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Bordeaux: A land of superlative quality and diversity
Bordeaux: A land of superlative quality and diversity
No other wine region in the world sparks as much passion as Bordeaux. Ask
around and you won’t find a single wine lover who does not have well-formed
opinions about Bordeaux wines, how they taste, their varieties, their unrivalled
terroirs and even their prices.
With its 120,000 hectares (300,000 acres) under AC-classed vines, the Bordeaux
wine region is the revered behemoth of French wine growing, though its
boundaries fit snugly within a single department. Four components factor into the
quality of this unparalleled wine region. Firstly, a favoured vineyard site along the
Gironde plateau, on gently undulating land. A climate particularly conducive to
wine growing, marked by maritime influences rising off the Atlantic which
combine with a matrix of distinct local traits (incline, topography, aspect) to form
a myriad of microclimates. Once these then partner up with all the various soil
types, they form the third component which will determine the ‘terroirs’ most
suitable for producing quality wines. Last comes a range of noble grape varieties
painstakingly selected through trial and error by the people who care (grape
growers, wine makers…), whose labour can in many ways be considered the fifth
component of Bordeaux’s success.
So here you have the tremendous alchemy of the Bordeaux wine region. And as
these components do not work in unison, the result is a cornucopia of styles,
sufficiently numerous to form territorial entities with their own distinct
The Médoc: Situated between the Gironde estuary and the Atlantic Ocean, the
Médoc peninsula, meaning ‘middle land’ in local patois, is Bordeaux’s prodigy
with prestigious names such as Margaux or Pauillac… Here, a combination of
sandy, stony and clay soils - the famous ‘graves’ or gravel - deposited by the
Garonne over thousands of years, retain heat during the day before gradually
releasing it. They also regulate drainage.
The Médoc is primarily home to Cabernet-Sauvignon, a late-ripening varietal
renowned for its tannins and powerful blackcurrant aromas, dominating its fellow
varietals, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit-Verdot (not extensively planted). The
area covers eight appellations: six ‘communal’ appellations, Listrac, Moulis,
Margaux, Pauillac, Saint-Estèphe and Saint-Julien, and two ‘sub-regions’, Médoc
to the far north and Haut-Médoc at the southern end.
The Graves: This area is situated south of Bordeaux, extending south-east of the
Médoc with similar soil types, in addition to which are sand, clay, shelly sand (limestone with shells), and sometimes even quartz and quartzite. The land is home to two red wine appellations, Pessac-Léognan on the outskirts of Bordeaux, to the north (an AC since 1987 embracing all the Graves classed growths), and Graves, in the south. Wines from the northern part are well-structured, powerful reds with a deep hue and good cellaring capacity, whilst in the south the wines tend to be lighter and more delicate on the palate. All of them are drawn from the
same red varietals grown in the Médoc. However, both the northern and southern
parts also have the capacity to produce powerful, mouth-filling whites, with a
delicate bouquet and extensive ageing potential. They are drawn from Semillon,
a productive, hardy varietal well-suited to oak ageing, and Sauvignon, a lively,
The realms of the sweet wines: South of the Graves, this area straddling the
Garonne river is home to the sweet wines: Loupiac and Sainte-Croix-du-Mont
along the right bank, Sauternes, Barsac and Cérons along the left bank…. These
prestigious appellations are fortunate to have a climate conducive to producing a
microscopic fungus - botrytis cinerea - which develops by sucking water out from
inside the grapes, hence concentrating sugars in the wines. Vintages where the
wines fully express all the rich, subtle aromas imparted by the fungus are
occasionally referred to as ‘botrytised’ years. These outstanding wines can only
be drawn from three varietals – Semillon (70%), Sauvignon (25%) and Muscadelle
(5%) - in that order, though the latter varietal, whilst highly aromatic on gravely
and calcareous clay soils, is not widely planted because it does not always ripen
The Libourne area: Fanning out from the northern banks of the Dordogne, with
the town of Libourne as its focal point, this area is primarily a red wine region
where Bordeaux’s most ubiquitous grape variety (Merlot with 53.5%) is by far the
most predominant. Here it produces a clutch of world-famous wines like
Canon-Fronsac, Fronsac, Pomerol, Lalande de Pomerol and the highly celebrated
Saint-Emilion Grand Cru… Though slightly less renowned,
Montagne-Saint-Emilion, Lussac and Puisseguin offer enticing alternatives. These
particular vineyard sites provide this varietal with extremely varied soil types
based on a backbone of clay (calcareous clay, clay-gravel, clay-sand…) where it
forms a perfect partnership with Cabernet Franc (or Bouchet), yielding generous,
racy, powerful wines with subtle aromas.
