Bordeaux Red Wines

Bordeaux wine regions can be confusing. There are many within Bordeaux, and still some within those smaller regions, also known as appellations and sub-appellations.

Bordeaux is broken up into three basic sections: the Left Bank, the Right Bank and Entre-Deux-Mers, which sits in between. These three areas are separated by three rivers: The Gironde, which connects to the Atlantic Ocean and the Dordogne and Garonne Rivers, which meet and form the Gironde. Here you will find information on all red wine regions on the Left Bank, the Right Bank and Entre Deux Mers.

Having some knowledge of the appellations within Bordeaux gives you the information you need when it comes to deciding what Bordeaux wine to buy at a store or a restaurant.

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Left Bank Wine Regions

The Left Bank regions of Bordeaux are the regions south of the Gironde River. Imagine you are in the Gironde, looking out at the Atlantic Ocean. The regions on your left side are on the Left Bank.

Medoc

At the mouth of the Gironde River is the appellation of Medoc. The Medoc is probably the most famous of all the Bordeaux wine regions as this is where many of the famous, expensive Bordeaux wines come from.

Within The Medoc

Bordeaux wine regions within Medoc are certain towns that have become so famous for their high-quality wine that they have become sub-appellations in Bordeaux.

They are: Margaux, Moulis, Listrac, Haut-Medoc, St Estephe, Pauillac and St. Julien. These regions all fall under the AOC laws of wine making, which is the benchmark for quality wine in France.

So if you see a bottle of red wine that says it is from one of these towns, you know that it is quality wine from the Medoc section of Bordeaux.

Famous wineries in Medoc:

  • Chateau Latour (Pauillac)
  • Chateau Lafite-Rothschild (Pauillac)
  • Chateau Leoville (St. Julien)
  • Chateau Margaux (Margaux)

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Graves

If you continue down the Gironde River, it splits into the Dordogne and the Garonne Rivers. The Garonne travels further south and east, while the Dordogne travels in a more easterly direction.

Following the Garonne, we pass the city of Bordeaux on the Left Bank, the capital of the region. There are no vineyards here. Historically it was a port city to export French wine to England, the United States and elsewhere around the world.

Just south of the city of Bordeaux is Graves, a wine region of similar size to Medoc. Graves has some sub-appellations within it, but not as many as Medoc.

Graves got its name from the soil that was deposited here in the Ice Age. It's very gravelly.

Of all the Bordeaux wine regions, Graves is the only appellation to produce red, white and sweet (dessert) wine.

Within Graves

Sub-appellations in Graves are: Pessac-Leognan, Sauternes, Barsac, Cerons and Graves Superieures. The only regions that produce red wine are Pessac-Leognan and Graves. Both of these regions also produce white wines.

Sauternes, Barsac, Cerons and Graves Superieures all produce white wines. Cerons and Sauternes produces sweet, dessert-style wines. The most famous vineyards of all the sweet wine makers is Chateau d'Yquem, in Sauternes.

Famous Graves wineries for red wine include:

  • Chateau Haut-Brion (Pessac-Leognan)
  • Chateau Bouscaut (Pessac-Leognan)
  • Chateau Fougere (Graves)

Entre Deux Mers

Just across the river from Graves sits an interesting Bordeaux wine region. Entre Deux Mers is situated between the Dordogne and Garonne Rivers. Its name actually means "between the seas" in French.

This region is widely known for its white Bordeaux wine. But with the recent popularity of red wine, some vineyards are choosing to replant their fields with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and other red grapes.

Most of these wineries are located in Sainte-Foy-Bordeaux, where the wines are made in a similar style to Medoc wines, but are not yet of the same quality. You may find some real bargains in this area.

Right Bank Wine Regions

If you travel north from Entre Deux Mers and cross the Dordogne River, you reach the Bordeaux area called the Right Bank.

The two most famous Right Bank wine regions are St. Emilion and Pomerol. Both are very small regions with much less wine produced than in the other famous Bordeaux wine regions.

St. Emilion

There are a few sub-appellations under the St. Emilion name. They are permitted to name themselves after their sub-appellation and as a St. Emilion wine. These are the villages of Puisseguin, Lussac, Montagne and St. Georges. You will see these village names hyphenated with St. Emilion on the wine label.

St. Emilion features several famous vineyards:

  • Chateau Figeac
  • Chateau Monbousquet
  • Chateau Ausone
  • Chateau Roudier (Montagne)
  • Chateau Tour du Pas (St. Georges)
  • Chateau Croix de Rambeau (Lussac)
  • Chateau Tour Calon (Puisseguin)

Pomerol

Pomerol is the smallest of all the famous Bordeaux wine regions. It produces only a small fraction of what the larger wine regions like Medoc produce.

