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BORDEAUX WINE

Bordeaux wine is on a level of its own, with a worldwide reputation: Haut-Brion, Saint-Émilion, Cheval Blanc, Yquem, Pétrus and Lafite are just some of the prestigious names from the region!

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Main Appellations

BORDEAUX RED WINES

Red wines from the region are based on a blend of 3 main grape varieties: the famous Cabernet Sauvignon is essential to the wines of MĂ©doc. Its pronounced tannins and longevity is the key of the elegance that will keep the wine succesful over the years. The Merlot grape varieties, also famous, play a decisive role in the wines of MĂ©doc and of Graves; its suppleness and its aromatic intensity make it a prime grape variety for the wines of Pomerol and Saint-Émilion. Cabernet Franc is more used for Saint-Émilion wine and gives it all the complexity and the spice and herbaceous aromas it’s known for.

BORDEAUX WHITE WINES

Bordeaux’s white wines are also produced from mainly 3 grape varietiesSauvignon Blanc, very mineral, is used with SĂ©millon and Muscadelle grape varieties to make not only the dry white wines (Graves, Pessac-LĂ©ognan, Bordeaux,...) but also botrytised sweet wines. The most famous of these sweet wines is Château d'Yquem, the only Sauternes to be classified as Premier Cru SupĂ©rieur, in 1855.

RED WINES, WHITE WINES, SWEET AND SPARKLING WINES: THE DIVERSITY OF BORDEAUX WINES

Undoubtedly evoking the richness of the terroirs and reflecting the ancestral French know-how, the Bordeaux wine region is one of the most emblematic and prestigious in the world. Originating in the time of the Roman Empire, more than 2,000 years ago, the work of this vineyard was initiated by the notables of the city of Bordeaux at the beginning of the 1st century, under the reign of Augustus. The cultivation of the vine is favoured by a temperate oceanic climate and an optimal amount of sunshine, which guarantees the good maturity of the grapes. Covering a large part of the Gironde department, the Bordeaux region extends over an area of more than 110,000 hectares.

Criss-crossed by the rivers Garonne and Dordogne, the Bordeaux vineyards are divided into six wine-growing sub-regions, namely:

  • The MĂ©doc
  • Graves
  • Sauternes
  • Entre-deux-Mers
  • Libourne
  • Blaye-Bourg

The Bordeaux region has many appellations scattered throughout its wine-growing sub-regions, each with its own identity. Red wines of character for the MĂ©doc, aromatic richness for the wines of Libourne, very aromatic sweet wines for Sauternes... the choice is vast!

The vineyards of Bordeaux are distinguished by the great diversity of their wines. This is due in particular to the wide variety of soils, which are favourable to viticulture. Depending on the region, the soil is composed of clay, gravel, limestone, silt or sand. It is thanks to this diversity of soils that the Bordeaux region can offer a wide range of great wines, which are among the most remarkable in the world. These exceptional wines also owe their quality to the blending of several grape varieties, guaranteeing various combinations of aromas and taste diversity. It should be remembered that Bordeaux wines are mainly blended wines.

Thanks to this diversity of terroirs and grape varieties, Bordeaux wines come in three colours: red, white and rosé. Red wines represent no less than 80% of the region's production. As for white wines, they come in different styles. In addition to dry white wines, the Bordeaux vineyard is also the source of renowned sweet wines and liqueur wines. The latter are produced in Sauternes, notably under the prestigious Sauternes and Barsac appellations. Some sparkling wines are also produced in the Bordeaux production area, generally under the AOC Crémant de Bordeaux.

In addition to the fruity and fresh rosé wines, Bordeaux Clairets are another style of wine produced in the Bordeaux region. These particularly aromatic and fresh nectars are halfway between red and rosé wines.

BORDEAUX WINES ON THE LEFT BANK

Bordeaux wines are produced in two main geographical areas, notably on the left bank of the Garonne. This production area itself is subdivided into three vineyards: the MĂ©doc, Graves and Sauternes.

Situated between the Gironde and the Atlantic Ocean, the Médoc, a large red wine region, is located to the west of Bordeaux. This sub-region includes two regional appellations, the Médoc and Haut-Médoc. It also includes six local appellations: Margaux, Saint Estèphe, Pauillac, Listrac Médoc, Saint Julien and Moulis-en-Médoc.