CÔTES-DE-BORDEAUX WINES: Although this region is geographically extensive,
the wines it produces are not as heterogeneous as one might imagine. They
share a similar landscape, consisting of hilly slopes of clay-limestone soils along
the banks of the Dordogne and the Garonne, as well as a south to southeast
orientation –another feature they have in common is they are excellent value for
money.Côtes-de-Bordeaux is made up of seven appellations. In the north, on the right
bank of the Gironde, across from Médoc, lie the vineyards of Blaye,
Côtes-de-Bourg and Blaye Côtes-de-Bordeaux, which produce red wines that are
rustic yet agreeable. Further south are two appellations around the town of
Libourne; Francs Côtes-de-Bordeaux and Castillon Côtes-de-Bordeaux to the east,
entirely devoted to reds, and Graves-de-Vayres to the west, which produces
interesting reds and whites. South of this lies Cadillac Côtes-de-Bordeaux, which
stretches along the Garonne River from Bordeaux to Langon. Benefiting from very
good conditions, today these vineyards produce quality wines that are highly
appreciated by demanding consumers. The unique Carménère grape is still grown
here, a variety that produces excellent wines with a rich taste and deep colour,
with a structure that is rather similar to Cabernet Franc.
Entre-Deux-Mers: Set between the Garonne and the Dordogne, this is Bordeaux’s
most extensive wine growing region, stretching almost 30 kilometres wide and a
good 60 km long. Home of the dry whites (primarily Entre-Deux-Mers), this area is
now governed by strict regulations. To be entitled to appellation status, the wines
must be drawn from 70% Semillon, Sauvignon and Musca-delle and no more than
30% Merlot Blanc or 10% Ugni blanc, Mauzac and Colombard.
WINE STYLES: The red wines are evidently blends (chiefly Cabernets and Merlot).
They are well-structured and tannic, with intense aromas of blackcurrant and are
often able to withstand the test of time. The most prestigious appellations are all
of the above and much more, displaying incomparable finesse and exceptional
The dry whites, which more often than not are also blends (Semillon-Sauvignon),
cover a range of styles. White Bordeaux and Entre-Deux-Mers are lively, floral,
fruity wines, in their prime when young. Graves and Pessac-Léognan have a
longer life span due to a more ample structure, often enhanced by oak-ageing.
Lastly come the sweet whites, legally required to come from the Semillon,
Sauvignon and Muscadelle trio, which no longer need an introduction: Sauternes,
Barsac, Cérons, Loupiac and Sainte-Croix-du-Mont acquired star status aeons ago.
In good years, their structure keeps them fresh and young after decades in the
Review of recent vintages
2005: All the credentials of a great wine, greatly helped by near-perfect weather.
The reds and dry whites are aromatic, harmonious and typically Bordeaux; the
sweet wines are proving to be very promising.2006: Both a classic and uneven vintage, lacking the concentration of the 2005s yet still promising in terms of balance and elegance.
2007: Although the summer was mediocre, the autumn was magnificent. The red
wines are soft, moderately concentrated and have a bouquet of ripe fruit. They
can be drunk when young. The dry white wines are excellent, and the dessert
2008: With a relatively cool August and a sunny end of September, 2008 was a
rather mixed year, producing red wines that are fruity, lively and elegant, not
without a certain power. The whites are very fresh, and the dessert wines
2009: An exceptional, monumental vintage, particularly for the red wines.
Bordeaux reds have never before reached such concentration. They are powerful,
complete and deep. The Grands Crus will age well, while the humbler wines can
be enjoyed already. The dry whites and dessert wines are full-bodied, sometimes
perhaps a bit overly so, but there are also some excellent examples that are
balanced with freshness.
2010: record concentrations due to the drought that prevailed throughout the
summer. The 2010 vintage broke all previous records for phenolic concentration
and alcoholic strength. However, unlike 2009, August stayed relatively cool thus
ensuring slightly higher acidity levels, particularly in the Cabernets. Vintage 2010
saw successful wines when power and concentration took a back seat to
freshness and the purity of the fruit.
2011: after a warm, dry spring, July and August were unsettled leading to an
inconsistent vintage. Some successful dry and sweet whites. The reds are a more
mixed bunch with two main taste profiles: enjoyable, fruity and fairly full-bodied
wines and another group showing more pronounced tannins and a measure of
dryness on the finish.
2012: In contrast to 2011, the spring was disrupted by precipitation and slow
flowering, with the weather improving only in mid-July. The dry white wines are
well made, while the dessert wines are decent without being excellent, and the
reds are variable (particularly in Médoc). However, the wines are generally
pleasant, with mature tannins and well-defined fruit.
THE BORDEAUX APPELLATIONS
Overview: AC Barsac is grown in and around the town of Barsac on the left bank
of the Garonne. All wines produced within AC Barsac can be labelled as
Sauternes, however this only works one way.
Wine styles: Traditionally, Barsacs are considered to be moderately lighter than
Sauternes, perhaps because the soil has greater sand and clay content and the
terrain is marginally flatter. As a rule of thumb, Barsacs display a
characteristically beautiful golden colour, running the gamut from pale gold for
the youngest to deep amber for the most mature. They exude a full, deep nose.
