A trip to Bordeaux wine country is a beautiful thing -- full of elegant wine tastings and tours of ancient cellars. But in Bordeaux's Médoc region, you can take your love of wine even further with an interactive wine adventure. Many châteaus here have opened their doors to reveal their wine-making secrets, and you can choose from a range of immersive experiences. Here's where to learn the art of Bordeaux wine blending, take a class in gourmet French cooking from a Michelin-starred chef, make a wine barrel from French oak, and more.
Château du Taillan & Chateau Paloumey
Grape harvesting; wine blending; wine and cheese pairing
At these two Médoc region châteaus, Les Médocaines -- a group of women of wine -- invite tourists to get their hands dirty and experience their craft firsthand. You'll really earn that glass of red when they put you to work -- picking and sort grapes during the wine harvest and getting an up-close look at the wine-making process in the vat room before feasting upon a traditional harvest lunch with seasonal produce (€82 or about $91). If you prefer a more laid-back but still educational experience, you can discover the art of wine blending with Médoc's varietals (€65) or dig into a delicious wine and cheese pairing workshop (€65). Transportation from Bordeaux city is included in the price of all activities.
Wine blending; regional cooking; cellar concerts; art exhibitions
Situated on the Gironde estuary off the main Route des Châteaux, this 17th century estate is an attraction in itself. But within the château's rosy pink façade and among its Victorian décor, the château also boasts a massive cellar that serves as a venue for classical and jazz concerts that enhance the wine-sipping atmosphere -- and also doubling as an exhibition space for regional artists and photographers. The space is of course a tasting room, too. While tastings are free, wine blending workshops let visitors create their own wine at €25, while cooking classes incorporate local ingredients for €60-€150, depending on menu and group size.
Wine museum; sommelier and barrel maker workshops
Just across the street from this château -- which also doubles as a charming B&B -- you'll discover what is probably the most complete wine museum in the Médoc region. Serious oenophiles could spend hours learning various historical and technical details about wine bottles and corks, harvesting equipment, oak barrels, soil and much more. But the most exciting hands-on experience here is partaking in the barrel maker workshop, where you'll taste wine directly from the barrels and explore the distinct aromas of wine (€22), or the sommelier workshop, where you can try your hand at the art of food and wine pairing while learning about the importance of terroir (€30).
Château Cordeillan Bages
Personalized wine courses; gourmet French cooking
This 17th century former monastery is now a sophisticated, four-star hotel filled with fine art. More to the point, its gourmet restaurant organizes personalized wine courses (€75), with themes ranging from food and wine pairing to the art of wine blending to the great Bordeaux terroirs. Two-Michelin star chef Jean-Luc Rocha, the head of the hotel's restaurant, also leads regional cooking classes for couples either in the restaurant kitchen or for groups at the wine school in the nearby Bages village. After Rocha guides you through a themed, three-course gourmet meal, you can take the recipes home and dazzle your friends (€80).
Barrel factory workshops
Wine connoisseurs know that the barrel can make the wine. And making the barrels themselves is a revered art that the French keep close to their heart. But travelers have the chance to learn more about famed French oak barrel's important role -- and even try their hands at making one -- at this barrel-making factory. Workshops are €10 per person, with availability Monday to Friday by reservation. (No workshop fees for children.)
Bonus: Château Saint Ahon
Biodiversity workshop for kids
Who says wine country isn't family-friendly? For those on a multi-generational trip, hit up this 18th century château. While the tours and tastings -- of grape juice, that is -- are a big hit with all ages, the Mirabel Workshop for kids offers a more in-depth exploration of the fauna and flora of the Médoc region. Beyond an introduction of the farm's ducks, dogs, horses, and mascot donkey, families will learn more about the vine-growing process in a way that's accessible for younger explorers (€15, offered on Wednesdays in July and August). Tip: In case you happened to arrive in an RV, the château offers a free parking space with water hookup for up to 48 hours.