Famous Pomerol wineries include:

  • Chateau Petrus
  • Chateau Trotanoy

Lalande de Pomerol

Lalande-de-Pomerol sits to the north of Pomerol, with the Bardanne River as the border. This is a relatively undiscovered wine region, with the best red wines considered comparable to those of Pomerol.

Explore these Lalande de Pomerol wines:

  • Chateau La Fleur Saint Georges
  • Chateau La Croix des Moines
  • Chateau Bertineau Saint Vincent

Fronsac

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A few miles west of Pomerol sits Fronsac, another great red wine region in Bordeaux. Within Fronsac lies Canon-Fronsac and Saint Michel de Fronsac, sub-appellation with delicious Right Bank wines.

Some vineyards within Fronsac are eligible for sub-appellation status.

If they are located on hillsides with a certain mixture of clay-limestone soil, they are eligible for Canon-Fronsac appellation status.

Only some of the vineyards within Fronsac and Saint Michel de Fronsac are eligible for this status.

Famous vineyards within Fronsac include:

  • Chateau de la Dauphine (Fronsac)
  • Chateau Dalem (Fronsac)
  • Chateau Canon (Canon-Fronsac)
  • Chateau Villars (Canon-Fronsac)

Cotes de Bourg

As you travel further north and west, the Right Bank joins again with the Gironde River, across from the Medoc. Here you will find Cotes de Bourg, another lovely Bordeaux wine region. wine has been made here for centuries -- the first wine plants were brought here by the Romans!

The climate is perfect for growing wine in Cotes de Bourg. It is at sea level, and the ocean breezes travel down the Gironde River into the vineyards, bringing extra flavor and nuance to the wines.

Cotes de Bourg is a relatively undiscovered wine region in Bordeaux. There are many wonderful wines you can find in this region for very little money. Try Chateau Brulesecaille, Le Clos du Notaire and Chateau Haut Maco.

Cotes de Bordeaux

Cotes de Bordeaux is a very new Bordeaux wine region. It was only formed in 2008. Several wine regions were merged to create this new appellation, among them: Premieres Cotes de Blaye, Cotes de Castillon, Cotes de Francs and several white wine making regions.

Many of these tiny regions are very unknown outside of Bordeaux, even though many started as wine regions thanks to the Romans. Hopefully this new status will help them to gain the interest of Bordeaux aficionados.

At this point, you can find some real values here. Be on the lookout for:

  • Chateau Bertinerie (Premieres Cotes de Blaye)
  • Chateau Le Grand Moulin (Premieres Cotes de Blaye)
  • Chateau d'Aiguihe (Cotes de Castillon)
  • Chateau de Francs (Cotes de Francs)

Regional Appellations

Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superieurs

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There are certain areas apart from those I described above that fall under the greater regional category of Bordeaux or Bordeaux Superieurs.

These are wines that have been judged to display the quality of the entire region of Bordeaux.

These wines are produced according to strict rules in order to maintain quality. Therefore, these wines are considered to have a higher capability for aging.

More than half of of the entire Bordeaux wine regions production comes from these regional appellations.

You can visit Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superieurs wine regions. The largest area is on the Right Bank, between Blaye and Bourg and the rest of the Right Bank regions. There is also a smaller area on the Left Bank, east of Graves.

Recommended Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superieurs wines:

  • Chateau Bonnet
  • Chateau La France
  • Chateau Brown La Martine

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this little tour of all the Bordeaux wine regions. It is an interesting and beautiful area for red wine and I hope you will explore French wine further.

Understanding something about Bordeaux classification systems is important to buying fine Bordeaux wine.聽 Here you will discover how each section within Bordeaux rates its wines.

If you are interested in the wine classification system of a particular appellation, click on its name here and you will go directly to that section of this page.

Medoc

Blaye & Bourg

Graves

Fronsac & Canon Fronsac

Pomerol &
Lalande Pomerol

Entre Deux Mers, Cotes de Bordeaux
& Sainte Foy Bordeaux

Saint Emilion

Bordeaux

AOC Wines
All French wine is regulated under certain rules to maintain quality control.聽 The Bordeaux wine regions outlined here all fall under the AOC laws, or聽Appellation d'Origine C么ntroll茅e.

Only a fraction of all French wine fall in this category.聽 Many of the Bordeaux wine regions only have the AOC laws as the guidelines for making wine.

