Bordeaux wine

Saint Émilion, Pomerol, Médoc and Graves: Bordeaux wines

Bordeaux is the second largest winemaking area in France, and the rivers that occupy this region are what define its most important subdivisions ("the right bank of the Dordogne", "Entre-deux-Mers" and "the left bank of the Garonne"). There are seven areas of maximum interest in Bordeaux, and these divide their production based on their land or "terroir", which mark their origin with quite different styles. As a final result, Bordeaux wines are grouped into four types of red wines and two types of white of different qualities (Rouge Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superieur, Rouge Côtes de Bordeaux, Rouge Libourne, Rouge Graves and Medoc, dry white wines and sweet white wines) .

The Bordeaux region is located in the area of Aquitaine, in southwest France. Flanked by the Gironde estuary, there are 115,000 hectares of cultivation to the right and to left of the river. This is where the name “au bord de l’eau” (at the water’s edge) comes from. There are around 14,000 winegrowers across 57 denominations producing about 850 million bottles per year, most of it red wine.

With numbers like these, it is clear to see why Bordeaux is a wine region that the whole world looks to. To give the full picture though, you have to talk about the quality rather than just the quantity. The great variety of regions and sub-regions offers enormous diversity and both mediocre and exceptional wines. However, Bordeaux has become a status symbol and depending on the “Château” the wine comes from, by which we mean from a certain winery and vineyard, the prices can reach astronomical heights. Thanks to its international prestige, there is no wine region like Bordeaux, where geography and economy are so heavily connected.

Climate, soils and varieties.

If there is one reason why Bordeaux produces such high-quality wines, it is the region’s excellent ecosystem, which is perfect for growing vines. The limestone geology in the region provides soils that are rich in calcium and the Gironde river and its two tributaries, Garonne and Dordogne, provide an ideal oceanic climate for the vine.

The best vineyards in Bordeaux are usually found near the river. These are well-drained gravel, sandstone and clay soils with mostly classified vineyards. There are seven regions to highlight: Médoc, Graves, Sauternes, Saint Emilion, Pomerol, Entre-deux-Mers and Fronsac. There are also four more minor regions: Saint Macaire, Premières côtes de Bordeaux, Blayais and Burgeois.

Bordeaux wine classification.

There are several different classification methods for Bordeaux wine. There are various local classifications that unfortunately do not all have the same criteria.

The most famous classification is the one ordered by Napoleon in 1855 for the Universal Exhibition in Paris, which is a classification based on the prices achieved over the last 100 years. However this only covers wines from Mèdoc, Château Haut-Brion de Graves and Sauternes, and according to many connoisseurs, it is now obsolete.

A practical, easy and straightforward way to identify quality wines that does not take into account official regulations is using the location of production. Using the different rivers as a guide, the Bordeaux region can be subdivided into three main areas:

“The right bank” or “Rive droite”, to the right of the Dordogne river, in the northernmost part of the region. Dominated by calcareous and clay soils and with Merlot as the star variety in both single-variety wines and coupages. The great wines of Saint Emilion, Pomerol and Fronsac come from this side of the river.

“Between two seas”, or “Entre-deux-mers”, lies between the Garonne and Dordogne rivers, in the middle of the region. The soils are made up of sand, clay, gravel and clay-calcareous material which is great for cultivating white grape vines like Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc.

“The Left Bank” or “Rive Gauche”, to the left of the Garonne River, in the west of the region. Within this area, there are two well differentiated parts. Firstly there is Graves, above the city of Bordeaux and then Médoc, which lies below it. This area has mostly sandy and stony soils and the leading variety is Cabernet Sauvignon. This is where you will find the prestigious Médoc and Graves wines alongside the famous sweet wines made in the Sauternes region.

Wine styles.

It is clear to see that the high number of regions and sub-regions makes creating a unified classification system very difficult. However, in general terms, Bordeaux wines can be grouped into 6 broad categories.

1- Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superieur red Bordeaux red is the basic wine that can be made anywhere in the region. These are fruity wines, with little oak and intended to be enjoyed in their youth. They are usually the cheapest Bordeaux wines. This group also includes Bordeaux Superieur which come from the same places, but are made using grapes from lower yield strains and the wine is more intense and slightly more alcoholic.

2- Côtes de Bordeaux red. On the right bank of the Garonne, in the Entre-deux-Mers region, the wines are made mainly with the Merlot variety. They are produced across 8 appellations, between basic burgundy and the left bank’s best denominations. However, as there aren’t any famous wines from this area, the prices are usually fairly affordable.

3- Libourne red Around the city of Libourne, on the right bank, there are 10 appellations making red wines mostly with Merlot mixed with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. These are very fruity wines with soft tannins and they develop well in the bottle.

4- Graves and Médoc redd is the classic area that includes the north (Médoc) and south (Graves) of the city of Bordeaux. The Cabernet Sauvignon variety is dominant, and usually combined with Merlot, Cabernet Franc or Petit Verdot. These are powerful, tannic wines with a long life in the bottle.

