Cool Dew-Speckled Grapes on the VineAll of the wines that Vine Talk tasted during our Bordeaux episode were from the prestigious Médoc region on Bordeaux’s left bank. Médoc produces not only most of the wines from Bordeaux – but also the best and most expensive ones. A wine can only be called Bordeaux if it is made in Bordeaux from grapes grown in Bordeaux.

The area owes a large portion of its fame and fortune to a group of wine brokers that were tasked by Emperor Napoleon III, in 1855, with ranking the wines of Bordeaux according to an estate’s reputation and price – which was an indicator of quality. These wines were ranked from first growths at the top end to fifth growths (even being ranked a fifth growth remains quite a distinction) – almost all of the red wines that made the list were from Médoc.

At first glance, there is little about Médoc that would obviously make it a great wine region. It is very close to the Atlantic Ocean, which suggests a climate that is too mild for the hot-blooded grapes that have thrived there. The frequent moisture and humidity resulting from its proximity to the ocean also makes rot a considerable obstacle. However, local wine makers have succeeded in producing fantastic wines for centuries.

VT Tasted:
Château Belle-Vue Haut-Médoc 2007 $20.00
Château Montrose Saint-Estèphe 2007 $55.00
Château Le Crock Saint-Estèphe 2007 $28.00
Château Giscours Margaux 2007 $45.00
Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste Pauillac 2007 $60.00
Château L’Aura de Cambon Margaux 2007 $20.00

Wines from Médoc are mostly made from the traditional Bordeaux blend, relying on Cabernet Sauvignon as the foundation. As Bordeaux is a specific combination of grapes from a specific area, if you like Bordeaux there is only one place to get it! However, Bordeaux from Médoc can have similarities to other great Cabernet Sauvignons, such as those from Oakville in Napa. One of the greatest contributions of Bordeaux winemakers has been the use of oak barrels in wine making, and the wines of Médoc often reflect this with notes of chocolate, tobacco, leather, spice, and vanilla. If you like the qualities of Bordeaux, here are some other wines you might enjoy trying:

Try: A Bordeaux blend (often called a Meritage) from California. Many winemakers in California, and especially in Napa where Cabernet Sauvignon thrives, have started to experiment with making their own “Bordeaux”. Of course, since it’s not grown in Bordeaux, it can’t be called one, but often you’ll find red wines that reflect the traditional mix of Bordeaux grapes.

Try: A Grand Reserva Rioja. Rioja is the great wine of Spain in much the same way that Bordeaux is considered the great wine of France. Winemakers in Rioja were introduced to the practice of aging wine in oak barrels through encounters with winemakers in Bordeaux, and in this way owe part of their wine legacy to the French.

For more information on the episode featuring Bordeaux, click Episode Guide: Basking in Bordeaux from the Left Bank.

Photo courtesy of the Bordeaux Wine Council.