BORDEAUX WINES TRAVEL GUIDE

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BORDEAUX WINES OF THE RIGHT BANK

The most famous wine producing region of the right bank is the Libournais. This region alone encompasses much of what is referred to as the Right Bank. Named after its historical capital, Libourne, this area sits on the right bank of the Dordogne river and expands west past the convergence of the Isle river. The expression Right Bank typically refers to wines from the Pomerol and St-Emilion areas of Libournais.

 

Saint Emilion centres on the commune of the same name. There are several villages around the region that share the Saint-Émilion name, such as Montagne-Saint-Émilion and St-Georges-Saint-Émilion, and are permitted to label their wines under the same name. Merlot is the dominant grape in this area, followed by Cabernet Franc. The climate and damper, cool soils of the area makes it difficult for Cabernet Sauvignon grapes to fully ripen and as such is less often used. The wines take a little longer to mature than the ones in Pomerol but are still able to be drunk relatively young for a Bordeaux (4–8 years). In favorable vintages the wines have a good aging potential.

 

Pomerol was first cultivated by the Romans during their occupation of the area. Up until the early 20th century the area was known mostly for its white wine production. This area within Libournais doesn't have a distinct city center with several villages spread across an area about the same size as St.-Julien. The area overall has gravel-based soil that is typical of Bordeaux, with western and southern sections having more sandy soil while the northern and eastern sections toward St.-Emilion have more clay composition. The wines of Pomerol have a high composition of Merlot in their blends and are considered the gentlest and least tannic and acidic of Bordeaux wines. Cabernet Franc, known in this area as Bouchet is the second leading grape and helps to contribute to the dark, deep coloring that is typical of Pomerol wines. Due to the reduced tannins found in these wines, they can typically be drunk much younger than other red Bordeaux. The chateaus in the area are not classified, with the winemakers seemingly disinclined to devise one, although Château Pétrus is often unofficially grouped with the First Growths of Bordeaux.

BORDEAUX WINES OF THE LEFT BANK

The most famous Bordeaux wine regions located on the left bank include the Medoc, the Graves and Sauternes areas.

 

The Medoc wine region spans the left bank of the Gironde from the mouth of the river to the city of Bordeaux and includes the four famous communes of St-Estephe, Pauillac, St. Julien and Margaux. It is about 60 km north to south, and about 10 km wide, with around 10,600 hectares under vines and a production of about 50 million litres per year. All the wine made here is red and the main grape variety used is the Cabernet Sauvignon.

 

The Graves region is bordered on the north by the Garonne river and contain the sub regions of Pessac-Léognan, Sauternes and Barsac. It is known for its intensely gravelly soil.  While Château Haut-Brion was included in the 1855 classification of the Médoc, the Graves appellation itself was classified in 1953 for its red wine producers. White wine were included in the updated 1959 classification. Graves is considered the birthplace of claret. In the Middle Ages, the wines that were first exported to England were produced in this area. Château Pape Clément, founded at the turn of the fourteenth century by the future Pope Clement V, was the first named chateaux in all of Bordeaux. In 1663, Samuel Pepys' mention of Château Haut-Brion was the first recorded mention of French Claret in London.

 

Sauternes is a subregion of Graves known for its intensely sweet, white, dessert wines such as the Premier Cru Supérieur classified Château d'Yquem. Wines produced in the region of Barsac, such as Premiers Crus Château Climens and Château Coutet are allowed to be labeled either with the commune name or with Sauternes. The intense sweetness of these wines is the result of the grapes being affected by Botrytis cinerea, a fungus that is commonly known as noble rot. In the autumn, the Ciron river produces mist that descends upon the area and persists until after dawn. These conditions are conducive to the growth of the fungus which desiccates the grape and concentrates the sugars inside. The three main grapes of this area are Sémillon, Sauvignon blanc and Muscadelle. Production costs for this area's botrytized wines are comparatively high. The evaporation and fungus produce low yields, five to six times less than in other Bordeaux regions. The grapes are normally harvested individually from the bunch with pickers going through the vineyards several times between September and November to ensure that the grapes are picked at their optimal points. The wine is then fermented in small oak barrels, further adding to the cost. Even with half bottles of the First Growths priced at several hundred dollars, these wines still have difficulties turning a profit and in the mid 20th century a string of bad vintages drove many growers in the region out of business.

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ORGANIZING YOUR BORDEAUX WINE TOUR:

 

Browse through our pages and find all the information you need to organize your next Bordeaux wine tour. Here you will find interactive maps as well as detailed itineraries and photos taken from the different wineries and tours.

 

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