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Exploring the wines of Bordeaux

Sun, Jun 16, 24

Exploring the Wines of Bordeaux

Bordeaux, is seen by most of us as a center of fine wine, with rich history, diverse regions and one of the original classification systems. Nestled in the southwestern corner of France, on the Atlantic coast, this renowned wine region has been producing exceptional wines for centuries.

Join us at SWE as we explore some of the illustrious vineyards and charming villages of Bordeaux, highlighting and introducing the history and unique characteristics of each appellation.

A Brief History of Bordeaux Wines
The history of Bordeaux wines dates back to Roman times, of course wine was different then...it wasn't until the 12th century, under the rule of Eleanor of Aquitaine and her marriage to Henry II of England, that Bordeaux wine began its rise to prominence. The marriage opened up new markets in England, and Bordeaux wines quickly gained popularity. The region's wine trade flourished, further bolstered by the strategic location of the Gironde estuary, the largest in Europe, which was a really busy shipping hub and allowed for easy exportation.

Bordeaux's Classification System
There was a popularity for International Expositions in the 1800's, we even had famous ones here in the United States, in Chicago and Philadelphia to name two. In 1855, during the Exposition Universelle de Paris, as a chance to promote the wines of Bordeaux as the finest of France, they were officially classified. This classification system, still in use today, ranked the region's best wines into five categories, known as Crus. The rankings were based on the wines' reputation and trading price. This historic system applies primarily to the wines of the Médoc, with notable exceptions like Château Haut-Brion in Pessac-Léognan and Château Margaux. 

The Regions and Villages of Bordeaux
Located just south of the city of Bordeaux, Pessac-Léognan is renowned for both its red and white wines. The gravelly soils provide excellent drainage, producing wines with elegance and complexity. Château Haut-Brion, one of the first classified growths, is a notable estate here, known for its rich, earthy reds and vibrant whites. There are really good value wines from here too, ask us for recommendations and watch the website for upcoming offers.

Margaux, the southernmost appellation in the Médoc, is celebrated for its delicate and fragrant red wines. The wines of Margaux are often described as a great example of finesse and elegance, with Château Margaux leading the charge. The region's diverse soils, ranging from gravel to clay, contribute to the unique character of its wines. 

St. Julien
Nestled between Margaux and Pauillac, St. Julien produces wines that balance power and finesse. The appellation is home to several classified growths, including Château Léoville-Las Cases and Château Ducru-Beaucaillou. These wines are known for their deep color, rich fruit, and remarkable aging potential.

Pauillac is perhaps the most famous of all Bordeaux appellations, boasting three of the five first-growth châteaux: Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Latour, and Château Mouton Rothschild. The gravelly soils here yield powerful, tannic wines with incredible depth and structure, capable of aging for decades.

St. Estèphe
The northernmost appellation of the Médoc, St. Estèphe is known for its robust and full-bodied red wines. The clay-heavy soils retain moisture, giving the wines a distinctively earthy character. Notable estates include Château Cos d'Estournel and Château Montrose, both producing wines with a muscular profile and excellent aging potential.

Haut-Médoc and Médoc
The Haut-Médoc encompasses several prestigious appellations, including Margaux, St. Julien, Pauillac, and St. Estèphe. This sub-region produces well-structured red wines with a balance of fruit, tannin, and acidity. Further north, the Médoc appellation, while less renowned, offers great value with wines that reflect the classic Bordeaux style.

St. Emilion
Crossing the Gironde estuary to the right bank, St. Emilion is celebrated for its Merlot-dominant wines. The region's limestone-rich soils contribute to the wines' smooth texture and rich flavors. St. Emilion's classification system, revised periodically, includes prestigious estates like Château Ausone and Château Cheval Blanc.

Adjacent to St. Emilion, Pomerol is a small but highly esteemed appellation. Known for its luxurious, Merlot and Cabernet Franc based wines, Pomerol lacks an official classification system but boasts world-famous estates like Château Pétrus and Château Le Pin. The wines of Pomerol are opulent, with velvety tannins and complex aromas.

Bordeaux's diverse regions and meticulous classification system offer a treasure trove of wines to explore. Whether you prefer the refined elegance of Margaux, the powerful structure of Pauillac, or the plush opulence of Pomerol, Bordeaux has something to offer everyone.

By Carlo Bonavita