The most famous wine name in the world, Bordeaux, is found towards the south west corner of France, surrounding the historic city of the same name.
The climate in Bordeaux is very marginal, which means vintages can sometimes be challenging, although the region’s relentless optimism when it comes to talking about the quality of each vintage has become a source of some amusement in recent years, as each year is declared “the vintage of the century”.
Then again, wines from this region are often rated as of the most superior quality in the world, and have long been held high on a pedestal as a benchmark style for other regions all over the world to copy. The region is also living proof that blended wines should not be sniffed at because, as here in Bordeaux, they produce some of the best wines in the world.
On the left bank of the Garonne river, along the region known as the Médoc, Cabernet Sauvignon rules, although seldom are its wines made from 100% Cabernet and are often softened with the fleshy Merlot. There are five red grapes permitted in red Bordeaux; Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot.
The left bank is home to the five First Growth châteaux. These properties have been given elevated status under the famous 1855 classification system, which ranked the properties in Bordeaux according to quality. While this is still pertinent today, there are also a number of quality wines on the left bank of Bordeaux which did not make the grade more than a century and a half ago. Today these wines are often referred to as Cru Bourgeois and can be a source of value for money Bordeaux.
Coming back to the right bank north of Dordogne, the clay soils make Merlot a more favourable grape to grow than Cabernet Sauvignon and is the home to St Emilion and Pomerol.
We must not forget that Bordeaux is also the region of Sauternes, another world class, often regarded as benchmark style of wine. Made from one or all three white grapes Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle which have been affected by the noble rot condition called botrytis, they make heady, perfumed, unctuous sweet wines. The same white grapes, especially Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, are used to produce dry white Bordeaux, a style which has been much overlooked thanks to the region’s red wine fame but which can be a fruity, refreshing aperitif or seafood-matching wine.
Other Bordeaux regions of note include Entre Deux Mers, Côtes de Castillon, Blaye and Bourg.