Bordeaux is a low-lying region in southwest France which is naturally divided by the Gironde River. Major areas in Bordeaux are the Left Bank, the Right Bank, Graves, and Entre-Deux-Mers. Without question Bordeaux is the most famous wine region in the world, producing some 850 million bottles each year. Many of France's most exquisite wines are produced in Bordeaux. The region is comprised of about 290,000 acres of vineyards, with more than 7,000 chateaux, including the five best-known and generally most expensive red wine producers: Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Margaux, Château Latour, Château Haut-Brion, and Château Mouton Rothschild. Almost 90% of Bordeaux wine is red. As a rule, the Left Bank produces Cabernet Sauvignon-based red wines, while the Right Bank produces Merlot-based red wines. South of these areas, Graves produces both reds and whites from Sauvignon blanc and Sémillon grapes.
Médoc is the biggest wine-producing district in Bordeaux. It is a long, narrow peninsula (approximately 50 miles by 3 miles) situated north of the city of Bordeaux, between the west bank of the Gironde estuary and the Atlantic Ocean. The Médoc AOC was established in 1936 and is part of the Left Bank region of Bordeaux. Médoc's subregions are: Haut-Médoc, Margaux, Listrac-Médoc, Moulis-en-Médoc, Saint-Julien, Pauillac, and St-Estèphe. Chateaux blends of these areas typically utilize 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, and 15% Merlot, a formula often called the "Bordeaux Blend." Additional grape varieties permitted in Médoc wines include Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Carménère .
Wines of particularly high quality are produced in Haut-Médoc in the south, where the terroir is perfect for Cabernet Sauvignon -- slow-to-ripen grapes which need warm soil. Gravelly outcrops are characteristic of the entire region and chunks of gravel in the soil retain heat and allow for good natural drainage. Heavier limestone soil, rich in clay and therefore more capable of retaining moisture is also found throughout the peninsula. This type of terroir is excellent for cultivation of Merlot grapes.
For more on Bordeauxs from the Left Bank, click here.
Photo courtesy of the Bordeaux Wine Council.