On the palate, they develop flavours of acacia honey, the flesh of white peach,
almond, toast and above all botrytised grapes which, over time, mellow and
become more complex and harmonious. Enjoy with baked sole fillets in a creamy
hollandaise sauce, smoked salmon, or chocolate cake.
The vineyards of Blaye are located on the right bank of the Gironde, around 50
kilometres northwest of Bordeaux. The vineyards stretch over a large area of
6,000 hectares (of which 90% are planted with red varieties) and are cultivated
by 700 winegrowers. The Blaye AOC produces still red wines.
Style of wine: These red wines are quite smooth, with a bouquet of spices,
prune and ripe fruit that can develop over time to give musky hints. They develop
an attractive brick-red colour during ageing.
BLAYE CÔTES-DE-BORDEAUX AOC
This winegrowing area shares the same territory as Blaye AOC, separated from
the Médoc by the Gironde estuary. The Blaye Côtes-de-Bordeaux reds are mainly
produced from Merlot and have a deep colour and fruity notes. They are pleasant,
easy-drinking wines that go well with meat and cheese. The Blaye Côtes-de-
Bordeaux whites are principally made from Sauvignon, giving them their pale
yellow colour, nose of citrus and broom, as well as a nice bite and long finish,
making them intensely subtle wines. These whites are ideal for an apéritif or with
Style of wine: Blaye Côtes-de-Bordeaux AOC wines are typically more delicate
that those of Blaye AOC, as the grapes can be markedly different. The dominant
aromas are white flowers, yellow fruits and broom. They can be served with
AC Bordeaux covers the entire Gironde department, with the exception of
wetlands, valley floors and the sandy soils of the Landes woodlands. It applies only to red wines (dry whites are governed by a specific dry Bordeaux
appellation). Legally, they can only be made from Cabernet-Sauvignon, Cabernet
Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carmenere. Four different soil types form
the Bordeaux appellation area: marshlands (recent alluvial soils edging the
Garonne and the Dordogne), gravely soils made up of gravel and quartz,
calcareous clay earth, extremely widespread on hillside sites, and ‘boulbenes’
(loamy soils characteristic of the Entre-Deux-Mers plateaux). The wines are made
traditionally in temperature-controlled stainless steel or lined concrete tanks.
They can be aged in oak but this is optional.
Wine styles: As a rule of thumb, red AC Bordeaux wines boast a fine cherry-red
colour, they are well-balanced, harmonious and fruity, not overly robust and
reward early drinking.
AC Bordeaux Sec
Overview: Grown in the same area as red Bordeaux, dry Bordeaux are made from
Semillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle.
Wine styles: They offer floral, fruity fragrances, are relatively fat and rarely
woody. At their best when served young, with seafood, fish and poultry.
AC Bordeaux Supérieur
Overview: The AC Bordeaux Supérieur fits within the Bordeaux appellation area
and can be used for reds and whites, both dry and sweet. There are two major
differences between the two: Bordeaux Supérieur has lower yields and a higher
minimum alcohol content than Bordeaux. However the varietal range for the reds
is identical: Cabernet-Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot,
Carmenere; and for the whites: Semillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle.
Wine styles: They are more robust and fuller wines than ‘basic’ Bordeaux.
Bordeaux Supérieur wines have red fruit (raspberry) and black fruit (blackcurrant)
aromas, with a dash of vanilla for the oak-aged wines. They pair well with sirloin
steak cooked over a fire of vine twigs, pan-fried Bayonne ham and roast beef with
The sweet white wines are rich in alcohol and sugar with scents of honey, acacia,
plum and tobacco. They make perfect appetisers or accompaniments to white
meat and foie gras.
AC Bordeaux Haut-Benauge
The Haut-Benauge region is set like a lone island amidst the sea of
Entre-Deux-Mers vines. Its soils are calcareous clay and clay-silica. The Bordeaux-Haut-Benauge appellation applies only to sweet white wines which
account for one third of the area’s output: Semillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle.
Wine styles: The dry white wines display a pale yellow hue with hints of green.
They are soft, supple, fruity, easy-drinking wines. Predominant aromas are flinty
and floral notes.
AC Bordeaux rosé
Overview: Bordeaux’s rosé wines are labelled under the regional appellations
Bordeaux Rosé and Bordeaux Clairet. They can produced anywhere in the
Gironde department, providing the land is suitable for wine growing. They are
drawn from the same varietals as red wines. Bordeaux rosés are briefly
macerated (for 10-18 hours) to impart some colour and are then run off and
bottled shortly after.
Wine styles: Fresh, fruity wines rewarding early drinking, the rosés are lighter
than the Clairets. Fragrances of blackcurrant, redcurrant, raspberry and
strawberry intermingle with caramel, orange peel and grapefruit… Try as an
appetiser or with fish or cooked cold pork meats.
AC Bordeaux Clairet
Overview: Bordeaux Clairets, blended from Cabernet-Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc,
Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carmenere, are vinted in the same way as the
rosés. However, because they macerate for longer (24 to 36 hours), their colour
is deeper and tannin content higher. Some of them spend a short period in oak.
