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Bordeaux

The wines of Bordeaux have gained an enviable reputation ever since the Romans first planted vines in the area in the 1st. century A.D. Vintage claret, as the red wines of the region are often known in the UK, have been exported to Britain since the 12th. century following Eleanor of Aquitaine's marriage to the yet-to-be-crowned Henry 2nd. of England thus forging an alliance that was to last for more than 300 years. The trade links that were built between the two countries continue to be very important in the world of wine today.

Bordeaux is the largest fine wine producing region in the world. Despite being on the same latitude as the northern Rhône the climate is moderated by the cooling effect of the Atlantic winds and the rivers Garonne and Dordogne and their confluence in the Gironde estuary. A rich variety of soils, from clay-rich types north of the Gironde to the sand and gravel of the Médoc, formerly an area of marshland until Dutch engineers drained the area in the seventeenth century, contributes to a variety of wine styles in the region. Another factor in the range of red wines here is the different grape varieties used in a typical Bordeaux blend. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are the most well-known of these but an important supporting role is played by Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carmenère. The various micro-climates and the differing proportions used in the blends give rise to the range of subtle flavour nuances found in Bordeaux reds.

On the right bank St. Emilion and Pomerol produce the best red wines whereas the vineyards of the Haut-Médoc on the left bank can lay claim to many of the most revered names in the world: the general classification of 1855 cited Château Lafite Rothschild and Château Latour in the commune of Pauillac, Château Margaux in the commune of the same name and Château Haut Brion in Pessac, Graves, outside the Médoc itself, as first classed growths with Château Mouton Rothschild (Pauillac) having to wait until 1973 for the same accolade despite long having been widely considered as equal to the others. This list only included wines produced within a days ride by horse-drawn carriage from Bordeaux itself thereby explaining the absence of such great red wines as Châteaux Cheval Blanc and Ausone in St. Emilion and Petrus in Pomerol.

Although these wines command the very highest prices the other classed growths are also extremely elegant wines and highly sought after by wine connoisseurs and collectors. The lower ranked Cru Bourgeois wines can also deliver exceptional value and, today, Bordeaux Supérieur can provide a level of delicious and worthwhile drinking not attained before due largely to modern techniques and a fastidious level of attention to wine-making detail.

Approximately half of all wine production in the region is white although a smaller proportion than that of the red wines is truly world class. The area between the rivers Dordogne and Garonne is named Entre-Deux-Mers (literally "between two seas") and produces vast amounts of good dry white wine from Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Muscadelle and Ugni Blanc grape varieties. Many of the classed growths themselves produce very good quality dry white wine as well although in somewhat limited quantities compared with their red wine production.

Some sweet dessert wines are also produced from grapes affected by botrytis cinerea. Nowhere in Bordeaux produces this type of wine better than Sauternes in the southern Graves district where sweet wines made from infected, nobly-rotted Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle grapes are commonly regarded as the best dessert wines in the world with prices to match. Again the climate is the wine-maker's friend with the vineyards subject to cool, foggy mornings and sunny afternoons in the autumn which create the perfect conditions for noble rot. The most expensive of these wines is the Premier Cru Supérieur Château d'Yquem, a wine made in extremely small quantities and which, like all other top quality Sauternes dessert wines, is made exclusively from hand-picked grapes requiring many passes through the vines over a period weeks due to the need for the precise degree of shrivelling and concentration of the juice and grape sugars.

Video Bordeaux Wine Regions

  1. Château Sociando-Mallet, Haut-Médoc, 2008

    Château Sociando-Mallet, Haut-Médoc, 2008

    An unclassified claret with a very good reputation. The overwhelming majority of the wine is aged in new French oak with a small percentage aged in tanks.

    Details
    Colour Red Wine
    Grape Variety Bordeaux Blend Red
    Country France

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  2. Château Les Ormes-de-Pez, Saint-Estèphe, 1985

    Château Les Ormes-de-Pez, Saint-Estèphe, 1985

    A mature vintage of Château Les Ormes-de-Pez from the northern part of the Saint-Estèphe district.

    Details
    Colour Red Wine
    Grape Variety Bordeaux Blend Red
    Country France

    £39.99

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  3. Chateau Bernadotte, Haut-Medoc, 2010

    Chateau Bernadotte, Haut-Medoc, 2010

    A cru bourgeois wine made in the Haut-Médoc from roughly equal proportions of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Robert Parker is a fan.

    Details
    Colour Red Wine
    Grape Variety Bordeaux Blend Red
    Country France

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  4. Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac, 1996

    Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac, 1996, is a full bodied Bordeaux exuding sweet black fruits, with hints of tobacco, spice and oak, a degree of minerality and ripe tannins.

    Details
    Colour Red Wine
    Grape Variety Bordeaux Blend Red
    Country France

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  5. Château Tour du Pas St Georges, St-Georges-St-Êmilion, 2007

    Château Tour du Pas St Georges, St-Georges-St-Êmilion, 2007

    A wine to enjoy rather than lay-down, this is a well-rounded wine with very nice ripe fruit and tannins.

    Details
    Colour Red Wine
    Grape Variety Bordeaux Blend Red
    Country France

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  6. Larose de Gruaud, Saint-Julien, 2009

    Larose de Gruaud, Saint-Julien, 2009

    This is the new name for the estate's second wine, formerly called Sarget de Gruaud in honour of a former owner.

    Details
    Colour Red Wine
    Grape Variety Bordeaux Blend Red
    Country France

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  7. Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac, 2002

    Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac, 2002

    A more reined-in claret than many modern wines and one with an evolved palate and aromas.

    Details
    Colour Red Wine
    Grape Variety Bordeaux Blend Red
    Country France

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  8. Le Petit Haut Lafitte, Pessac-Léognan, 2009

    Le Petit Haut Lafitte, Pessac-Léognan, 2009

    A great vintage and a superb second wine. A taste of the high-end at an affordable price.

    Details
    Colour Red Wine
    Grape Variety Bordeaux Blend Red
    Country France

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  9. Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, Saint-Julien, 1978

    Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, Saint-Julien, 1978

    This is an elegant wine widely regarded as one of the very best of the 2nd. growths. It is known for its elegance rather than a fleshy fruitiness.

    Details
    Colour Red Wine
    Grape Variety Bordeaux Blend Red
    Country France

    £139.00

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  10. Chateau Haut-Condissas, Haut-Medoc, 2007

    Chateau Haut-Condissas, Haut-Medoc, 2007

    Drinking very well now and will keep until at least 2020.

    Details
    Colour Red Wine
    Grape Variety Bordeaux Blend Red
    Country France

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