Bordeaux wine is a world of its own with a worldwide reputation: Haut-Brion, Saint-Émilion, Cheval Blanc, Yquem, Pétrus, Pomerol, Rothschild, Lafite and Margaux are prestigious names that remain on the tip of the tongue. Bordeaux is not the largest wine region in France by chance. Those who have already visited Gironde must have noticed the succession of castles and vineyards passing to the rhythm of the small departmental roads. Find out more about THE must-see destination of all the wine lovers.
Among the great wine regions, if Burgundy suits the gourmand, Bordeaux suits to aesthete. It is a note of extreme elegance that rings out in the name of Bordeaux!
The wines of this region are complex and nuanced due to the multitude of wine-growing sub-regions: Médoc, Graves, Entre-deux-Mers, the right bank and Sauternes. There are great differences between each terroir and vintage. The proximity to the sea and the presence of rivers and streams provide a moderate and stable climate. The coastal forest stops salty winds and decreases precipitation. Minerals abound in the rocky subsoil and the very poor topsoil encourages deep rooting. A good drainage favours aromatic ripening.
Among the Bordeaux wines there are more red than white wines. Rosé wines represent a minority.
The region's red wines are based on a blend of 3 main varieties: the famous Cabernet Sauvignon is essential in the classified growths of Médoc. Its pronounced tannins and a great potential for ageing are the keystone of the elegance that the wine will develop over the years.
Merlot, also very famous, plays an important role in the wines of Médoc and Graves. Its smoothness and its aromatic intensity make it a key variety for the wines of Pomerol and Saint-Émilion.
Cabernet Franc is more used in Saint-Émilion and gives spicy and herbal aromas and great complexity to the blend.
White wines, certainly a minority in Bordeaux, are made of a blend of 3 grape varieties. Whether a dry white wine from Graves or a sweet wine from Sauternes, the delicacy of grape variety Muscadelle is appreciated in the blends for its fresh and floral notes.
Sauvignon Blanc, very mineral and together with Sémillon a white grape variety used in the production of dry white wines of Graves, Pessac-Léognan and Bordeaux, but also in the botrytised sweet wines. Late harvested Sémillon is famous for producing one of the best sweet wines in the world, the most famous of them is Château Yquem, the only Sauternes classified as Premier Cru Supérieur in 1855. A good Sauternes is to be drunk only after 10 years of ageing, perfect to store in your wine cellar.
An entire life wouldn't be enough to explore the diversity of terroir in Bordeaux. With no less than 60 AOCs, the wines are sold under around 3000 Châteaux identified in the Gironde department.
Unlike Burgundy where a cru corresponds to a climat, that is to say an unchanging terroir regardless of the owner, the notion of cru in Bordeaux is more linked to a Château.
The origin of the grand cru appellations goes back a long way. The famous official classification of the classified growths of Bordeaux established in 1855 during the Universal Exposition in Paris and at the request of the Emperor Napoléon lll responds to hierarchical standards according to the prices reached by the wines during the last hundred years.
The 1855 classification system is simple: the classification distinguishes the first, second, third, fourth and fifth classified growths. The Crus Bourgeois classification lists well performing Châteaux of Médoc that were not included in the 1855 Classification. The classification of the Grands Crus of Saint-Émilion was created later. A classification which remains accurate today and proves the capital importance of the site through the ages.
The town of Bordeaux was elected the world wine capital and since 2016 is the home for Cité du Vin, a cultural center dedicated to wine. A project that reflects Bordeaux's reputation as a city of wine merchants, which stems from a past in which maritime traffic to the English receiving ports (London, Bristol and Hull) gave the capital of Gironde its prestige. Imagine to travel back in time and see the facade of the quays with the alignment of the barrels in the port.
The Bordeaux region constitutes a world of its own to which eight centuries of success give it an unrivalled reputation.
Without going back to Gallo-Romans or to the poet Ausone from Gironde, who in the 4th century was already singing about the earthy pleasures of the fruits of the vine, the relationship between the region and wine goes back a long way. We won't spare you the story of a happy marriage, that of the Duchess of Aquitaine Alienior to the future King of England, Henry Plantagenet, in 1152. From this fruitful union is born the powerful Anglo-Gascon duchy (8th - 15th century).
Bordeaux delivered large quantities of wine, that the Saxons named "clairet" due to the clear colour of the wines at the time. As Aquitaine became French again, exports to England continued and Bordeaux trade, far from declining, set out to conquer other European customers who appreciated the taste of wine, in particular the Netherlands.
Relations with the Dutch, at the time the number one buyers of wine in South-West France, brought a lot to the wine region of Gironde: attracted to different kind of wines, their taste contributed in creating the authenticity of Bordeaux wines, that we know today. This is how the international reputation of Bordeaux wines was established.
Huit siècles d'histoire ne suffisent pas à expliquer l'immense prestige des vins du bordelais, encore fallait-il que l'homme intervienne avec son savoir-faire. Si les Sauternes peuvent s'enorgueillir d'une maîtrise de la "pourriture noble" requérant un soin exceptionnel à la récolte des grains de raisin parvenus au stade de surmaturation, les vins du Haut-Médoc surprennent remarquablement par leurs arômes complexes et persistants dus au long perfectionnement du travail de la vigne.
The appellations are divided into large families of wine, each offering their own taste characteristics:
Bordeaux reds (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carbernet Franc): aged several months in tanks or in barrels, the wine matures and we can wait a few years to drink them with poultry, grilled red meat or rack of lamb.
Bordeaux dry whites (Sauvignon) : fruity and floral, they are to be drunk fresh at 10°C. Their roundness and vivacity accompany advantageously raw fish, shellfish, grilled seafood, asparagus, raw vegetables, poultry and goat's cheese. These wines can be drunk also as an aperitif or on their own.
Bordeaux sweet wines (Sémillon, Sauvignon, Muscadelle): with a much higher sugar content, these wines are late harvested, which gives them a universal fame: a series of passages makes it possible to harvest overripe, almost candied grapes. The quantity is always safrificed for quality and there are years when the harvest remains very small (one wine glass per vine!). Aged two to three years before bottling, they can improve many years. Golden in colour, round and sweet, these wines are to be served with fruity desserts or as an aperitif. Their generous flavours pair well with foie gras, roasted white meats and blue cheese.
Bordeaux rosés (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carbernet Franc): These wines to drink young are to be drunk as an aperitif, starter or served with barbecue.