• The Bordeaux Wines of France

    Posted on November 14, 2012 by in Fine Dining

    Wine has been grown in Bordeaux for two thousand years. Most probably vines grew there before the arrival of the Roman in 56 before J.C.. The poet Ausonius wrote about it, a château still bare his name, the “Château Ausone”.

    But unlike most of the other french wine regions, wine in Bordeaux was developed by merchants. In other parts of France, wine was under the power of monks.

    At the beginning of the second millennium the Bordeaux region was under English domination. Hundred of boats loaded with barrels of “Claret” left for England. The “Claret” was a light red wine which Englishmen loved, the word is still used to refer to Red Bordeaux.

    By the 14th century, half of the wine production was boarded on ships mainly to England.

    At that time, wines from Bergerac and Gaillac, east of Bordeaux, were very famous and strongly compete against Bordeaux wines. Nowadays they belong to the South West wine region.

    Therefore the local winemakers and merchants banned those South West wines from entering the city of Bordeaux until their own wines were on board the ships !

    People started to make wine in Medoc (and places such as Margaux, Saint Estèphe, Saint Julien, Pauillac…) only from the 17th century. Before that, Medoc was actually a swamp.

    During the 17th and 18th century, merchants from England, the Netherlands and Germany controlled most of the wines produced in the whole Bordeaux region. At that time, wineries sold their wine in barrel and cask just after they made them. Merchants bought barrels and casks, sometimes bottled the wines and matured them.

    In 1855, these merchants created a ranking to distinguish the finest Bordeaux wines. The classification still exists and is known as Grands Crus Classés (Great Growths).

    At the end of the second world war, Baron de Rothschild was the first wine maker to bottle his wines and mature them in a cellar, before all wine makers do the same.

    During the last decades, the trend in Bordeaux is to put a brand name on the bottle with grapes coming from all over the region and even beyond. Brand names such as Mouton Cadet and Malesan are increasingly popular.

    And a most obvious trend these days is the high price of Bordeaux and the speculation around it.

    Geography of the Bordeaux region

    The Bordeaux region is the most important wine producing region in France and in the world. Bordeaux has about 7,000 chateaux! Bordeaux is near the Atlantic coast, in the south west of France. The Bordeaux wine region covers Gironde, an administrative department (also a river) of the Aquitaine region.

    Bordeaux wine takes its name from the region’s main city. However you cannot find vineyards in the city itself, the vineyards start at the boundaries of Bordeaux.

    The Bordeaux wine region wide spreads 60 miles around the city on the biggest estuary in Europe along 3 rivers (Gironde, Garonne, Dordogne) creating the appropriate setting for wine.

    The climate in Bordeaux is generally temperate with a short winter and a high degree of humidity generated by the close proximity of the Atlantic Ocean.

    Bordeaux Region Information : 

    Location: In the south west of France, near the Atlantic coast, around the city of Bordeaux
    Size: 10 725 km2 (size of the Gironde department)
    Gironde – where Bordeaux is – is the biggest department in France
    Weather: Oceanic and temperate with short, mild winters, quite hot summers, long autumns and a high degree of humidity generated by the Atlantic Ocean
    Population: 1,300,000 (population of Gironde)
    Main Cities: Bordeaux (220,000 – including county 700,000)
    Mérignac (63,000)
    Libourne (22,000)
    Bègles (22,000)
    Blanquefort (13,000)
    Places of Interest: Bordeaux (Palais Rohan, museums, wine shops)
    Wine Chateaux (grands crus classes)
    Pyla dune (highest sand dune in Europe: 500m, 1,650ft high)
    Arcachon (beach)
    Landes (forest 480,000 ha, 1.2m acres)

    Wine production in Bordeaux :
    Bordeaux is 57 appellations, about 7,000 wine-producing châteaux, and 13,000 wine growers. The large diversity of Bordeaux suggests an equal diversity of soil.

    Wine Grapes in Bordeaux :
    Most of the grapes grown in the Bordeaux region for red wine are Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc which give vigour,tannin and good keeping qualities, and Merlot which brings softness and suppleness. Merlot is the most planted grape in Bordeaux, covering 50% of the wine region (see chart below).

    White wines are elaborated mostly from Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon, and sometimes also with Muscadelle.