Wine styles: The Clairets display fruit (peach, raspberry, redcurrant, strawberry,
lychee) and floral aromas (seringa, rose, orange blossom) with a hint of primary
bud aromas. They are more appropriate for a meal time, served with cooked cold
pork meats, kebabs, grilled fish…
AC CADILLAC CÔTES-DE-BORDEAUX
Cadillac AOC, located to the north of Loupiac on the right bank of the Garonne,
produces white dessert wines. Until 1973, Cadillac was part of the Premières
Côtes-de-Bordeaux appellation. Today, 22 districts have the right to claim this
AOC, but many winegrowers continue to use Premières Côtes-de-Bordeaux AOC.
The wines are produced from Sémillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle.
Style of wine: These wines are elegant, aromatic, fruity and full. They are good
apéritif wines, but also go well with foie gras and sweet-and-sour dishes such as
In the Libourne area only two villages are entitled to carry the Canon-Fronsac
appellation – Fronsac and Saint-Michel-de-Fronsac – and even then, the grapes
can only come from specific vineyard sites. The vines (Cabernet-Sauvignon,
Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec) are planted on hillside sites where the soils
are calcareous clay or clay-sand on a limestone bedrock.
Wine styles: Canon-Fronsac wines (exclusively reds) are on the whole
deeply-coloured, fat, fleshy wines whilst at the same time revealing suppleness
and elegance with a delicate, slightly spicy flavour and a distinctive bouquet.
With good cellaring potential, they develop aromas of red fruits, pepper, spices
and truffle. They pair well with marinated or roast meats, preserved duck or
goose, poultry and pears cooked in wine.
AC CASTILLON CÔTES-DE-BORDEAUX
Some 40 kilometres east of Bordeaux, on the northeast border of the Gironde
region, Castillon is known for the battle in 1453 that brought an end to the
Hundred Years’ War. There are nine districts that have the right to claim the
appellation. The area benefits from a favourable climate for growing grapes. The
soils are rich in iron and limestone and lie on clay-limestone or limestone slopes.
The grape varieties used are Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and
Style of wine: The wines resemble those around Saint-Émilion, although they
are less tannic and need to age for several years in order to soften. They have an
intense colour and are structured, powerful, balanced and fleshy. They develop
aromas of prune, spices and animal notes. They pair well with red meat, either
barbecued or prepared with a sauce, game and strong cheeses.
Overview: this appellation covers around 120 hectares in Cérons, Illats and
Podensac on the left bank of the Garonne, thirty or so kilometres south-east of
Bordeaux. Set within the Graves appellation area, it only produces sweet wines
from Semillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle grapes harvested when overripe and
picked in batches as they ripen.
Wine styles: Cérons is an elegant sweet wine, perhaps slightly lighter and
vigorous than Sauternes. It is a good match for foie gras, white meat served in a
sauce or blue cheeses (Roquefort).
AC Côtes de Blaye
Overview: This area fits within the AC Blaye region, looking out over the Gironde
to the Médoc. It only produces white wines and these must legally be blended from at least two varietals, usually Colombard, with a balance of Semillon,
Sauvignon or Muscadelle.
Wine styles: As a rule, wines entitled to use the Côtes de Blaye appellation tend
to be more refined than those labelled AC Blaye, mainly because the varietal
range can be noticeably different. Predominant aromas are white blossom, yellow
fruit and broom. Food pairings include fish or seafood.
AC Côtes de Bordeaux Saint-Macaire
This appellation lies to the extreme southeast of Cadillac Côtes-de-Bordeaux AOC
over some ten districts (including Saint-Macaire) on the right bank of the
Garonne. Only whites (dessert and dry wines) made from Sémillon, Sauvignon,
Sauvignon Gris and Muscadelle can be labelled with this AOC. Both the dry and
moelleux dessert wines are produced from grapes harvested at a late stage of
ripening. The liquoreux dessert wines are produced from overripe grapes affected
by noble rot.
Style of wine: These sweet wines, more or less botrytised depending on the
year, are subtle, quite full-bodied yet soft, and best drunk when young. They
have a bouquet with notes of honey, acacia and tobacco. They can be drunk as
an apéritif and also pair well with white meat and foie gras.
This appellation sits on the right bank of the Dordogne, near the confluence with
the Garonne, some 30 kilometres northeast of Bordeaux. It spreads over the
district of Bourg-sur-Gironde. The hillsides generally have clay-limestone or
clay-gravel soils. The vineyards along the banks of the Gironde estuary are
particularly well protected from freezing due to the influence of the Atlantic
Ocean. This area is often called ‘Gironde’s Little Switzerland’ for its green, hilly
landscapes. Its red wines are made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc,
Merlot and Malbec. Its whites are made from Sémillon, Sauvignon, Muscadelle,
Merlot Blanc and Colombard.
Style of wine: Côtes-de-Bourg wines are mainly red. The whites were once used
as the base wine for making Cognac. Today some of them are distilled into Fine
de Bordeaux, a brandy that received recognition in 1974. The red wines are
robust, well-structured and highly aromatic, with a deep, brilliant purple colour.
