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.
jamessuckling.com, 91 points: I drank this at Pastis resto in New York City just before my Brunello event on May 18. Love the Paris Bistro vibe. Lovely soft tannins with coffee and cedar with ripe fruit. China tea. Subtle. Cloves too. Full and round...
Wine Spectator, 91 points: Aromas of raspberry and citrus, with just a hint of sweet tobacco. Full-bodied, with a solid core of fruit and a caressing, layered tannin structure. Very well made. Excellent. Best after 2011.–JS
Neal Martin's Wine Journal, 91 points: A very fine nose, very intense but tightly coiled with blackberry, a touch of earth, cedar and rose petals. Superb. The palate is medium-bodied, very good acidity with earthy black fruits, tobacco, quite austere on the...
Wine Enthusiast, 96 points: Yes, there is power to this wine. But more than that, it exudes authority; a dense and solid wine with an impressive presence and texture. It has a velvet mouthfeel: the tannins are dusty and mineral, alongside fruit...
Wine Spectator, 95 points: This shows lots of mulled spice, warm tobacco leaf and well-roasted cedar accents, but isn't short on fruit, offering enticing layers of red currant, plum and blackberry confiture. The long finish is riddled with sweet...
Wine Enthusiast, 91 points: Often outshone alongside its stablemate, Lafite, Duhart-Milon seems to be coming into its own. It is rich and polished, dominated by new wood and soft, ripe fruit. The flavors are black currant, more jelly than fruit, but...
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