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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. 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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  2. Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac, 2010

    Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac, 2010

    One of the best wines of the vintage and certainly the best value for money in Pauillac that year.

    Details
    Colour Red Wine
    Grape Variety Bordeaux Blend Red
    Country France

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  3. Domaine de Cambes, Bordeaux, 2010

    Domaine de Cambes, Bordeaux, 2010

    Made from vines on the same slopes as the nearby Château Roc de Cambes but not classified as a Côtes de Bourg wine as not all the vines are within the appellation's boundaries. A juicy red with good texture, notes of bright cherry and dry tannins.

    Details
    Colour Red Wine
    Grape Variety Bordeaux Blend Red
    Country France

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  4. Domaine de l'Alliance, Sauternes, 2010 (50cl)

    Domaine de l'Alliance, Sauternes, 2010 (50cl)

    Quite possibly the best value sweet wine from Sauternes. Richness and complexity combine to produce a delicious wine.

    Details
    Colour White Wine
    Grape Variety Muscadelle, Sauternes Blend, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon
    Country France

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  5. Château Bonnet, Bordeaux Reserve, 2010

    Château Bonnet, Bordeaux Reserve, 2010

    Château Bonnet, AC Bordeaux, is made from a blend of 59% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Cabernet Franc grapes.

    Details
    Colour Red Wine
    Grape Variety Bordeaux Blend Red
    Country France

    Out of stock

  6. Château Le Tertre Rôteboeuf, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, 2010

    Château Le Tertre Rôteboeuf, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, 2010

    A rich and concentrated St. Emilion with a lovely silky texture which is almost without faults. An intense, fresh and elegant Saint-Emilion with a complex, refined and ripe nose and a delicious palate preceding an exceptionally long finish.

    Details
    Colour Red Wine
    Grape Variety Bordeaux Blend Red
    Country France

    Out of stock

  7. Château Puy Castera, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Médoc, 2010 (Magnum)

    Château Puy Castera, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Médoc, 2010 (Magnum)

    Good Cru Bourgeois claret from the with a fairly typical Cabernet Sauvignon dominated nose of red berry fruits and blackberries.

    Details
    Colour Red Wine
    Grape Variety Bordeaux Blend Red
    Country France

    Out of stock

  8. Château Roc de Cambes, Côtes de Bourg, 2010

    Château Roc de Cambes, Côtes de Bourg, 2010

    The wine that sets a new standard for the Cotes de Bourg appellation fully meriting comparison with the top growths of Bordeaux. A palate of raspberry fruit which finishes with hints of dark chocolate. This wine is still evolving and will improve for a few years yet.

    Details
    Colour Red Wine
    Grape Variety Bordeaux Blend Red
    Country France

    Out of stock

  9. Reserve de la Comtesse, Pauillac, Haut Medoc, 2010

    Reserve de la Comtesse, Pauillac, Haut Medoc, 2010

    The second wine of the famous 2nd. classed growth Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. It shows some of the quality of the first wine but is far more affordable.

    Details
    Colour Red Wine
    Grape Variety Bordeaux Blend Red
    Country France

    Out of stock

  10. Ronan by Clinet, Bordeaux, 2010

    Ronan by Clinet, Bordeaux, 2010

    2010 really suited this younger brother of the famous Château Clinet. It has a deep, rich fruit concentration and terrific freshness making this a great steady drinking wine (or glugger).

    Details
    Colour Red Wine
    Grape Variety Merlot
    Country France

    Out of stock

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