They have surprising roundness and velvety tannins. They pair wonderfully with
poultry, roast beef with boletus mushrooms or leg of lamb.
AC Côtes de Castillon
Overview: Located 40 kilometres east of Bordeaux, along the north-east border of
Gironde, Castillon is famous for the 1453 battle which ended the 100 Years’ War.
Nine towns and villages are entitled to use the appellation. The area is blessed
with a climate conducive to wine growing. The soils are rich in iron and limestone
on hillside sites of calcareous clay or just clay. The wines are blended from the
varietals Merlot, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec.
Wine styles: The wines are similar in style to the Saint-Emilion satellite
appellations although they tend to be less tannic and take a few years to mellow.
Their hue is intense and they are well-constituted, powerful, well-balanced and
fleshy. They develop aromas of prunes, spices and animal notes. They are
suitable partners for red meats either grilled or served with a sauce, game or
AC Crémant de Bordeaux
Overview: Crémants are sparkling wines which can be made anywhere within the
Bordeaux appellation area from both the red and white varietals used in Gironde.
They are made using the traditional method with secondary fermentation in the
bottle after a blend of sugar and yeasts has been added.
Wine styles: Crémants can generally divided into three different styles: ‘blancs de
blancs’ made from Semillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle, Crémant Rosé made
from red Bordeaux varietals and blended white Crémant, a combination of red
and white varietals. With their pale yellow colour, Crémants are usually fresh and
lively. They can be served as appetisers, or with fish, shellfish, white meats,
cheeses or desserts.
Overview: this extensive appellation should actually be called
‘Entre-Deux-Rivières’ (or between two rivers) as it sits between the Dordogne and
the Garonne. It produces white wines only, from Sauvignon, Semillon and
Muscadelle, with just over 2,000 hectares on-stream. Red wines grown here are
labelled as Bordeaux or Bordeaux Supérieur.
Wine styles: these are dry, fresh, fruity wines which have become rounder over
the past few years. Characteristic aromas of citrus fruit (lemon, grapefruit), peach
and occasionally exotic fruit (lychee) are present. Try with seafood or fish.
AC Entre-Deux-Mers Haut-Benauge
Overview: The Entre-Deux-Mers Haut-Benauge region is set like a lone island
amidst the sea of Entre-Deux-Mers vines; only a clutch of villages producing dry
white wines are entitled to use it. The appellation applies only to white wines which account for one third of the area’s output. Varietals used are Sauvignon, Semillon and Muscadelle.
Wine styles: These dry white wines display a pale yellow hue with hints of green.
They are soft, supple, fruity, easy-drinking wines. They develop aromas of flint
and floral notes. They can be served either as an appetiser or with seafood or
AC Francs-Côtes de Bordeaux
This appellation extends east from Puisseguin-Saint-Émilion and
Lussac-Saint-Émilion. It covers the districts of Francs, Saint-Cibard and Tayac. In
the valleys, the soils are clay, and the hillsides have clay-limestone soil over
marly or limestone subsoils. The red grape varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon,
Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carménère. The white varieties
are Sémillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle.
Style of wine: The red wines have a rich colour and are opulent and full-bodied,
characterised by harmonious tannins. They have notes of red fruits (red currant)
and spices, with woody notes when young that evolve over time to aromas of
game and leather. The dry white wines are fat and complex with floral, woody
fragrances. The dessert wines, which are produced only when the harvest and
weather allow, are powerful, fat, well balanced and endowed with an attractive
wealth of aromas.
Overview: Setwithin the Libourne region, this appellation embraces Fronsac, La
Rivière, Saint-Germain-la-Rivière, Saint-Michel-de-Fronsac, Saint-Aignan, Saillans
and Galgon. Soil types range from modern alluvium along the marshland
bordering the Dordogne and the Isle to calcareous clay and clay-sand. Only wines
blended from Cabernet-Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec are made
Wine styles: As a general rule, Fronsac wines are deeply-coloured (vermilion red
or deep ruby hue, occasionally turning a topaz shade with age), fat, fleshy and
well-balanced, though at the same time supple and delicate with a distinctive
flavour and bouquet. They are laying-down wines which develop aromas of
pepper, spices and truffle.
Overview: The extensive region of Graves, which runs parallel with the banks of
the Garonne, is Bordeaux’s oldest wine growing area. AC Graves wines hail
primarily from the stretch of land between La Brède and Langon, encircling the Barsac and Sauternes appellations. In 1987, it parted company with AC
Pessac-Léognan in the north which embraces all the classed growths. The
gravel-strewn outcrops near Bordeaux and sandy gravel soils further south are
home to vineyards blessed with a particularly mild climate. The red wines are
blended from Merlot; Cabernet-Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and
Malbec. The whites from Semillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle.
Wine styles: The red wines are supple, elegant, well-structured, delicate and
well-balanced with an enticing bouquet (red berries, violet, liquorice, peach).
