As well as being famous for its red wine, the Bordeaux region produces some interesting white wines. In fact, in the 19th century, the region produced more white wine than red. Most Bordeaux white wine comes from the Pessac-Léognan, Graves and Entre-Deux-Mers districts. Sauvignon blanc dominates the dry whites, with Sémillon and Muscadelle also making an appearance.
The Bordeaux Left Bank contains both the Graves and Médoc regions. It includes the Margaux and Pauillac communes, as well as the Pessac-Léognan, Saint-Estèphe and Saint-Julien regions. The Left Bank is home to the famous five First Growth wines: Château Lafite-Rothschild, Château Margaux, Château Latour, Château Haut-Brion, and Château Mouton Rothschild.
The region is dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, resulting in tannin-rich, long lived wines. You'll also find Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carménère in the region.
Thanks to variations in soil, climate and grape varieties, Right Bank wines have a different feel to those of the Left Bank. Often lighter and less tannic, these wines can often be drunk relatively young as far as Bordeaux wines go.
While the Right Bank may not be as famous as its counterpart across the water, it still contains two prestigious appellations: Pomerol and Saint-Émilion. There are also smaller appellations such as Blaye, Blaye-Côtes-de-Bordeaux and Côtes-de-Bourg. Merlot grapes dominate the Right Bank, although Cabernet Franc is also frequently used. There are also some areas planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petit Verdot.
Second label Bordeaux wines are a fantastic way to enjoy wines made by some of the region's most famous châteaux, for a fraction of the price of their main wines. For example, Le Petit Mouton de Mouton Rothschild is produced by Château Mouton Rothschild, but is a lot more affordable than the Mouton Rothschild first label.
Typically, second label wines are made with younger grapes, or with grapes grown in different vineyards to those of the main wines. However, the wines are usually produced with the same care and house style, often resulting in wines that have some hints and characteristics of the grand vin.
Sauternes is famous for its sweet white wine, made from Sémillon, Sauvignon blanc, and Muscadelle grapes. The sweetness comes from the Botrytis cinerea fungus, or “noble rot”, that partially turns the grapes into raisins.
Sauternes wines balance sweetness and acidity, with honey and apricot notes. Château d’Yquem is perhaps the most well-known, being the only premier cru supérieur classified wine in the region.
The Barsac commune within Sauternes has its own appellation. These wines are usually drier and less full-bodied than those from the rest of Sauternes.