Bordeaux Illuminated

How is it that the marshy, maritime region of Bordeaux came to fruition? Cold wet winters and springs with the Atlantic to the west, autumn humidity and spring time frost- does not seem too appealing as a viticultural area.  Yet the evidence of wine making is found in the area dating back to 4th century AD!  The Dutch play a huge role in irrigation channels and trade for Claret.  The latter enticing England to establish its dominance in the region- and actually rule that area for almost 300 years!

The influx of wealth and investment lead to negociants and brokers.  With vested interest in the area, old wealth held strong to the properties even to this day!  Over the last few decades we see investment in Bordeaux from China as well.  Once the en primeur sales (annual open house of Bordeaux wine as futures) are released, Bordeaux is on fire.

With the Gironde Estuary from the Atlantic Ocean, the region is split by the Garronne and Dordogne Rivers as one proceeds east.  On the southern end, the banks of the Garronne River hosts the Left Bank of Bordeaux (as well as the city of Bordeaux).  Left Bank hosts two regions (Medoc/Haut Medoc and Graves) and 8 AOP villages (listed below).  On the northern end of these rivers is the Dordogne which hosts the Right Bank and the Côte du Blaye and Côte du Borg.  As the rivers split, they leave the area Entre Deux Mers (in between the seas), which is 100% white wine.  Each area has its own claim to fame.  So let’s break it down:
Left Bank Bordeaux … Medoc/Haut Medoc
1. Located on the left bank of the Gironde estuary and Garonne river
2. The Médoc soil consists of gravel topsoil with Margaux showing increased layers of limestone, sand and clay.
3. 100% red wine.  This gravely soil structure is vital for the maturation of Cabernet Sauvignon.  Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Carmenère
4. Médoc – the northern region with three sub regions (Haut, Médoc, Bas)
5. Notable villages:  Médoc AOP, Haut-Médoc AOP, Saint-Estèphe AOP, Pauillac AOP, Saint-Julien AOP, Listrac-Médoc AOP, Moulis/Moulis-en-Médoc AOP, Margaux AOP
6. All first growths except one are located in the Médoc area.  What’s First Growth and 1855 Classification of Bordeaux?

Left Bank Médoc Bordeaux wines are structured, tannic and expressive!

Currently in stock for Left Bank | Médoc:

  • Château Lalande de Gravelong (Medoc) Reg. $21.99 *Nov 1st
  • Château La Valière (Medoc) Reg. $23.99 *Nov 1st
  • Fleur du Grand Port (Pauillac)  Reg.$45.99
  • Josephine de Boyd (Margaux) Reg. $61.99 *Nov 1st
  • La Croix Dillanges (Saint-Julien) Reg. $40.99
  • Les Chevaliers de Dauprat (Pauillac) Reg. $32.99

Left Bank Bordeaux … Graves
1. Located on the left bank of the Gironde estuary and Garonne river, the original wine making area
2. Graves, similar to Médoc, shows a sandier mixture with gravel and light clay (known as boulbenes) especially in the southern areas.
3. Mix of reds and whites, similar to Médoc with gravely soil structure and Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Carmenère red varietals; whites similar to Entre Deux Mers- Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle.
4. Graves – the southern region which produces white, reds and dessert wines
5. Notable villages: three smaller sweet wine appellations— (Cérons, Barsac, and Sauternes); Pessac-Léognan AOP (red and white)
6. Of all the first growth designations from the 1855, Château Haut-Brion is the only one located in Graves.  All others are in Medoc! Château d’Yquem is a first growth superior (Premier Cru Supérieur) in the Sauternes AOP.

Left Bank Graves Bordeaux red wines are structured, tannic and expressive; whites are dry, crisp and refreshing; sweet wines are succulent with spicy undertones.

Currently in stock for Left Bank | Graves

  • Château Lafargue (Pessac-Leognon Blanc & Rouge) Reg. $38.99

Right Bank Bordeaux …
1. Located on the right bank of the Dordogne river
2. Soil consists of sand, clay and gravel with layers of limestone outside of Pomerol and iron rich clay (crasse de fer) in Pomerol.
3.  The varietals nurtured by this unique soil structure are Merlot, Cabernet Franc and moderate amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon
4. Pomerol is 70-80% Merlot and 20-25% Cabernet Franc, aka Bouchet
5. St. Émilion (and surrounding Pomerol areas) are 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec
6. The origin of the garagiste movement- Garage wines!

Right Bank Bordeaux wines are soft, elegant and plush on the palate!

Currently in stock for Right Bank

  • Belle Eleonore (Lussac St-Emilion Rouge) Reg. $19.99
  • Château Franc Grace-Diex (AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru) Reg. $32.99
  • Château Guadet (AOC Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé) Reg. $97.99
  • Château Le Caillou (Pomerol) Reg. $53.99
  • Château Mazeyres Le Seuil de Mazeyres (Pomerol) Reg. $41.99 *Nov 1st
  • L’Adage  (Saint-Emilion) Reg. $23.99

1. Located in between the rivers Garonne and Dordogne
2. Though translation is “in between two seas”, some claim it is “marée” which is tide- in between two tides.
3. To be suspected- the soil is representative of the rivers upon which it banks: clay and limestone along the Dordogne next to a steep cliff; “boulbènes” very suitable to white grape varieties in the center and southern part of the plateau, with limestone and fine gravel on the southern slopes; in the north, clay and limestone with stretches of gravel and sandy zones; in the east, a majority of silty soils.
4. 100% white wine, dry.  Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadelle
5. Some sub-regions vinified sweet with botrytis.
Dry, crisp whites, meant to be consumed young, however some can age.

Currently in stock for Entre-Deux-Mers:

  • Château Martinot (Entre-Deux-Mers) Reg. $15.99

Blaye, Bourg, & Côtes de Bordeaux
1. Located west of Right Bank, is the Blaye, Côte de Blaye, Bourg and the Côte de Bourg.  The oldest vineyards in Bordeaux are located here.  (“Côte de” is a smaller sub region within the region noted.)
2. Côtes de Bordeaux is the surrounding areas outside all other designated areas mentioned above. This appellation merges together the outlying areas so that it is easier for the consumer to recognize the area, however it can be from either Left, Right or Bourg areas!
3. All three areas produce reds and whites similar to the surrounding areas, however Blaye and  Côte de Blaye produce whites of Ugni Blanc and Colombard.
4. Premières Côtes de Bordeaux AOP will only be sweet wines, and Côtes de Bordeaux-Saint-Macaire AOP produces sec (dry), moelleux (soft/lightly sweet), or liquereux (liquer/stronger and rich) styles

The wines from these areas vary!  Some are fantastic, some are what they are!  The whites from the Blaye are oily and rich- fantastic with poultry, oily fish, clams and savory foods.

Currently in stock for Blaye, Borg, Côte de Bordeaux

  • Château La Galante (Bordeaux Blanc) Reg. $14.99 *Nov 1st
  • La Fleur Chazal  (Bordeaux Blanc & Rouge) Reg. $15.99

We hope that you enjoyed the Bordeaux highlights here! There is always more to explore and learn!  Stop by soon to check out Jens’ new Bordeaux wines and taste!

Cheers-  Jaci

Manager|Sommelier|Food+Wine Writer



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