The Bordeaux wine region of France is home to arguably some of the finest wines in the world. Almost 90% of Bordeaux wine is red wine, predominately produced from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot blends. The Bordeaux wine region is also famed for its Sauternes wines, which are regarded as the best sweet wines or dessert wines in the world.
The Bordeaux area is home to many of France’s finest chateaux. The regions first planted vines were by the Romans, but it wasn’t until the 12th century that the reputation of Bordeaux wine was first elevated, particularly for its principle style red blend called ‘Claret’. In 1855 the Bordeaux wineries were classified into a strata that ranks them from First Growth.
Many of the top Bordeaux red wines are now sold in a system called ‘en primeur’, which is a sort of futures purchasing where wines are bought at an adjusted, technically ‘lower price’ before they are released. The top wines, often ranked and rated by critics, may see prices adjusted to scores and demands of consumers – these are some of the most prestigious and expensive wines in the world.
Where is Bordeaux?
Bordeaux is a port city located in the south west of France. Bordeaux to Paris is a relatively easy and fast train ride and is the most convenient way to access the Bordeaux wine region. The area is best accessed by self-drive trips, however there are many tours to Bordeaux estates and wineries.
Bordeaux weather and Bordeaux vineyards conspire in an almost perfect climate and growing condition for red and white grape varieties. The region is located on a rich limestone base and sits between the Garonne and Dordogne rivers, in a true maritime climate location, by the Atlantic ocean.
The right bank of the Bordeaux wine region is located on the Dordogne river in the northern part of the region. The left bank is on the Garonne river, in the south and west of the region. Bordeaux is known for a long, mild growing season with mostly ideal rainfall and sunshine hours.
Unique Characteristics of Bordeaux
Bordeaux red wine is typically medium bodied, fine in tannin profile, shows blue and black berry fruits, cassis, violet floral characters and finds, in best cases, good balance with cedary French oak. Bordeaux wines made from white grapes, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon for the most part, are produced in young, fresh styles, and also in the hallmark prestige white style for the region, in oak and on lees – the latter are generally wines of great complexity. Sweet wines produced in the Bordeaux wine region are also renowned, particularly from Sauternes – these are hedonistic sweet wines with great concentration of flavour and intense botrytis affected richness.
Wines to try in Bordeaux
Bordeaux red wine is typically produced from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and with lesser inclusion of Petit Verdot and Malbec. This is typical for a Bordeaux blend, however variations on those grape varieties in a wine is common. The left bank wines are generally Cabernet Sauvignon dominant, while Merlot tends to be more dominant in right bank Bordeaux wine. Sauternes wines from Bordeaux wine region tend to be blends of Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle grapes while white table Bordeaux wine is generally a blend of mostly Semillon with a balance of Sauvignon Blanc.
Bordeaux weather can produce ideal conditions for sweet wine production, including the noble rot of botrytis. Typically blending Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes, Bordeaux wine made in sweeter styles are most well-known from the sub-region of Sauternes. These wines are typically rich in perfume with crème brulee, honey, toast, ripe citrus and toffee apple scents, and luscious in the palate, concentrated, long in flavour with good acidity for freshness. They also mature very well.
Bordeaux wineries working with white grapes typically blend Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc into two distinct styles – young, fresh white wines of stone fruit, grassiness, citrusy freshness, and wines that have been barrel matured on lees, showing honeyed characters, toastiness, savoury nuttiness and richness in texture. Bordeaux wine from white grapes is lesser-known than famed red wines, but best examples are wonderful to drink.
The Bordeaux region is renowned for its red wines, regarded as some of the finest and most prestigious wines in the world. It focuses on Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and with lesser inclusion of Petit Verdot and Malbec grapes. Bordeaux Chateaux produces medium bodied, elegant wines of dark berry fruitiness, cassis sweetness, violet floral character and with judicious oak offering cedar and tobacco-like oak complexity.
These are wines that are typically fine boned, firm in youth, supple with maturity that can often last many decades. Some Bordeaux wineries are now producing second labels in styles that are more accessible in youth, juicier, brighter fruited wines of less oak and firm tannin.
Must See Bordeaux Wineries
The first growth Bordeaux wineries have a stellar reputation that puts them amongst the greatest luxury brands in the world. This elite list includes Bordeaux wineries Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Chateau Margaux, Chateau Latour, Chateau Haut-Brion and Chateau Mouton Rothschild.
Other Bordeaux chateau of note include the world’s most highly prized Sauternes producer, Chateau d’Yquem. Bordeaux Franc has some 8,500 producers, too many to list, but other notable examples include famed names of Chateau Ausone, Chateau Cheval Blanc, Chateau Pavie, Chateau Angelus, Chateau Le Pin and Chateau Petrus.
Key Bordeaux Wine Event
The Bordeaux Wine Festival
Every two years Bordeaux celebrates its regional wines in extraordinary fashion. Thousands of passionate food and wine lovers from around the world flock to Bordeaux to take part. The famous "wine road" is the heart of the festival where visitors are treated to a rich diversity of Bordeaux wines along a 2km walk stretching along the banks of the Garonne. Other parts of the festival offer a unique chance for people to learn about the world of wine through various tasting workshops, master classes and even a dedicated wine themed "open-air reading room". This festival is not one to miss and is held in the month of June.
The future of Bordeaux Wine
Bordeaux wine continues to be both a widely sought after luxury product and keeping an increasing mark of prestige. A Bordeaux wine holds great court in most sophisticated cellars, and the medium bodied, long lasting reds of great Bordeaux chateau continue to be a talking point and dinner table icon. Bordeaux wine is increasingly sought after around the world. A run of solid to excellent vintages in Bordeaux has created an increasing demand, and continues to do so into future releases of wines.
- Red Wine
- Cabernet Franc
- Cabernet Sauvignon