In the Médoc, each appellation has its own style. Renowned for their aromatic complexity, the nectars produced under the Margaux AOC are fine wines of remarkable elegance and finesse. They also reveal a great freshness of fruit. Château Margaux plays a major role in the reputation of this appellation. If the wines of Margaux are renowned for being delicate and feminine, those of the Pauillac AOC are known for their power, their tannic side and their structure. This appellation, one of the most prestigious in the Médoc, produces wines with great ageing potential. This AOC is the source of some of the most prestigious Bordeaux wines such as Château Latour, Château Lafite-Rothschild and Château Mouton-Rothschild. The Saint Julien AOC, with no less than 11 Grands Crus classés, is also the birthplace of some very fine red wines. These nectars are renowned for their aromatic richness and for their perfect balance between generosity and power. Thanks to their solid structure, the wines of Saint Julien age very well. The Saint Estèphe, Moulis-en-Médoc and Listrac Médoc AOCs also offer wines that are not lacking in quality.

In the MĂ©doc, the vines are mainly grown on gravelly, stony and sandy-clay soils, sometimes with large pebbles. Thanks to optimal drainage, the water supply and temperature of the vines are perfectly regulated. During the day, the gravel captures the heat, releasing it at night.

South of Bordeaux, we find one of the largest gravel terroirs in the world. Bordered by the Landes forest, Graves is home to warm soils composed of clay-limestone and large gravel. This sub-region is divided into three appellations: Graves, Graves Supérieures and Pessac Léognan. Aromatic richness, complexity and concentration are the characteristics of the red wines of Graves. Evolving perfectly with age, these nectars benefit from an excellent aptitude for ageing.

Although the reputation of Bordeaux wines is essentially based on the red fine wines, the sweet wines of Sauternes are also exceptional wines. They are produced in the production area located in the south-east of Bordeaux under the Sauternes and Barsac appellations. The Ciron, a tributary of the Garonne, runs through the Sauternes area, which has a micro-climate. This river brings humidity which, combined with the heat, favours the development of Botrytis cinerea, which forms the noble rot. Thanks to this fungus, the grapes become dehydrated and concentrated in sugar, allowing the production of great Barsac and Sauternes wines.

Sauternes wines, particularly those of the legendary Château d'Yquem, are characterised by their freshness, intense fruitiness and rich aromas. These wines offer a fine balance between the acidity of the fruit and the smoothness of the aromas. The wines of Barsac are also much finer and fresher.

Sauternes is made up of two terroirs with different geological characteristics. Situated on an east-facing plateau, the communes of Sauternes, Fargues, Preignac and Bommes rest on a limestone substratum with marl, fossilised oysters and clayey sands.

Barsac, on the left bank of the Ciron, is characterised by its substratum, which is made up of a plateau of asteriated limestone, very fissured and permeable, and by the large pebbles at the foot of the vines. The soils are thin and marked by the presence of red sands, with a thickness of about forty to fifty centimetres. This substratum is covered with gravel, brought by the Garonne during the different ice ages. Typical of Sauternes, these white soils capture the sun's rays during the day. The restitution of the accumulated heat at night reduces the risk of frost.

BORDEAUX WINES ON THE RIGHT BANK

To discover some of the fine wines of Bordeaux, the right bank is a must. This area is also divided into different sub-regions. On the right bank of the Gironde estuary, Blaye-Bourg is made up of hilly vineyard landscapes. Thanks to its location close to the Garonne, this wine region offers a particular typicity to the wines. The Blaye vineyard extends from the right bank of the Garonne to the border of the Gironde department. To the south of this vineyard is the Bourg, stretching along the Garonne estuary. These vineyards are located on a terroir composed mainly of clay-limestone, gravel and sandy soils. The Blaye-Bourg sub-region produces both red and white wines under the Blaye, Blaye-CĂ´tes-de-Bordeaux, CĂ´tes de Blaye and CĂ´tes de Bourg AOCs.

35 kilometres north-east of Bordeaux, Libourne is certainly the most famous in the Bordeaux region. It is indeed the cradle of certain appellations producing world-renowned grands crus. Among the 12 appellations in this region are Saint Émilion Grand Cru, Saint Émilion, Fronsac, Canon Fronsac, Pomerol and Lalande de Pomerol.