They generally mature harmoniously and pair well with roast white meats (veal,
lamb) and cheeses (brie, coulommiers). The white wines, which bear the tell-tale
characteristics of Bordeaux wines and are amongst the best the region has to
offer, are dry, elegant, fleshy, lively wines that linger on the palate and boast a
layered aromatic profile: honey, wax, muscat and acacia blossom when they are
made from Semillon; more predominant citrus and exotic fruits when Sauvignon
is the backbone varietal. Enjoy with shellfish, fish and white meats served with a
AC Graves de Vayres
Overview: This diminutive appellation situated near Libourne, along the left bank
of the Dordogne, embraces just two villages: Vayres and Arveyres. It is entirely
surrounded by the northern section of the Entre-Deux-Mers appellation.
Wine styles: The wines display a ruby-red hue and are delicate and elegant with a
supple, well-balanced tannic structure. They are equally suited to early drinking
and laying down. They boast fragrances of cherry, redcurrant, blackcurrant,
strawberry and notes of liquorice, leather and vanilla. Whites made
predominantly from Sauvignon are dry with a pleasant bouquet, brimming with
freshness on the palate. The sweet whites, drawn from over-ripe Semillon grapes,
display an attractive straw-yellow hue. On the palate, they are generous and
overwhelmingly supple. The scale of production remains, however, boutique.
AC Graves Supérieures
Overview: This AC produces sweet white wines from Semillon, Sauvignon and
Muscadelle. Minimum natural sugar content in the must is 221g/l and alcoholic
strength must be in excess of 13.5%. Wine making practices are identical to
those in Sauternes.
Wine styles: Graves Supérieures are sweet white wines with a distinctive bouquet
and great length on the palate. Golden yellow in colour, they display a
characteristic balance between acidity and sweetness with toasted, honey notes
and occasionally dried fruit. They partner well with fresh or pan-fried foie gras
Overview: The regional Haut-Médoc appellation forms the southern part of the
Medoc peninsula. It covers 29 towns and villages from Blanquefort in the south as
far as Saint-Seurin-de-Cadourne in the north, including the communal
appellations Saint-Estèphe, Pauillac, Saint-Julien, Moulis, Listrac-Médoc and
Margaux. Dotted throughout the region are the star-studded châteaux producing
some of the world’s greatest wines.
The region is home to five classed growths, hundreds of Bourgeois growths
producing some of Bordeaux’s finest wines and five co-operative wineries. The
soil make-up comprises gravel from the Quaternary era, deposited by the
Garonne and shaped into outcrops. The temperate climate is strongly defined by
the Atlantic and the nearby estuary. The wines are made traditionally at
controlled temperatures and subsequently aged in oak for 12 to 18 months.
Wine styles: Blended from Cabernet-Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec,
Petit Verdot and Carmenere, the wines are elegant, with great finesse and a
layered bouquet. They are reasonably robust and perfectly suited to laying down.
They conjure up aromas of ripe red fruit, notes of roasted coffee, mild spices
(liquorice, vanilla…) and sweet pepper, sometimes prune. They pair well with
Normandy-style veal cutlets, roast meats or game.
Classed growths: Château La Lagune (3rd growth), Château La Tour Carnet (4th
growth), Château Camensac, Château Cantemerle and Château Belgrave (all
three 5th growths).
Overview: The Lalande-de-Pomerol appellation area embraces just two villages,
Lalande-de-Pomerol itself and Néac, situated north of Saint-Emilion and Pomerol.
In fact, only a tiny river, the Barbanne, separates them from Pomerol. Soil types
range from clay and clay-gravel in the east to gravel in the north and north-east,
and sand in the western reaches. Vines thrive here in hot sunny climes, blessed
with sufficient rainfall. Red varietals: Merlot, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc
Wine styles: Deeply coloured red wines, powerful and velvety with a pleasant
mouthfeel. Predominant aromas are truffle, violet and undergrowth. They are a
good match for roast beef, duck and unfermented cheeses.
Overview: Officially recognised in 1957, Listrac is the youngest of the six
communal appellation areas in Haut-Médoc.It is also the furthest away from the Gironde estuary, set on the border between the wine growing areas of Medoc and
its woodlands. The soils are either gravely or calcareous clay. The nearby ocean
and the estuary provide a temperate climate.
Wine styles: The wines are all of a consistent standard. Deeply coloured, tannic
and well-structured, they display a virile, fleshy personality. Predominant aromas
are ripe red and black fruit, vanilla or caramel, roasted coffee, dark chocolate and
spices. They can be served with beef casserole or preserved duck. There are no
classed growths within this communal appellation.
Overview: This appellation is situated 40 km from Bordeaux along the right bank
of the Garonne, near Sainte-Croix-du-Mont. The vines are planted on hillside sites
where the soils are either calcareous clay or clay-sand. This south-facing area is
blessed with a microclimate conducive to the onset of noble rot. Varietals for
blending are Semillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle.