5- Dry white wines. These are spread across 12 denominations of origin. However the wines from Graves are the most famous. They are mainly made with the Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc varieties and are balanced, fruity and aromatic with an oak influence.

6- Sweet white wines. These are the only sweet wines in the world made with the Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle white varieties. Wines made with grapes affected by noble rot produced all across the Bordeaux region, with the Sauternes wines being the best known and most sought-after around the world.

Wines and wineries.

Among the large number of vignerons that make up the Bordeaux region there are many famous wineries that have made history with their wines.

Pétrus.
Located in the Pomerol wine region, Pétrus wines are among the most prized and expensive in the world. However, these wines have never been part of any classification and there has never been an actual château on the estate, which is why the wine is normally called Pétrus, and not Château Pétrus.

Château d’Yquem.
Being the only Château in the Sauternes wine region with a ‘Premier Cru Supérieur’ rating for the exceptional nature of the terroir, this Bordeaux winery really stands out in a region that produces some of the best sweet whites in the world.

Pey La Tour.
An example of the quality of Bordeaux wine, Pey La Tour represents a remarkable diversity of terroirs. A total of 90 different plots that have been worked since the 18th century and are vinified and aged separately to offer unique complex wines.

Michel Lynch.
Established by Jean-Michel Cazes, the current owner of the Lynch-Bages winery, this project is a tribute to the founder of Château Lynch-Bages. A visionary winemaker who revolutionised winemaking in Bordeaux at the end of the 17th century, this is a good example of the quality and expertise in this wine region.

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Le Lion de la Fleur de Boüard 2020

France AOC Lalande-de-Pomerol (Bordeaux)

A pleasant and balanced red by Hubert de Boüard de Laforest
Le Lion de la Fleur de...
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89

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89

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$18.54

Château de Fieuzal Blanc 2020

France AOC Pessac-léognan (Bordeaux)

A coupage full of nuances from an exceptional terroir
Château de Fieuzal Blanc 2020
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94

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93

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$58.39
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Château Lagrange 2021

France AOC Saint-Julien (Bordeaux)

A powerful wine with the character of a unique terroir
Château Lagrange 2021
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94

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93

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93

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$55.73

Château Beau-Séjour Bécot 2018

France AOC Saint-Émilion (Bordeaux)

A Premier Grand Cru Classé full of expression and density
Château Beau-Séjour Bécot 2018
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94+

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94

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96

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$85.79

Château Grand Corbin-Despagne 2020

France AOC Saint-Émilion (Bordeaux)

An A.O.C. Grand Cru Classé. Saint-Émilion
Château Grand...
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94

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92

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93

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$37.68
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Château Léoville Las Cases 2020

France AOC Saint-Julien (Bordeaux)

A historic Grand Vin from noble terroirs
Château Léoville Las Cases...
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97

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96

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98

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$313.60
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Mouton Rothschild Le Petit Mouton 2019

France AOC Pauillac (Bordeaux)

An elegant Pauillac to indulge in
Mouton Rothschild Le Petit...
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92

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94

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91

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97

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$350.95
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Château Léoville Las Cases 2017

France AOC Saint-Julien (Bordeaux)

A historic Grand Vin from noble terroirs
Château Léoville Las Cases...
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95

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98+

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98

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$206.33
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$185.69
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Mouton Rothschild Le Petit Mouton 2017

France AOC Pauillac (Bordeaux)

An elegant Pauillac to indulge in
Mouton Rothschild Le Petit...
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91

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92

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91

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94

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$337.95
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Château Soutard 2021

France AOC Saint-Émilion Grand Cru (Bordeaux)

A wine born in Saint-Émilion’s most emblematic terroir
Château Soutard 2021
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93

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90

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$51.60

Château Nénin 2021

France AOC Pomerol (Bordeaux)

A gem from Pomerol that is not suitable for the impatient
Château Nénin 2021
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95

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93

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$75.52
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Château Léoville Barton 2023

France AOC Saint-Julien (Bordeaux)

An exceptional heritage in the heart of Saint-Julien
Château Léoville Barton 2023
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96

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$70.84
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Château Potensac 2023

France Médoc (Bordeaux)

Pure expression of the Médoc
Château Potensac 2023
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$19.19
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Château de Camensac 2023

France AOC Haut-Medoc (Bordeaux)

The resurgence of an illustrious past
Château de Camensac 2023
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$20.01
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Château La Pointe 2021

France AOC Pomerol (Bordeaux)

Excellent quality of a grand cru from Pomerol
Château La Pointe 2021
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93

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92

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91

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$43.17

Château Léoville Las Cases 2023

France AOC Saint-Julien (Bordeaux)

A historic Grand Vin from noble terroirs
Château Léoville Las Cases...
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98

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96

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97

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98

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