Producing only red wines, the Saint Émilion Grand Cru and Saint Émilion appellations are surely the most famous in the world. They cover a production area of more than 7,000 hectares, spread over eight communes in the jurisdiction of Saint-Émilion and part of Libourne. Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Saint Émilion vineyard is distinguished by its rich terroir with diversified soils and relief. In the centre, the vineyard lies on a limestone plateau with asteria surrounded by chalky soil with a clay and silt texture. To the south, the terroir is made up of light soils composed of gravel and sand alluvium. To the northwest, the vines are planted on clay soils with a sandy layer. Synonymous with finesse and elegance, the wines of Saint Emilion exude aromas of black fruits and spices, progressing with age to notes of leather and undergrowth. The greatest wines of this appellation develop mineral notes accompanied by light smoky notes, reflecting the chalky nature of the soils of the Saint-Emilion coast. These wines offer silky, fleshy tannins and a good density of substance on the palate. Thanks to their tannic structure, these nectars have excellent ageing potential.

Although it is the smallest of the Bordeaux wine appellations and does not have an official classification of its Grands Crus, the Pomerol AOC also produces some of the world's greatest wines. Pétrus, Châteaux La Conseillante, Nénin and L'Évangile are some of the prestigious estates producing exceptional wines under this appellation. The Pomerol vineyards are located on a plateau made up of gravelly soil, interspersed with gravel, pebbles, sand and clay. Thanks to the permeability of the soil, the vines take deep root. Even in dry periods, the vines can feed on minerals drawn from deep in the soil. The wines of Pomerol are renowned for offering a combination of the finesse of the great wines of Burgundy and the length and power of the wines of Bordeaux. The wines of the Pomerol appellation offer a complex aromatic palette combining notes of ripe red berries and floral scents (violet and iris). With age, these aromas evolve towards notes of truffle and leather. Dense texture and velvety mouthfeel are the characteristics of these wines on the palate. Pomerol AOC wines are also distinguished by their fine tannins, their elegance and their persistent freshness.

Apart from the Saint Emilion and Pomerol AOCs, other appellations also produce gems such as the Lalande de Pomerol AOC. Also producing exclusively red wines, this appellation is at the origin of powerful and warm nectars. The wines of Lalande de Pomerol are produced to the east of Bordeaux and near the town of Libourne. The vineyards are established on clay-limestone soils. The great wines of Fronsac, rich, full-bodied and well-balanced, also deserve attention.

To the north-east of Bordeaux, Entre-deux-Mers is the picturesque region anchored between the Garonne and Dordogne rivers. For those who cannot decide between red wines, white wines, sweet wines and clairet, this region of the Bordeaux vineyard offers different styles of wine.

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT GRAPE VARIETIES IN THE BORDEAUX REGION?

One of the particularities of Bordeaux wines is that they are produced from a blend of several grape varieties. The complementary aromas specific to each variety make it possible to create unique wines. As the ultimate wine country, the Bordeaux region is conducive to the cultivation of a wide range of grape varieties.

However, many of them disappeared following the Phylloxera crisis from 1866. Today, for the elaboration of Bordeaux wines, the winegrowers of the region use six main grape varieties, three of which are red and three white. Complementary grape varieties, known as "auxiliary", may also be used in small quantities to enrich the typicity of the wines.

For the production of red wines, Merlot, representing more than 60% of the total vineyard of Bordeaux, is the leading variety of the region. Appreciating cold soils with a clayey tendency, this variety is especially present on the right bank, particularly in Libourne, as well as in Saint Émilion and Pomerol. Merlot gives Bordeaux wines their aromas and suppleness.

Covering more than 20% of the production area, Cabernet Sauvignon is the second most cultivated black grape variety in the Bordeaux vineyard. This late-ripening variety is particularly fond of warm soils. This variety expresses itself perfectly on gravelly and stony soils. It is mainly cultivated in the AOCs of the left bank such as Pessac Léognan, Graves, Haut-Médoc, Médoc and Saint Estèphe. This variety gives the wines structure and good ageing potential.

