new world when this, the present, palls".  Lord Byron

11 - How do I organize a wine tour?

The CIVB Maison du Vin includes tours as part of some of their excellent wine courses. Across the street, the Bordeaux Tourist office offers an extensive choice of tours to every region around Bordeaux. Many private châteaux offer expert guides and may include accommodation and restaurant visits for a weekend or week stay. You might want to contact a cycling tour operator for an adventure. The ‘Maison du Vin’ or Wine Houses in all regions are closely connected with the various tourist boards such as Pauilliac, Blaye, Entre-Deux-Mers, Saint Emilion or Libourne and will supply you with excellent advice about which off the beaton track châteaux to visit in their respective areas. 

12 - How many wine routes are there and where are they?

With more than 9,000 wine-producing chateaux in the Bordeaux region, there are endless tour posibilities. However, there are main wine routes each focusing on a specific region and aspect of Bordeaux. All highlight the wine châteaux of the region. Some main left bank routes are The Châteaux Route of the Medoc and The Graves and Sauternes Route. The right bank routes include The Heritage Route on the right bank of the Dordogne including Saint Emilion and Castillion. 

13 - Where do I find good value wines?

Check out the right bank of the Garrone RIver and the wines of the Côtes de Blaye, Côtes de Bordeaux, Côtes de Bourg and Entre-Deux Mers. As the' Classified 1855 list' of the left bank and those around them in the Medoc and some parts of Graves price themselves far out of the reach of most wine consumers, the right bank wines are coming into their own and rightly so. The Merlot wines of the Cahors region and the powerful Bergeracs should not be overlooked as well.

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