There are four different types of Bordeaux red wines under AOC rules:

Bordeaux Red Wine
A typical red wine from Bordeaux.
Bordeaux Superieur
These wines are made from older vines and must be aged for 12 months before release to the market.

Bordeaux Clairet
A lighter red wine but not quite a rose. The word "Claret" comes from this wine.
Bordeaux Ros茅
A typical ros茅 wine.

The AOC regulates:

Geographic origin
Types of grapes grown
Minimum alcohol content
How much wine can be made per acre
How many vines can be planted per acre
How much land is designated for each type of wine
How many buds can grow per acre

Geographic Origin
The AOC regulates where a wine can say it comes from.聽 This is to help you determine the quality of the wine.
Types of Grapes Grown
Bordeaux red wine can be made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carmenere.聽 The main types of grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which are mixed with small percentages of the other grapes for flavoring.

Depending on whether the wine is from the Right or the Left Bank, it will either have more Merlot or more Cabernet Sauvignon in it, respectively.
Minimum Alcohol Content
The minimum alcohol content of Bordeaux wines are:

Bordeaux Red Wine
10%
Bordeaux Superieur
10.5%

Bordeaux Clairet
10%
Bordeaux Ros茅
10.5%

How Much Wine Can Be Produced Per Acre

Bordeaux Red
66 Million gallons

(2.5 Million hectoliters)
Bordeaux Superieur
14 Million gallons

(530,000 hectoliters)

Bordeaux Clairet
1.4 Million gallons

(52,000 hectoliters)
Bordeaux Ros茅
4.7 Million gallons

(180,000 hectoliters)

How Many Vines Can Be Planted Per Acre
About 5,000 vines per acre (2,000 per hectare).
Land Designated For Each AOC Wine

Bordeaux Red
108,726 acres (44,000 hectares)
Bordeaux Superieur
24,710 acres (10,000 hectares)

Bordeaux Clairet
2,285 acres (925 hectares)
Bordeaux Ros茅
8,154 acres (3,300 hectares)

How Many Buds Can Grow Per Acre
150,000 per acre (60,000 per hectare)

Medoc Ranking System
Medoc wine is classified under a system established over 150 years ago.聽 All the sub-appellations (Haut-Medoc, Pauillac, St. Julien, St. Estephe, Listrac, Moulis and Margaux) all fall under this system.

The Medoc system is not a system of quality control, like the AOC system.聽 It is a guide for you to know which are the best Medoc wines.

Back in 1855, when this Bordeaux classification system was invented, wines were ranked according to price.聽 It was broken down into five sections, or "growths."

There are 62 Chateaux in the 1855 classification.聽 You will know you are looking at one of these wines if you see "Grand Cru Classe" on the label.聽 Here is the list:
First Growths (Premier Crus)

Vineyard
Chateau Lafite-Rothschild

Chateau Latour

Chateau Margaux

Chateau Haut-Brion

Chateau Mouton-Rothschild

AOC
Pauillac

Pauillac

Margaux

Pessac-Leognan (Graves)

Pauillac

Second Growths (Deuxieme Crus)

Vineyard
Chateau Rausan Segla

Chateau Rausan Gassies

Chateau Leoville-Las-Cases

Chateau Leoville-Poyferre

Chateau Leoville-Barton

Chateau Durfort-Vivens

Chateau Lascombes

Chateau Gruaud-Larose

Chateau Brane-Cantenac

Chateau Pichon-Longueville-Baron

C. Pichon-Longueville-Lalande

Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou

Chateau Cos d'Estournel

Chateau Montrose

AOC
Margaux

Margaux

St. Julien

St. Julien

St. Julien

Margaux

Margaux

St. Julien

Margaux

Pauillac

Pauillac

St. Julien

St. Estephe

St. Estephe

Third Growths (Troisiemes Crus)

Vineyard
Chateau Giscours

Chateau Kirwan

Chateau d'Issan

Chateau Lagrange

Chateau Langoa-Barton

Chateau Malescot-St-Exupery

Chateau Cantenac-Brown

Chateau Palmer

Chateau La Lagune

Chateau Desmirail

Chateau Calon-Segur

Chateau Ferriere

Chateau d'Alesme

Chateau Boyd-Cantenac

AOC
Margaux

Margaux

Margaux

St. Julien

St. Julien

Margaux

Margaux

Margaux

Haut-Medoc

Margaux

St. Estephe

Margaux

Margaux

Margaux

Fourth Growths (Quatriemes Crus)