Wine styles: Loupiac are fruity wines with a well-balanced mellowness. They are
delicate, elegant, firm and generous, developing aromas of crystallised fruit
(apricot), honey and gingerbread. They pair well with roast duck or duck breasts.
Overview: Lussac-Saint-Emilion is one of Saint-Emilion’s four satellite
appellations. Set in the village of Lussac, it is a red-wine only appellation. The
wines are grown on average 10-hectare plots by around a hundred growers. The
vineyards are planted on plateaux and hillside sites where soil types are
calcareous clay in the south eastern portion and gravely in the west, though
there are pockets of sand and clay. The wines are blended from
Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Malbec and Carmenère.
Wines styles: Lussac’s hallmark character traits are sourced in its ‘terroir’. The
wines display a distinctively intense colour, finesse and generosity. They are
well-balanced, full and suitable for laying down. They can be paired with grilled or
roast meats and game.
Overview: Situated on a plateau 6 km long by 2 km wide, the appellation
encompasses five villages (Margaux, Cantenac, Soussans, Arsac and Labarde). It
is not only the most extensive appellation in the Haut-Médoc, it is also the most
southerly.The core of the appellation is in Cantenac and Margaux along a string of prime
hillock sites. The vineyards are planted on a plateau of gravel flanked by gravely
outcrops. They in fact boast the deepest layer of gravel throughout the whole of
the Médoc and have the stoniest soils.
Wine styles: These delicate, refined wines are rich, subtle and elegant. They are
reputedly the Medoc’s most ‘feminine’ wines. Their aromas cover a broad
spectrum, predominantly violet, rose and raspberry. Recommended pairings
include venison fillet, rack of lamb, hare or roast partridge, morels in puff pastry,
sweetbreads and veal cutlets with chanterelles. In fact, they enhance all red
meats and mild flavoured game.
Classed growths : First growth : Château Margaux. Second growths : Château
Brane-Cantenac, Château Dufort-Viviens, Château Lascombes, Château
Rauzan-Gassies, Château Rauzan-Ségla. Third growths : Château Boyd-Cantenac,
Château Kirwan, Château d’Issan, Château Giscours, Château Malescot
Saint-Exupéry, Château Cantenac-Brown, Château Palmer, Château Ferrière,
Château Desmirail, Château Marquis d’Alesme Becker. Fourth growths : Château
Prieuré-Lichine, Château Pouget, Château Marquis de Terme. Fifth growths :
Château Dauzac, Château du Tertre.
Overview: AC Médoc is situated in the northern part of Médoc, around the towns
and villages north of Saint-Seurin-de-Cadourne. Interspersed amongst the
calcareous clay soils are less frequent occurrences of gravel. The temperate
climate is strongly defined by the Atlantic ocean and the nearby estuary. The
wines are made traditionally at controlled temperatures. They are matured for
varying periods of time either under oak or in tanks.
Wine styles: AC Médoc is a red-wine only appellation. The wines display a brilliant
cherry-red hue. On both the nose and the palate they have distinctive fruit
aromas (blackcurrant, red fruit). These superbly round, delicate, supple wines
tend to mature well. They can be enjoyed from an early age and served with
grilled sirloin steak, cooked cold meats and cheeses.
AC Montagne Saint-Emilion
Overview: Of the four Saint-Emilion satellite appellations, this AC has the greatest
acreage. Its soil type is quite similar to that of nearby Saint-Emilion: calcareous
clay hillside sites on a subsoil of limestone, clay-silica or loam. The wines are
blended from Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Malbec and
Wine styles: With a hue of varying intensity, these wines are fresh, powerful, rich
and mild. Tannins are quite present but the wines remain supple and display extremely pleasant characteristic floral, fruity notes. They partner with game and
poultry served in a sauce.
Overview: Situated on the left bank of the Gironde, in Haut-Médoc, the Moulis
appellation area embraces seven villages (Moulis, Listrac-Médoc, Lamarque,
Arcins, Avensan, Castelnau-de-Médoc, Cussac-Fort-Médoc). Forty or so wine
growers share the appellation and 14 of those boast Bourgeois growth status. The
vines grow on outcrops studded with gravel of Pyrenean origin or deposited by
Wine styles: The wine boasts great finesse and an elegant bouquet supported by
a strong framework and good length. An intense ruby-red colour, it is both
seductive yet virile. For some, it is the epitome of a Médoc, with the potential
finesse of Margaux, the complexity of a Saint-Julien and the strength of a Pauillac.
