Bordeaux is the world’s largest source of fine wine and the region which dominates the global market. The wine produced here provides numerous benchmarks - for Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot blends, age-worthy red wine in general, white dessert wine, wine as an investment or collector’s item and simply for good, drinkable wine made to accompany food.

Sitting along the Atlantic coast of France, Bordeaux has a moderate but damp climate with a long ripening season. There are three main soil types: alluvial, limestone, and gravel. The region is typically split into what we know as ‘left bank’ and ‘right bank.’ The left bank often has Cabernet dominated blends and includes the communes of Medoc, Haut Medoc, Saint Julien, Margaux, Pauillac, Graves, and Sauternes. The best vineyards have gravel soils over a base of marl and flint which have the best drainage. alluvial soils tend to be found on the riverbanks where lower classification wines are made. On the right bank, Merlot dominated blends are more common and includes the communes of Saint Emilion, Pomerol, and Fronsac. The soils here are predominantly on limestone and clay, and the best vineyards are grown on well draining gravel on limestone subsoils.

Vines in Bordeaux tend to be planted in high density and often harvested mechanically except for the top wines. Vinification changes depending on the quality and level of the wines. Whereas a village level wine will most likely be aged in neutral or used oak barrels to cut costs, the top wines of a Chateau are often aged in 100% new oak for up to 24 months. Some wineries will use a combination of new and used to achieve the balance that they desire. The famous sweet wines of Sauternes are made with botrytised grapes, hand harvested and aged in oak.

Historically, the market there was dominated by negociants buying and blending bulk wines, but these days the role of the negociant has become that of a broker instead. Unlike in Burgundy, where vineyards are graded and may be farmed by multiple producers, in Bordeaux the estate, or Château itself is now king. Individual Châteaux have become brands and are ranked by various authorities with the price of their wine varying accordingly. For fans of good, drinkable Bordeaux who are not collectors or investors, the nature of the market can be dispiriting. The price of a bottle of Chateau Lafite or Petrus these days is well out of reach for even some seasoned collectors. But there is so much quality wine produced that there is always value to be found, and there are still few wine experiences to rival a pristine bottle of Bordeaux.

Bordeaux Chateau

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