Bordeaux Left Bank
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.
The large Margaux AOC contains more cru classé châteaux than any other Bordeaux commune. It includes the villages of Margaux, Cantenac, Arsac, Soussans and Labarde, and generally features thin, gravel-rich, well-drained soils.
Cabernet Sauvignon dominates Margaux wines, which also commonly feature Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec in the blends. Margaux wines are renowned for their fragrant floral perfumes and elegant blackcurrant flavours, although Cantenac, Arsac and Labarde wines have less fragrance and tend more towards plum flavours.
The whole Médoc region contains the Médoc AOC in the north and the Haut-Médoc AOC in the south. The Haut-Médoc in turn is home to some of the most famous Bordeaux AOCs, including Margaux, Saint-Estèphe, Pauillac, Saint-Julien and Listrac-Médoc. All wine made in the Médoc is red.
In this category you'll find a selection of Cru Bourgeois and 3rd growth wines from all over the Médoc region, from Valeyrac and Saint-Seurin-de-Cadourne in the north through to Listrac and Ludon-Médoc in the south.
Pauillac is perhaps the most well-known and prestigious commune of the Bordeaux region. The Pauillac AOC contains three of Bordeaux's five premier cru châteaux: Lafite Rothschild, Latour, and Mouton Rothschild. Wine expert Hugh Johnson once said, “If one had to single out one commune of Bordeaux to head the list, there would be no argument. It would be Pauillac.”
The Pauillac wine style is tannic, full-bodied and rich, with blackcurrant and plum flavours and notes of pencil-shavings and cigar-box. Cabernet Sauvignon is the predominant grape, and it‘s usually blended with one or two other grapes, including Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec.
Pessac-Léognan, situated inside the Graves region just south of the city of Bordeaux, is one of the oldest wine-making areas in the region. Its most famous wine, the premier cru Château Haut-Brion, was even loved by Samuel Pepys way back in 1663.
The region’s soil is very gravelly, and its prolific pine trees help to create a unique microclimate and protect the vines from Atlantic winds. The region produces excellent earthy reds (using Cabernet Sauvignon and, typically, Merlot) as well as dry whites (using Sauvignon blanc/Sémillon blends) that are said to be among France’s greatest white wines.
The Saint-Estèphe AOC lies just north of Pauillac, toward the north end of the Haut-Médoc region. While the AOC only produces five 1855 classified growths, it is known for producing Cru Bourgeois or unclassified wines of excellent quality, many of which give some of the Grand Cru Classé wines a run for their money.
Saint-Estèphe red wines are typically deeply-coloured and display pronounced tannins and acidity. As with much of the Médoc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot tend to dominate. These wines usually improve well with age and can be kept for many years.
The relatively small AOC of Saint-Julien lies just south of the Pauillac AOC, right in the middle of the Médoc region. As with most of the Médoc, Cabernet Sauvignon dominates these wines, with Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot also found in the blends.
Saint-Julien may not produce any first growth wines like Pauillac or Margaux, but it makes up for this with consistently good second and fourth growth wines from Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, Château Gruaud Larose, Château Léoville Las Cases and others. Indeed, many Saint-Julien wines manage to combine the rich, tannic qualities of Pauillac wines with the refined elegance of those from Margaux.