Their tannin content makes Moulis capable of considerable longevity. They exude
aromas of prunes and leather as well as spicy and vanilla notes. They can be
served with stew, casseroles, sirloin steak with a shallot sauce, leg of mutton…
Overview: Pauillac is a Médoc communal appellation. It boasts an impressive
concentration of top-flight wines with three of the five First Growths within its
boundaries (Lafite, Latour and Mouton-Rothschild). The vines are planted on a
virtually unbroken ridge stretching from Saint-Julien in the south to Saint-Estèphe
in the north. Only a few hundred metres of marshland separate them from the
waters of the Gironde estuary. The soils are gravely with sandy deposits,
providing superb drainage. The nearby ocean and estuary define a warm
Wine styles: Pauillac’s red wines, whose principal varietal is Cabernet-Sauvignon,
are some of the Médoc’s most concentrated wines. Rich and complex, they have
a well-structured, harmonious body bolstered by a fine tannic structure. They are
robust, elegant, distinguished wines with a great ability to age. They develop
fragrances of raspberry, blackcurrant, rose, violet, iris, cedar and cigar box. Enjoy
with Pauillac lamb, roast wood pigeon, rack of veal with chanterelles.
Classed Growths: First Growths: Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Latour,
Château Mouton Rothschild. Second Growths: Château Pichon-Longueville
(Baron), Château Pichon-Longueville (Comtesse de Lalande). Fourth Growth:
Château Duhart-Milon-Rothschild. Fifth Growths: Château Batailley, Château
Haut-Batailley, Château Clerc Milon, Château Croizet-Bages, Château Grand-Puy
Ducasse, Château Grand-Puy Lacoste, Château Haut-Bages Libéral, Château
Lynch-Bages, Château Lynch-Moussas, Château Pédesclaux, Château
Pontet-Canet, Château d’Armailhac.
Overview: Pessac-Léognan, which was given its own appellation in 1987, is set in
the heart of Graves country. It embraces ten towns and villages south of
Bordeaux (Pessac, Talence, Villemanve d’Ornon, Léognan, Martillac, Mérignac,
Gradignan, Cadaujac, Canéjan, Saint-Médard d’Eyrans). The terrain forms gravel
outcrops and has good drainage. Bordered by pine forests then the ocean to the
west and the Garonne to the east, the Graves region enjoys an extremely mild
The wines are made traditionally at controlled temperatures. The reds are aged in
oak as are the whites which are both fermented and matured under oak, almost
invariably on the lees.
Wine styles: Pessac-Léognan scales the quality heights with elegant, complex
wines. Displaying a highly attractive garnet-red hue, they show concentration and
structure and are blessed with a finely woven texture, spanning a broad range of
aromas. Ripe fruit, spices (pepper, liquorice) and humus aromas intermingle with
smoky, chocolaty notes. The white wines are dry, vigorous, elegant, fleshy wines,
velvety on the palate exuding an extremely refined bouquet (honey, acacia
flowers, butter, dried fruit (peach, apricot), crystallised citrus fruit). The reds pair
with roast poultry and meat served in a sauce; the whites with shellfish, pike
served with a butter sauce… Both red and white Pessac-Léognan are wines for
laying down and will keep for between 5 to 20 years.
First growth (Official 1855 Classification): Château Haut-Brion.
Classed growths: Château Bouscaut, Château Carbonnieux, Domaine de
Chevalier, Château Couhins, Château Couhins-Lurton, Château de Fieuzal,
Château Haut-Bailly, Château La Mission Haut-Brion, Château La Tour Haut-Brion,
Château Latour Martillac, Château Laville Haut-Brion, Château
Malartic-Lagravière, Château Olivier, Château Pape-Clément, Château Smith
Overview: Pomerol is a village situated near Libourne. The hillsides of
Saint-Emilion roll down to Pomerol ending in a plateau carved into terraces which
gently descend towards the valley floor. The soils are predominantly gravel
interspersed with layers of clay. The subsoil however is shot through with a kind
of iron-rich sandstone called ‘iron dross’ which in some cases imparts very
distinctive characteristics to the wines. Despite the fact that Pomerol is one of the most renowned and popular wines in the world, it has no official classification.
Wine styles: Pomerol wines are rich in colour, powerful and brimming with body,
roundness and generosity, though they also boast finesse and an overwhelmingly
rich bouquet. Red fruit, truffle and violet form the backbone of its aromatic range.
Pomerol is an all-rounder which can be paired with all sorts of food, including foie
gras. It sits nicely alongside dishes such as roast beef en croûte, jugged hare,
lamprey in a red wine sauce, mushrooms and most cheeses.
Overview: This is one of Saint-Emilion’s four satellite appellations, with a total
120 growers, one third of whom belong to the local co-operative. The soil is
primarily calcareous clay with a rocky, stony subsoil. A large proportion of the
vineyards enjoy a south, south-east aspect and a dry microclimate. The wines
grown here are red, drawn from Merlot, Cabernet Franc (or Bouchet)
Cabernet-Sauvignon and very occasionally Malbec.
Wine styles: Puisseguin-Saint-Emilion wines have good depth of colour. They are
powerful, well-constituted, delicate, harmonious wines. The more mature wines
pair well with white meat whilst the younger versions are better suited to red
meat and game.
Overview: Situated 45 km south-south-east of Bordeaux, this appellation sits on
the opposite bank of the Garonne to Sauternes. The soils are calcareous clay in
type with fossils set on a subsoil of limestone or gravel. The vines are planted on
plateaux or hillside sites. The wines are blended from Semillon, Sauvignon and