About Medoc wine
Travelling northwest from Bordeaux into the Medoc, the first vineyards encountered produce mild, unexceptional wines, but from Ludon onwards, the wines become progressively more characterftul, acquire finesse and, after Margaux, gain considerable body. Beyond St.Estephe the wines are rustic, the firmness of body eventually turns to coarseness, and the finesse fades.
The Medoc takes its name from the Latin medio aquae - “between the waters” - referring to the Gironde and the Atlantic. It is a long, thin strip of prized vines, extending northwest from the city limits of Bordeaux to the Pointe de Grave. At its centre is the classic area of Bordeaux where the vast majority of the most famous chateaux are located, and yet this was the last major district of the region to be cultivated.
While winemaking in St.Emilion began as early as the Roman occupation, it was another thousand years before scattered plots of vines spread along the Medoc. Across the large, brown expanse of water called the Gironde, the Romans viewed Bourg and considered its hilly area far more suitable for growing vines. At that time the marshland of the Medoc was difficult to cross and impossible to cultivate. Now the Medoc is the envy of winemakers the world over and Bourg merely a source of inexpensive, if good-value, basic Bordeaux.
The Medoc style: variations on a theme
The four famous communes of Margaux, St.Julien, Pauillac and St.Estephe, plus the two less well-known but developing communes of Listrac and Moulis, are to be found in the Haut-Médoc, where the wines are fine, firm and fleshy. The Haut-Medoc begins at Blanquefort and le Taillan, on the outskirts of the city along the northern reaches of the Graves district. The wines here are fairly neutral and lack definition. The greatest wines of Haut-Médoc are found in the area beginning at Ludon with Chateau la Lagune — the first cru classé encountered north of the city It is no coincidence that fine Bourgeois growths like Château d’Agassac are also to be found nearby
The wines at Margaux are soft and velvety and full of feminine charm, although very much vins de garde. The wines of St.Julien are elegant with a very pure flavour. They have the delicate touch of Margaux, yet lean closer to Pauillac in body. The wines of Pauillac are powerful, often having a rich blackcurrant flavour with intriguing hints of cedar and tobacco. These are wines of great finesse and, with no less than three of the four First Growths, Pauillac can be considered the greatest appellation of the Médoc. St.Estephe includes many minor growths of rustic charm and a few classic wines. Technology is changing the robustness of its spicywines to richness.
Beyond St.Estephe lies the commune of St.-Seurin-de-Cadourne which is entitled to AOC Haut-Medoc, after which the appellation becomes simply Medoc. This area, formerly known as the Bas-Medoc, has a somewhat lesser reputation. However, many exceptional wines are made here: the triangle from St.-Yzans to Lesparre to Valeyrac includes such outstanding minor growths as Loudenne, Potensac, La Cardonne, Blaignan, les Ormes-Sorbet, la Tour-St-Bonnet, la Tour-de-By and Patache d’Aux. Some of these wines have a luxurious touch of new oak and some are simply stunning on their own, but it is true to say that the general style is more simplistic than in the Haut-Médoc.