With more than 7,000 chateaux, France’s Bordeaux region is the most important wine producing region in the world. As well as being the basis for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot-based wines everywhere, Bordeaux wines are acknowledged to be among the world’s best reds—according to experts and amateurs alike.
The wine region of Bordeaux is comprised of many smaller areas and encompasses both banks of the Gironde estuary in southwest France, as well as the land bordering the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers, which split off from the Gironde in the southern Medoc area. Generally, Bordeaux's best red wines are from seven major (and well-known) appellations: Pauillac, Saint-Estephe, Saint-Julien, and Margaux in the greater Medoc region, Graves to the south of the city of Bordeaux—in the region’s center, and Saint-Emilion and Pomerol toward the east. The large Graves region, as well as being the birthplace of claret, is home to many of the best dry whites. Premium sweet wines are made in Sauternes and Barsac, which are also within the Graves appellation but toward the south.
In understanding the multitude of Bordeaux wines, experts tend to talk about the right and left banks of the Gironde River. Generally, red wines from the river’s left bank, especially from Bordeaux’s Medoc region, are based on Cabernet Sauvignon, mixed with varying amounts of Merlot and Cabernet Franc and, occasionally, a spot of Petit Verdot and Malbec. These reds are known to be firm and dry, with a substantial tannic spine, and are frequently austere in their youth. They are also among the world’s longest-lived. The Graves’ gravel and sand soil content contribute to more texture early and roasted accents of hot stones, smoke and tobacco.
The softer Merlot grape is the foundation for right bank wines, mostly to the town of Libourne’s eastern side. These wines are fleshier in general than wines from the left bank and are more pliant. They are also accessible at an earlier age—though the best of them can improve in bottle for decades.
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 92 points: Even better from bottle than from cask, and one of the finest wines of the vintage, this dense purple-colored 2002 reveals wonderfully sweet notes of charcoal, fresh mushrooms, smoke, earth, leather, cassis, and cedar...
Wine Spectator, 90 points: Plum and berry aromas with just hints of spices, fine tannins and a lovely silky finish. Not a big wine but refined and subtle. Lovely length. Consistently outstanding. Best after 2008.
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 92 points: A candidate for the top second wine from the first-growth chateaux is the 2002 Forts de Latour. It exhibits an inky purple color as well as big concentrated sweet aromas of cassis and cherry fruit spice box and cedar...
Wine Spectator, 93 points: Complex aromas of blackberries tobacco and cedar follow through to a full-bodied palate with ripe velvety tannins and a long caressing finish. Very beautiful. Best after 2009. -JS
Wine Spectator, 95 points: Bubbling over with crushed berries currants and spices with tobacco notes. Beautiful. Full-bodied with gorgeously velvety tannins and a long finish of pretty fruit. This is a racy yet elegant Lafite. Classy...
Wine Spectator, 96 points: Loads of ripe currants licorice and toasted oak on the nose. Subtle yet impressive. Full-bodied with a solid core of ripe fruit and chewy tannins. Big and juicy. Deep midpalate for a 2002. This is the wine of the vintage...
Jancis Robinson's Purple Pages, 90 points: Spicy rich nose. Rather aggressively dry on the finish. Very savoury. For the long term. There is some electric fruit here. 17/20
Neal Martin's Wine Journal, 95 points: Tasted blind at Farr’s 2002 Bordeaux tasting. Very refined on the nose...definitely First Growth quality with a beautiful floral scent. Margaux? Black cherries, a touch of cassis, violets and wild hedgerow. Superb...
Wine Spectator, 91 points: Aromas of currant bush berries and sweet tobacco follow through to a full-bodied palate with medium tannins and a long finish. Lovely texture to this wine...
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