Cabernet Franc is the third most planted red grape variety, representing 9.5% of the Bordeaux vineyards for the production of red wines. This variety brings vivacity and a remarkable aromatic finesse to the nectars. Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carmenère are sometimes added to the red wines of Bordeaux.

As far as white grape varieties are concerned, SĂ©millon and Sauvignon Blanc are in the majority, each representing more than 40% of the vineyard. Used in the blending of dry white wines, SĂ©millon is also used in the production of sweet wines from Sauternes and Barsac. This grape variety gives the wines a fat, mellow and fruity side. Sauvignon is appreciated for its vivacity and aromas. It is found in the noble white wines of Pessac LĂ©ognan, in Graves. Muscadelle is also grown in small quantities to complete the blends of sweet wines. Colombard, Ugni Blanc, Merlot Blanc, Mauzac and Ondenc are very little represented in the Bordeaux vineyards.

CLASSIFICATION OF BORDEAUX FINE WINES

In the Bordeaux vineyard, different classifications exist for wines. These systems do not concern the vineyards, but the wineries, called "Châteaux" in Bordeaux, themselves. Reflecting quality and prestige throughout the world, the classification system was first introduced in 1855 under Napoleon III in Bordeaux. The notion of classified growths reflects the typicity of each terroir and the work done from generation to generation to ensure the quality of the wines. Being included in these classifications not only allows the assets to be valued, but also serves to fix the selling prices of the wines according to the châteaux.

While several clasifications exist, each system differs from the others. Among them is the famous 1855 classification. This was established at the request of Napoleon III at the Universal Exhibition in Paris. This classification includes only the red wines of the Médoc, the sweet white wines of Barsac and Sauternes and a red wine of Graves. The châteaux in this classification are divided into five categories for red wines. The first rank châteaux are categorised as "Premiers Crus classés". For sweet wines, the classification is composed of three ranks, the first of which is the "Premiers Crus Supérieurs".

In the Graves classification, all the châteaux categorised and called "Cru Classé" are at the same level of classification without hierarchy. However, red and white wines are listed separately. As for the Saint Emilion classification, the system is integrated into the appellation system. A separate appellation, the Saint Émilion Grand Cru AOC, has thus been established. The lowest rank in the classification is "Saint Émilion Grand Cru Classé". The best châteaux are categorised in the list of "Saint Émilion Premiers Grands Crus Classé". The latter is then subdivided into two: the Premiers Grands Crus Classés A and the Premiers Grands Crus Classés B.

BORDEAUX SECOND WINES

A typically Bordeaux concept, the notion of a second wine refers to the second vintage or the second brand in the same appellation of a wine estate. Contrary to what one might think, this concept is not new. Indeed, second wines have existed for a long time in the Bordeaux region. Their birth dates back to the 19th century, notably for Château Margaux with the creation of its "Pavillon Rouge de Margaux". However, the existence of the Bordeaux Crus Classés Second Wines only really became widespread in the 1980s, when the prices of the Grand Crus began to soar.

At the beginning, this concept was adopted in order to enhance the value of the less interesting wines sold in bulk to the trade, while benefiting from the prestige linked to the name of the château. The second wine is considered a "reduced model" of a Fine Wine (less finesse, less complexity, less persistence or less power). This second label thus allows consumers to buy a wine from a renowned château at a much lower price.

A second wine can be obtained by various practices. It can be made from younger parcels of vineyards. This type of wine can also come from vines or barrels, initially dedicated to the production of a first wine, but which have been downgraded. This is the case, for example, in the case of a lack of maturity or less successful grape variety.

However, beware of hasty judgements: second wines do not lack taste or potential. They are truly a wine in their own right, distinguished by a style different from that of the Fine Wines. It should be noted that the second wines benefit from the same terroir and care as the first wines. The producers use the same know-how for their elaboration, whether it is in the vineyard, in the cellars, in the maturing or in the bottling.

It should be noted that for certain châteaux, the second wines are marketed at a price very close to, or even higher than, certain classified growths. This is the case for Château Latour, creating Les Forts de Latour, Château Mouton Rothschild with Petit Mouton de Mouton Rothschild or Château Léoville-Las Cases with Clos du Marquis. In the case of these wineries, certain plots of vines are entirely dedicated to the production of their second wine. These properties focus on a more qualitative selection. They produce their second wine every year and only make the First Wine when the vintage is deemed exceptional.

