Bordeaux is arguably the quintessential French wine region with its over 6,000 wine-making châteaux and its world-famous Grands Crus Classés (Great Classified Growths). its historic city center was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007 for its remarkable stylistic homogeneity: the capital of Gironde is an eighteenth-century jewel, a wonder of classicism and harmony.
The Bordeaux wine route will take you through the many exceptional wine-growing areas of the Bordeaux region, which includes renowned names such as Margaux, Pauillac, Pessac-Léognan, the medieval town of Saint-Émilion, Saint-Estèphe, Saint-Julien and Sauternes.
The diversity of the Bordeaux vineyards makes it possible for different types of wines to be produced: the eight AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée: "Controlled Designation of Origin") that cover the entire department of Gironde yield grapes for dry and sweet whites, rosés, reds and sparkling wines so you are sure to find a wine for everyone at a Bordeaux wine tasting.
To properly understand the wines of the Bordeaux region, we must first talk about the Gironde estuary and its two banks. Although often incorrectly referred to as a river, the Gironde is in fact a navigable estuary formed from the meeting of the rivers Dordogne and Garonne; it naturally divides the Bordeaux region into a "Right Bank" and a "Left Bank": the Right one is north of the Dordogne and Gironde Rivers and the Left Bank is south. The area in between is known as Entre-Deux-Mers.
Each bank has very specific terroirs and as it could be expected, the Bordeaux wines produced on each of them are significantly different: in the case of the Left Bank, vineyards are dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, while the Right Bank are mostly Merlot cepage.
The Bordeaux wine regions on the Left bank of the Gironde estuary are bordered by a large coniferous forest that has a tempering effect on the oceanic climate of the area, which encourages vine growth. This, combined with its gravel soils, means its “terroir” is exceptionally apt for producing high-quality red wines.
Médoc: it is divided into the Haut-Médoc (the southern portion including the Saint-Estèphe, Pauillac, Saint-Julien, Moulis en Médoc, Listrac-Médoc and Margaux appellations) and the Bas-Médoc (the northern portion). This world-famous Bordeaux region is about 60 km north to south, and about 10 km wide, with around 10,600 hectares under vines and a production of about 50 million liters per year. All the wine made in the Médoc is red.
Graves: This Bordeaux region is the only one famed for all three of Bordeaux's main wine types -reds, dry whites and sweet wines. The area encompasses villages including Sauternes, Pessac, Talence, Léognan, Martillac, Saint-Morillon, and Portets.
While all Bordeaux wines are blends, Merlot and Cabernet Franc are the dominant grape varieties on this side of the estuary. This Bordeaux region’s unique combination of soil types and cepages are partly the reasons why the Bordeaux wines from the Right Bank are so acclaimed and sought after all over the world. The expression Right Bank typically refers to wines from the Pomerol and Saint Emilion areas of Libournais.
Libournais: the area encompasses much of what is commonly referred to as the Right Bank. It was named after its historical capital, Libourne.
Pomerol: the smallest of the major Bordeaux wine regions, it covers an area of three kilometers wide by 4 kilometers long. Unlike other Bordeaux regions, Pomerol has no official wine ranking or classification. However, wines like Château Pétrus and Château Le Pin are priced as high as the classified first growths of Pauillac and Saint-Émilion.
Saint Émilion: this medieval town on the Right Bank is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has its own classification (from 1955) which is updated every 10 years or so and it consists of the following levels: Premier Grand Cru Classé A, Premier Grand Cru Classé B and Grand Cru Classé.
Bourg and Blaye: one of the oldest wine producing Bordeaux regions, it exported wine long before the Médoc was even planted.
Entre-Deux-Mers: a third Bordeaux wine region that lies between the Garonne and Dordogne rivers, responsible for three quarters of the red wine sold under the AOCs Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superieur. Entre-Deux-Mers is the largest of the Bordeaux regions, although relatively little of it is used for growing grapes. Contrary to popular belief, its name is not derived from the French word "mer" (sea), but from "marée" (tide), hence meaning "between two tides", a reference to its location between two tidal rivers.
Whether you come to Bordeaux to enjoy its city’s dynamic pace, to relax among the vines of a renowned château or to taste the wide spectrum of wines produced under the local appellations, one thing is for sure: you will be enchanted by this French wine region’s allure and will realize that one visit is never enough