    Bordeaux wine making information : 

    Size of the vineyards: 120,000 hectares (300,000 acres)
    Vineyards: 13,000 wine growers (7,000 chateaux)
    Soil: Gravels coming from the Pyrénées mountains
    and clay, sand, limestone
    Weather: Oceanic and temperate with short, mild winters, quite hot summers, long autumns and a high degree of humidity generated by the Atlantic Ocean
    Red Grapes
    in Bordeaux:
    Merlot (50% of Bordeaux vineyards)
    Cabernet Sauvignon (26%)
    Cabernet Franc (10%)
    Other red grapes in Bordeaux, very occasionally: Petit Verdot – Malbec – Carmenère
    White Grapes
    in Bordeaux:
    millon (8% of Bordeaux wines)
    Sauvignon (4%)
    Other white grapes in Bordeaux, very occasionally: Muscadelle – Ugni blanc – Colombard – Folle blanche
    Production: 7 million hl or 850 million bottles
    red: 87% dry white: 11% sweet white: 2%
    Bordeaux is 14% of French wine production, 27% of quality wine
    Type of Wine: Bordeaux AOC red
    Entre-Deux-Mers dry white
    Saint Emilion
    Sauternes sweet white
    Other wines of Bordeaux: see list of appellations below

    Appellations in Bordeaux

    The diversity of wine quality in the Médoc made it necessary to create a specific classification as follows: “crus paysans”, “crus artisans”, “crus bourgeois ordinaires”, “crus bon bourgeois”, “crus bourgeois supérieur” and “grands crus”. They were then classified in five categories only.

    At the Universal Exhibition of 1855 in Paris, the “Chambre Syndicale de Courtiers of Bordeaux” (Professional chamber of wine merchants in Bordeaux) distinguished 61 high quality wines. It is the consecration of a long established habit. The selling and purchasing has been based on this classification.

    Grands crus classés are classified in five categories to distinguish even more the best of the best in Bordeaux 

    Premier grands crus classés (First Great Growths)

    Château Lafite-Rothschild Pauillac
    Chäteau Latour Pauillac
    Château Margaux Margaux
    Château Mouton-Rothschild Pauillac This wine was promoted in 1973
    Château Haut-Brion Pessac This wine is the only one not coming from Haut-Médoc
    Read the interview

    Deuxième grands crus classés (Second Great Growths) top – menu

    Château Brane-Cantenac Cantenac-Margaux
    Château Cos-d’Estournel Saint-Estèphe
    Château Ducru-Beaucaillou Saint-Julien
    Château Durfort-Viviens Margaux
    Château Gruaud-Larose Saint-Julien
    Château Lascombes Margaux
    Château Léoville-Barton Saint-Julien
    Château Léoville-Las-Cases Saint-Julien
    Château Léoville-Poyferré Saint-Julien
    Château Montrose Saint-Estèphe
    Château Pichon-Lalande Pauillac
    Château Pichon-Longueville Baron Pauillac
    Château Rausan-Ségla Margaux
    Château Rauzan-Gassies Margaux

     Troisième grands crus classés (Third Great Growths)

    Château Boyd-Cantenac Cantenac-Margaux
    Château Calon-Ségur Saint-Estèphe
    Château Cantenac-Brown Cantenac-Margaux
    Château Desmirail Margaux
    Château Ferrière Margaux
    Château Giscours Labarde-Margaux
    Château d’Issan Cantenac-Margaux
    Château Kirwan Cantenac-Margaux
    Château Lagrange Saint-Julien
    Château La Lagune Ludon-Haut Médoc
    Château Langoa-Barton Saint -Julien
    Château Malescot-Saint-Exupéry Margaux
    Château Marquis d’Alesme-Becker Margaux
    Château Palmer Cantenac-Margaux

    Quatrième grands crus classés (Fourth Great Growths)

    Château Beychevelle Saint-Julien
    Château Branaire-Ducru Saint-Julien
    Château Duhart-Milon-Rothschild Pauillac
    Château La Tour-Carnet Saint-Laurent-Haut Médoc
    Château Lafon-Rochet Saint-Estèphe
    Château Marquis-de-Terme Margaux
    Château Pouget Cantenac-Margaux
    Château Prieuré-Lichine Cantenac-Margaux
    Château Saint-Pierre Saint-Julien
    Château Talbot Saint-Julien