WHAT ARE THE BEST YEARS FOR BORDEAUX WINE?

When choosing a wine, various factors must be taken into account. In addition to the grape varieties and the appellation, the vintage is also an important parameter. This is particularly true for wines from the Bordeaux region, which is strongly marked by a "vintage effect". This is linked to the climate of the year, mainly to the weather conditions during the growth phase of the vines and the ripening of the berries. Variations in the weather (heat, sunshine, rain) during this vegetative cycle of the vine influence the quality of the grapes and therefore the final wine. If this cycle is disrupted, the grapes may not reach optimum ripeness, may be completely dried out, or may be affected by diseases.

For example, high humidity up to veraison or before the harvest leads to the formation of phytopathogenic fungi such as grey rot or mildew. This has a detrimental impact on the quality and quantity of the harvest. High rainfall also leads to a dilution of the grape juice, which is less concentrated. On the other hand, a long period of drought can cause water stress in the grapes, thus altering the ripening phase. As for the sugar and acidity content of the grapes, this is affected by the temperature being too cold or too high.

As weather conditions vary from year to year, some years are considered exceptional. For those looking for excellent Bordeaux wines to keep, certain years are to be preferred.

For red wines, 2009 was a great year. The sunny climate of the summer season was conducive to a high concentration of aromas and anthocyanins. Moreover, all those who harvested the grapes at the right time of ripeness were able to find the components of a great wine, i.e. the perfect balance between alcohol, tannins and acidity. It is important to note that this year was an unparalleled vintage in the whole of the Bordeaux vineyard, but not only for the red wines.

After a magnificent spring, followed by a period of high risk of drought before the arrival of rain in August, 2015 also proved to be exceptional. The vintage was a general success throughout Bordeaux, particularly in Margaux, Libourne and Graves. The red wines of this year are distinguished by a perfectly present fruit and supple tannins. Lovers of great vintages can also opt for a bottle of red wine from 2016. This year was marked by climatic hazards during the year: high humidity during the first half of the year, followed by a long period of drought. Fortunately, the grapes were able to continue their ripening phase thanks to the rain that arrived in September. Elegant, the wines of this vintage are rich in fruit, with round tannins. They offer a good balance between acidity and alcohol.

Other vintages have been exceptional, including 1982, 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000, 2003 and 2005.

As for the white wines of Bordeaux, 2010 was an exceptional year. This is notably the case for the sweet wines of Sauternes. This vintage is characterised by a remarkable finesse and a perfectly controlled balance between richness and acidity. This year also proved to be excellent for dry white wines, noted for their aromatic freshness and elegance. As far as sweet white wines are concerned, 2001 is a great, even iconic year. The climatic conditions of this year were ideal for the development of noble rot. This allowed for the creation of opulent wines, made for ageing.

Other years have been exceptional for Bordeaux white wines, including 2004, 2005, 2009, 2015 and 2016.

SAINT-EMILION

World famous and located on the right bank, the Saint-Emilion appellation offers generous red wines where Merlot is the star grape variety! Discover our selection of Saint-Emilion and satellites of the appellation!

HAUT-MEDOC

Located on the left bank of the Gironde in the MĂ©doc, this appellation produces only red wines and delivers racy wines with a beautiful aromatic complexity, just like the wines of Bordeaux.

PAUILLAC

Located north of Bordeaux on the left bank of the Gironde, Pauillac produces some of the world's best red wines. The capital of the Médoc wine region, its absolutely exceptional terroir includes three of the five First Growth from 1855 Classification: Château Mouton-Rothschild, Château Lafite-Rothschild and Château Latour.

SAINT-JULIEN

On the left bank of the Gironde between Margaux and Pauillac lies the Saint-Julien appellation. The appellation produces a round, powerful wine, tannic but with a silky texture after years of ageing.

PESSAC-LEOGNAN

With its very particular style, this appellation produces red and white wines of great elegance. It groups together all the great classified growths of the Graves.

MARGAUX

One of the most prestigious appellations in the MĂ©doc and one of the largest as well, since the appellation includes five communes. The wines are elegant and harmonious.

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