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.
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.
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.
Famous wineries in Medoc:
- Chateau Latour (Pauillac)
- Chateau Lafite-Rothschild (Pauillac)
- Chateau Leoville (St. Julien)
- Chateau Margaux (Margaux)
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.
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.
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)
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
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)
Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superieurs
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