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.
Stephen Tanzer's IWC, 90 points: Deep ruby-red. Floral, spicy aromas of black cherry, licorice and shoe polish. Thick and dense, with lovely sweetness and inner-mouth flavor. Boasts more volume than either the '98 or '97. Finishes thoroughly ripe, with...
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 91 points: This is a backward, muscular, highly-extracted wine with a boatload of tannin, thus the question mark. The saturated plum/purple color is followed by an aggressively oaky nose with scents of roasted coffee, blackberries...
Wine Spectator, 96 points: This leans toward the tropical side, with mango and guava notes out front, while maple, date, blood orange and citrus oil flavors fill in behind. The finish kicks into another gear, taking off with honeysuckle, orange...
Stephen Tanzer's IWC, 93 points: ...Exotic aromas of black cherry cassis minerals smoke clove and mint. Thick with extract but with Ausone classic restrained sweetness and mineral backbone. Sound acidity gives the flavors superb clarity and grip...
Neal Martin's Wine Journal, 95 points: The first bottle is corked. The second displays a very fine, cedar and tobacco infused nose: quintessentially ’96 claret. Does not quite have the precision of the ’05 or ’00 but more vigour than the ’95. The palate is...
Wine Spectator, 90 points: Wonderful and flamboyant. Very ripe apple, banana and vanilla aromas with a hint of meringue. Full-bodied and round, with lots of coconut and fruit character on the finish. Drink now. 3,600 cases made.
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