When one thinks of the production of wine in France, the first thought runs in Bordeaux. The latter, in fact, is the French region that more than others has allowed this nation to establish itself as one of the most important and best wine producing countries in the world. A winning combination that finds fertile ground in the geographical position and climate that favor the cultivation of the vineyard. But let’s go into details and discover together characteristics, classifications and production areas of Bordeaux wines.
The wines of Bordeaux
Located in the south-east of France, in the Gironde department, the Bordeaux region is mainly known for the production of quality red wines. This success is due to the use of grapes considered by now international as the Cabernet, Sauvignon and Merlot. If it is true that this region is less known for white wines, the same is not true for muffled wines. The Sauternes and Barsac areas, where white berried grapes such as Sémillon and Ugni Blanc are grown, lead us to think of wines considered as real excellences able to delight even the most demanding palates. Although the most expensive wines in Bordeaux are very popular in the world, these constitute only a small percentage of total production. Most of the wines produced in Bordeaux, in fact, do not enjoy the same fame, however they are always wines of excellent quality, with an intense flavor and elegant appearance.
Classification of Bordeaux wines
Bordeaux is known around the world for the large amount of terms used to identify the production and classify the wines of this region. The classification of Bordeaux wines is very broad and there is no homogeneous system capable of classifying the whole region. These terms take on different meanings based on the area in which they are used, while many areas, such as Pomerol, do not have any kind of classification system. Going into details we discover, however, that the first and most well-known classification system adopted was established in 1855 and takes into consideration only the wines of Médoc. This classification is not based on the production area, but on the quality of the producers. In particular wines are classified in Cru Classé and in categories ranging from the first to the fifth. They belong to the Premier Cru: Château Latour and Château Lafite, now Château Lafite Rothschild, both of the Pauillac region, Château Margaux of Margaux, Haut-Brion, now Château Haut-Brion of Pessac in the Graves and Mouton, now Château Mouton Rothschild of Pauillacin. In 1855, moreover, specific categories were established for the Sauternes and Barsac which were divided into Premier Cru Supérieur Classé, Premier Cru Classé and Deuxième Cru Classé.
Classifications after 1855
The classification of 1855 is that in force in principle even today. Over the years, however, other classification systems have been devised. For example, in 1953 the classification system for Grave wines was launched, which was subsequently revised in 1959. The latter does not include divisions, but only one denomination, the Cru Classé which is attributed to wines considered to be of higher quality. Not only that, in 1954 the St-Emilion area was classified using an additional system that is reviewed every 10 years. The highest category of St-Emilion is defined as Premier Grand Cru Classé, followed by Grand Cru Classé and, finally, Grand Cru.
These classifications do not include all quality wines and for this reason in 1932 a special category was established for the Médoc châteaux excluded from the classification of 1855 and which takes the name of Cru Bourgeois. At the beginning this classification provided for various divisions. However, the system has recently been revised by the European Commission and currently only the term Cru Bourgeois is used, which includes wines with prices much lower than the Cru Classé.
The production areas of the region
At this point it is clear how the classification systems of Bordeaux wines are not so rigid, also because they are in any case of wines of the highest quality. But now let’s go into details and discover the main vines of this region.
Located north of Bordeaux, Medoc is a district that according to the Romans was not suitable for viticulture. Today, however, the situation has completely changed and in this area some of the finest wines in the world are produced. The production of white wines is almost non-existent. The best soil is based on pebbles and as you approach the shore the soil becomes more fertile and consequently less suitable for producing quality grapes.
Divided into two areas, Medoc in the north and Haut Medoc in the south, the latter in turn is divided into municipalities, namely:
St.-Estèphe, where they produce full-bodied, almost rustic wines such as Cos d’Estournel and Montrose of the second cru, Lafont Rochet of the fourth cru, but also Marbuset, Ormes-de Prez and Haut Marbuzet, all classified as cru bourgeois.
Pauillac: with a good 18 cru-classé, Pauillac is considered the highest expression of the Bordeaux region. Among his productions, there are also wines from the first cru classé such as Latour, Lafite-Rotschild and Mouton-Rotschild.
St.-Julien: located south of Pauillac, it has many quality chateaux such as Leoville-La-Cases, Ducru-Beaucaillon and Saint-Pierre.
Margaux: famous for its fine and elegant wines, to make the lion’s part is obviously the Château Margauxi belonging to the first cru. The Margaux area also includes parts of other municipalities such as Arsac, Cantenac, Labarde and Soussan.
Listrac and Moulis: although they do not have wines classified as cru classé, high quality wines such as Chasse-Spleen, Maucaillou, Fourcas-Dupré and Fourcas-Hosten are also produced in this area.
To the south of Bordeaux there is Graves, which translated into Italian means breccia. Area known to be able to produce both quality white and red wines, the latter have much in common with wines produced in the Médoc, although they are warmer and more spicy. The best known are: Haut -Brion, La Mission Haut-Brion and Domaine de Chevalier. As for white wines, however, these are particularly clean and fresh. Among the best are Haut-Brion, Laville Haut-Brion and Carbonnieux.
In the district of Graves there are 5 municipalities that have taken the denomination of Sauterns because of their botrytized white wines. Many châteaux of this area also produce dry white wines using grapes that have not reached a sufficient sugar level to obtain Sauternes.
To the right of the Dordogne we find the area of St. Emilion which has rather uneven soils that are basically divided into two groups: cotes and graves. The term cotes refers to land located on the slopes of the plateau and from which particularly full-bodied wines are obtained. Graves, on the other hand, have a layer of breccia resting on a layer of coarse sand. The wines of this area are softer than those of Médoc and are particularly dense and vigorous. Furthermore, in recent years wines such as Valandraud and Angelus have been born which are highly appreciated for their concentration.
Pomerol is located north-west of Libourne and produces only red wines. Dominating this area is the merlot vine, thanks to which velvety and sapid wines are obtained. Also in Pomerol the soil is quite uneven and the high quality of the wine is a consequence of the right combination of thinning of the bunches and severe pruning.
Froonsac, Bourg and Blaye
Although the quality of the wines in this area is very far from that of the rest of the Bordeaux region, it is still a wine with an excellent quality / price ratio.
Located between the Garonne and Dordogne rivers, both white and red wines are produced in this area. From the fresh and light taste, among the best known we mention Cote de Bordeaux and Primiére Cote de Bordeaux, but also Cadillac and Saint Croix du Mont.