    Cinquième grands crus classés (Fifth Great Growths) top – menu

    Château Batailley Pauillac
    Château Belgrave Saint-Laurent-Haut Médoc
    Château Camensac Saint-Laurent-Haut Médoc
    Château Cantermerle Macau-Haut Médoc
    Château Clerc-Milon Pauillac
    Château Cos-Labory Saint-Estèphe
    Château Croizet-Bages Pauillac
    Château Dauzac Labarde-Margaux
    Château Grand-Puy-Ducasse Pauillac
    Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste Pauillac
    Château Haut-Bages-Libéral Pauillac
    Château Haut-Batailley Pauillac
    Château Lynch-Bages Pauillac
    Château Lynch-Moussas Pauillac
    Château Monton d’Armailhac Pauillac
    Château Pédesclaux Pauillac
    Château Pontet-Canet Pauillac
    Château du Tertre Arsac-Margaux

     Bordeaux Cru Bourgeois

    The long-awaited Cru Bourgeois classification has 247 Châteaux all in the Médoc as follow:

    • Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel (9 Châteaux: Chasse Spleen, Haut Marbuzet, Labegorce Zede, Ormes de Pez, Pez, Phelan Segur, Potensac, Poujeaux and Sira)
    • Cru Bourgeois Superieur (87 Châteaux)
    • Cru Bourgeois (151 Châteaux)


    The list of the 247 Crus Bourgeois is here

    The Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce conducted until June 2003 a selection among 490 Châteaux based on terroir, winemaking techniques, quality control and history.

    Classification of Cru Artisan (new classification as of January 2006)

    This classification was not used for many years until it came back in January 2006.

    Crus Artisans are a selection of wineries and chateaux in Médoc, Haut Médoc and related appellations in the area such as Margaux, Saint Julien and Saint Estèphe.

    Crus Artisans rank below Crus Bourgeois in the complicated Bordeaux classification of wine.

    Winery Village Appellation
    Château Baudens Saint-Germain-d’Esteuil Médoc
    Château Bégadan Bégadan Médoc
    Château Béhèré Pauillac Pauillac
    Château Bejac Romelys Saint-Ysans-de-Médoc Médoc
    Château Cantegric Saint-Christoly-Médoc Médoc
    Château Capdet Saint-Julien-Beycherelle Saint-Julien
    Château Clos du Relais Cussac-Fort-Médoc Haut-Médoc
    Clos de Bigos Soussans Margaux
    Château de Coudot Cussac-Fort-Médoc Haut-Médoc
    Château de Lauga Cussac-Fort-Médoc Haut-Médoc
    Château des Graviers Arsac Margaux
    Château des Graviers Arsac Haut-Médoc
    Château des Trois Chardons Margaux Margaux
    Château d’Osmond Cissac-Médoc Haut-Médoc
    Château du Galan Saint-Laurent-Médoc Haut-Médoc
    Château Ferré Vertheuil Haut-Médoc
    Château Gadet Terrefort Gaillan-en-Médoc Médoc
    Château Garance Haut Grenat Bégadan Médoc
    Château Gassies du Vieux Bourg Arsac Margaux
    Château Gaston Réna Mérignac Haut-Médoc
    Château Gobinaud Listrac Listrac
    Château Grand Brun Cussac-Fort-Médoc Haut-Médoc
    Domaine Grand Lafont Ludon-Médoc Haut-Médoc
    Château Graves du Privera Saint-Christoly-Médoc Médoc
    Château Guittot Fellonneau Macau Haut-Médoc
    Château Haut Blaignan Blaignan Médoc
    Château Haut Bréga Saint-Seurin-de-Cadourne Haut-Médoc
    Château La Peyre Saint-Estèphe Saint-Estèphe
    Château La Tessonnière Civrac-en-Médoc Médoc
    Château Lagorce Bernadas Fougueyrolles Moulis
    Château Lamongeau Saint-Laurent-Médoc Haut-Médoc
    Château Le Beyan Arcins Haut-Médoc
    Château Le Bouscat Saint-Laurent-Médoc Haut-Médoc
    Château Le Vieux Sérestin Couquèques Médoc
    Château Les Graves de Loirac Jau-Dignac-et-Loirac Médoc
    Château Les Trieux Vensac Médoc
    Château Martin Vertheuil Haut-Médoc
    Château Micalet Cussac-Fort-Médoc Haut-Médoc
    Château Moutte Blanc Macau Haut-Médoc
    Château Tour Bel Air Cissac-Médoc Haut-Médoc
    Château Tour du Goua Cussac-Fort-Médoc Haut-Médoc
    Château Viallet Nouhant Cussac-Fort-Médoc Haut-Médoc
    Château Vieux Gabarey Lamarque Haut-Médoc
    Château Vieux Gadet Gaillan-en-Médoc Médoc

    Saint Emilion Grand Grus

    A new Saint Emilion classification, the first one in 10 years, came into force in September 2006 – details here.

