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French Wine Regions - Bordeaux

Updated on June 19, 2013

Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou in Bordeaux

Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou in Bordeaux
Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou in Bordeaux

THE WINES & GRAPES OF BORDEAUX

Chateaux Margaux Vineyard
Chateaux Margaux Vineyard
Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon
Merlot
Merlot
Cabernet Franc
Cabernet Franc
Chateau Margaux
Chateau Margaux
Chateau Margaux
Chateau Margaux
Chateau Latour with Tower
Chateau Latour with Tower
Chateau Latour with Tower on Label
Chateau Latour with Tower on Label
Chateau d'Yquem Vineyard in Sauternes
Chateau d'Yquem Vineyard in Sauternes
Chateau d'Yquem
Chateau d'Yquem
Semillon Grapes
Semillon Grapes
Semillon Grapes with Noble Rot
Semillon Grapes with Noble Rot
Sauvignon Blanc Grapes
Sauvignon Blanc Grapes

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French Wine Regions - Bordeaux

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The vineyards of Bordeaux are located along the banks of the Gironde River both north and south of the city of Bordeaux. As a general rule, the red wines along the left bank contain a higher percentage of cabernet sauvignon grapes and are of better quality. The wines along the east bank are made predominantly with merlot grapes and with several notable exceptions are considered to be of lesser quality.

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Although this is generally thought of as a red wine-producing region, both dry and sweet white wines are made there. The best dry white wines are made around Graves and the best sweet white wines are made in Sauternes and Barsac.

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Bordeaux is one of only a few wine regions in France where actual Chateau bottling exists. In Bordeaux "Mis en bouteille au Chateau" means that the wine was bottled by the owner at the Chateau where the grapes were grown.

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Chateau Pape Clement, founded in the fourteenth century by the future Pope Clement V, was the first named chateau in Bordeaux. I still have fond memories of drinking a bottle of the 1961 vintage in a restaurant in Paris in 1971.

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Bordeaux is one of the most complicated wine producing regions in the world. I plan to break this region down into a number of future Hubs where I can go into more details.

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However, if you want to start learning about the wines of Bordeaux, I recommend that you start with the following ten important facts:

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1. Depending upon the vintage and the source that you consult, Bordeaux produces about 850 million bottles of wine annually. That is about 25% of all of the AOC wines produced in France.

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2. There are eight regional AOCs in Bordeaux. Any producer in Bordeaux can use one of these eight AOCs if they are not entitled to use a better one. They account for about half of all Bordeaux wine produced. The two most important ones are:

  • Bordeaux AOC, which accounts for about one third of all wine produced, and
  • Bordeaux Superieur, which accounts for an additional 7%.These two AOCs can be used for either red or white wine.

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3. There are 38 sub regions in Bordeaux, which are shown on the map in the next section. The most important ones for red wine are Medoc, Haut Medoc, St. Estephe, Pauillac, St. Julien, Margaux, Pomerol, St. Emilion, Pessac-Leognan and Graves. For dry white wine, Pessac-Leognan and Graves are most important and for sweet white wine they are Sauternes and Barsac.

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4. Bordeaux produces about 87% red wine and only 13% white wine broken down as follows:

The most important red wine grapes are Merlot (50% of Bordeaux wines), Cabernet Sauvignon (26%) and Cabernet Franc

The most important white wine grapes are (10%). Semillon (8%) and Sauvignon Blanc (4%).

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5. In 1855, the wines on the left bank were officially classified based on quality. This classification is still used today in spite of the fact that the quality of some of these wines has improved considerably while others have deteriorated.

This will be the subject of another Hub.

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6. The following seven wines are considered by most experts to be the greatest red wines in Bordeaux listed in no particular order. (Chateau Margaux, Chateau Latour, Chateau Lafitte Rothschild, Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Chateau Haut Brion, Chateau Petrus and Chateau Cheval Blanc. I have tasted all of them before the wines speculators made them too expensive for anyone who is not wealthy to buy them.

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7. When I started studying French wine in the 1960s, Americans were mostly buying them to drink them and the prices were much more reasonable. Around the time of the 1970 vintage, wine magazines and the Wall Street Journal started pushing Bordeaux red wines as great investments. Soon, speculators began buying the best Bordeaux wines as investments without even tasting them and with no intention of ever drinking them. The wine prices quickly doubled and they have been going up ever since,

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8. Currently, wine stores are trying to push the lesser-known Chateaux from the lessor known regions of Bordeaux. BE CAREFUL! They may seem like good buys but you can generally find better wine at lower prices from California, Australia and Argentina.

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9. French wines are labeled according to the specific locations where the grapes are grown rather than by grape variety.

The Appellation d’ Origine Controlee (AOC) laws define which grapes and winemaking practices are allowed in each of France's several hundred geographically defined appelations. If a French wine label simply lists the grape variety, it is an inferior wine

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10. French Bordeaux vintages can vary considerably from one year to the next. Although modern winemaking techniques and equipment have reduced the variation somewhat, it is still necessary to consult a vintage chart. Even in good years, some Chateaux make poor wine and vice versa.

It is important to taste a bottle before buying a case.

============================================

French Wine Regions

3 out of 5 stars from 10 ratings of Bordeaux

Bordeaux Wine Harvest

A
Paris, France:
Paris, France

get directions

B
Bordeaux, France:
Bordeaux, France

get directions

MAPS OF THE BORDEAUX REGION OF FRANCE

BORDEAUX WINE REGION
BORDEAUX WINE REGION
THE LEFT BANK AOCs
THE LEFT BANK AOCs

Chateau Margaux

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    • Webscapeseo profile image

      Webscapeseo 

      6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Really good Content here, its really informative.

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 

      6 years ago from Iowa

      Thanks for the very good advice. We found that with some of our older California cabs, but the Bordeauxs seem to be holding up well. At least now we are drinking wine much, much faster than we are buying it!

    • rjsadowski profile imageAUTHOR

      rjsadowski 

      6 years ago

      Thanks for your comment. I just want to caution you about storing wines too long. I let a lot of good wine get too old waiting for the right time to drink it. I don't regret drinking any wines too young but I drank a lot that were over the hill or oxidized. Keep tasting your wines. They go down hill quickly. If there is ullage (loss of wine), drink them now. This is based on wine drinking experience over 45 years and many thousands of bottles.

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 

      6 years ago from Iowa

      Great information here. My husband and I love wine and even added a small wine cellar when we built our home 10 years ago. We used to buy a lot of Bordeaux before the prices spiraled out of control. Now we can't afford it and stick with more reasonably priced wines from the Americas. Fortunately, we stored a lot of the Bordeaux in the wine cellar and all of those bottles from the 1990s and early 2000s are now hitting prime drinking time.

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