Vineyard
Chateau St. Pierre

Chateau Branaire-Ducru

Chateau Talbot

Chateau Duhart-Milon-Rothschild

Chateau Pouget

Chateau La Tour-Carnet

Chateau Lafon-Rochet

Chateau Beuchevelle

Chateau Prieure-Lichine

Chateau Marquis de Terme

AOC
St. Julien

St. Julien

St. Julien

Pauillac

Margaux

Haut-Medoc

St. Estephe

St. Julien

Margaux

Margaux

Fifth Growths (Cinquiemes Crus)

Vineyard
Chateau Pontet-Canet

Chateau Batailley

Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste

Chateau Grang-Puy-Ducasse

Chateau Haut-Batailley

Chateau Lynch-Bages

Chateau Lynch-Moussas

Chateau Dauzac

Chateau d'Armailhac

Chateau du Tertre

Chateau Haut-Bages-Liberal

Chateau Pedesclaux

Chateau Belgrave

Chateau Camensac

Chateau Cos Labory

Chateau Clerc-Milon-Rothschild

Chateau Croizet Bages

Chateau Cantemerle

AOC
Pauillac

Pauillac

Pauillac

Pauillac

Pauillac

Pauillac

Pauillac

Haut-Medoc

Pauillac

Margaux

Pauillac

Pauillac

Haut-Medoc

Haut-Medoc

St. Estephe

Pauillac

Pauillac

Haut-Medoc

Medoc Cru Bourgeois Wines
As new wineries were formed over the years, a new Bordeaux classification system was needed to help wine drinkers enjoy all the delicious French wines.聽 In 1920, the Cru Bourgeois system was developed.聽 It has since been revised several times, adding or removing wineries.

Between 2003 and 2010, Medoc Cru Bourgeois wine was divided into three levels:聽 Cru exceptionnels, Crus Superieurs and Crus Bourgeois.聽 Due to some serious issues with this system, it was annulled and restructured in 2010.

Since 2010, the system is revised annually and is awarded to specific wines, rather than wineries.聽 The classification is based on method of production as well as the quality of the wine.聽 Any Medoc winery may apply for the classification, which is released two year after the vintage year.聽 For example, a 2012 wine will receive its classification in 2014.

Graves Classification
The most famous of all the Graves chateaux is Chateau Haut-Brion.聽 You may recognize it from the Medoc Classification of 1855 list.

Other Graves wines are classified as Grand Cru Classes in Medoc as well.聽 Take a look at:

Chateau Bouscaut
Chateau Haut-Bailly
Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion

Why are Graves wines included in the Medoc classification?

The Medoc classification was originally made for Medoc and Graves.聽 Graves eventually formed its own Bordeaux classification system in 1959.聽 These Chateaux are all located in Pessac-Leognan.

St. Emilion Classification
Saint Emilion's system was set up in a similar fashion to the Medoc.聽 This Bordeaux classification system was founded in 1955, with a list of Premier Gran Crus (A & B) and Grand Cru Classes.

The classification was updated every ten years until 2006, when a controversy erupted and changed the way this Bordeaux classification is conducted.

Before 2006, Saint Emilion had a fixed number of Chateaux to classify.聽 As of 2013, there are still controversies surrounding this Bordeaux classification system.

Famous Saint Emilion chateaux in each category of this Bordeaux classification system:

Premier Grand Crus Classes A

Chateau Ausone
Chateau Cheval Blanc

Premier Grand Crus Classes B

Chateau Beausejour
Chateau Canon
Chateau Figeac

Grand Crus Classes

Chateau Monbousquet
Chateau La Tour Figeac

Pomerol & Lalande Pomerol
This tiny Bordeaux wine region has no Bordeaux classification system.聽 It has only recently (in the last 50 years) become a famous wine region.

The most famous of all the Pomerol wineries are Chateau Petrus and Chateau Le Pin, which are some of the most expensive wines in the world.

Blaye & Bourg
Blaye and Bourg have no ranking system for their wines other than the AOC system.

Fronsac & Canon Fronsac
Fronsac & Canon Fronsac use the AOC regulations and have no ranking system.

Entre Deux Mers, Cotes de Bordeaux & Sainte Foy Bordeaux
Entre Deux Mers is the largest of all the Bordeaux wine regions and makes most of the Bordeaux AOC wine.聽 They come mostly from Sainte Foy Bordeaux and Cotes de Bordeaux.

Bordeaux AOC
Bordeaux AOC is where the supermarket brands of French wine come from. Mouton Cadet is a famous brand in this category, made by the Rothschild family.