    The 2006 Saint Emilion Classification selected 61 crus classés (great growths) :

    – 16 Saint-Emilion Premiers Grands Crus Classés
    – 47 Saint-Emilion Grands Crus Classés

    Premier grands crus classés A – First Great Growths category A

    • Chateau Ausone
    • Chateau Cheval Blanc

    Premier grands crus classés B – First Great Growths category B

    • Chateau Angelus
    • Chateau Beauséjour-Bécot
    • Chateau Beauséjour-Duffau-Lagarrosse
    • Chateau Belair
    • Chateau Canon
    • Clos Fourtet
    • Chateau Figeac
    • Chateau La Gaffelière
    • Chateau Magdelaine
    • Chateau Pavie
    • Château Pavie-Macquin
    • Château Troplong-Mondot
    • Chateau Trottevieille
    • Chateau Beauséjour-Bécot

    Grands crus classés – Great Growths

    • Château Balestard la Tonnelle
    • Château Bellefont-Belcier
    • Château Bergat
    • Château Berliquet
    • Château Cadet-Piolat
    • Château Canon-la-Gaffelière
    • Château Cap de Mourlin
    • Château Chauvin
    • Clos des Jacobins
    • Clos de l’Oratoire
    • Clos Saint-Martin
    • Château Corbin
    • Château Corbin-Michotte
    • Château Couvent de Jacobins
    • Château Dassault
    • Château Destieux
    • Château Fleur Cardinale
    • Château Fonplégade
    • Château Fonroque
    • Château Franc-Mayne
    • Château Grand Corbin
    • Château Grand Corbin-Despagne
    • Château Grand Mayne
    • Château Grand Pontet
    • Château Grandes Murailles
    • Château Haut Corbin
    • Château Haut Sarpe
    • Château La Clotte
    • Château La Couspaude
    • Château La Dominique
    • Château Laniote
    • Château Larcis-Ducasse
    • Château Larmande
    • Château Laroque
    • Château Laroze
    • Château l’Arrosée
    • Château La Serre
    • Château La Tour du Pin-Figeac (Moueix)
    • Château La Tour Figeac
    • Château Le Prieuré
    • Château Matras
    • Château Monbousquet
    • Château Moulin du Cadet
    • Château Pavie-Decesse
    • Château Ripeau
    • Château Saint-Georges Côte Pavie
    • Château Soutard

    Details on the 2006 Saint Emilion classification :

    From Grand cru classé to premier grand cru B :
    – Château Pavie-Macquin
    – Château Troplong Mondot

    New entrants as Grand cru classé :
    – Château Bellefont-Belcier
    – Château Destieux
    – Château Fleur Cardinale
    – Château Grand Corbin
    – Château Grand Corbin-Despagne
    – Château Monbousquet

    Removed from the Grand cru classé list :
    – Château Bellevue
    – Château Cadet Bon
    – Château Faurie de Souchard
    – Château Guadet Saint-Julien
    – Château La Marzelle
    – Château La Tour du Pin Figeac (Giraud-Bélivier)
    – Château La Tour du Pin Figeac (Moueix)
    – Château Petit Faurie de Soutard
    – Château Tertre Daugay
    – Château Villemaurine
    – Château Yon Figeac

    More information :
    – Chateau Curé-Bon-la-Madeleine is now part of Chateau Canon
    – Chateau la Clusière is now part of Chateau Pavie
    Grave Grands Crus

    List of Grands Crus (great growth) wines in Graves : 

    Crus Classés – Great Growths (red and white wines)

    • Chateau Bouscaut
    • Chateau Carbonnieux
    • Domaine de Chevalier
    • Chateau La Tour-Martillac
    • Chateau Malartic-Lagravière
    • Chateau Olivier

    Crus Classés – Great Growths (red wines only)

    • Chateau de Fieuzal
    • Chateau Haut-Bailly
    • Chateau Haut-Brion
    • Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion
    • Chateau Latour Haut-Brion
    • Chateau Pape Clément
    • Chateau Smith Haut-Lafitte

    Crus Classés – Great Growths (white wines only)

    • Chateau Couhins
    • Chateau Couhins-Lurton
    • Chateau Laville Haut-Brion