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, 95 points: Concentrated and elegant with a great harmony of dry tannins and ripeness (but no hint of overripeness), this has a long finish with a lot of drive and enormous freshness. You could drink this now with red meat, but it’s...
Wine Enthusiast, 90 points: A full, firm, ripe wine that shows considerable style and richness. There are fine, dusty tannins, masking the full-bodied black fruits, licorice flavors, and a firm, smooth aftertaste.
TheWineCellarInsider.com, 100 points: Poke your head into a flower shop filled with roses, walk into the restaurant next door when they are serving their winter, truffle menu, end the meal with the perfect clafoutis with some licorice on the side, and light...
Wine Spectator, 92 points: Beautiful chocolate and blackberry aromas and flavors follow through to a full body with soft round tannins and a very long finish. Best after 2011. -JS
Wine Enthusiast, 93 points: Barrel sample. A big firm and hard wine with solid fruits layers of dry tannin and great power. There's an intensity to this wine with acidity adding to the complexity and structure. - R.V.
TheWineCellarInsider.com, 92 points: Licorice, cocoa, black raspberry, espresso bean and earthy notes open to a round, supple, wine that is already fun to drink. However, it will probably be better after another year or two of bottle age where it should give...
Vinous, 100 points: One of my wines of the night, the 2005 Haut-Brion is stratospheric. Remarkably vivid and nuanced, the 2005 presents a compelling mélange of dark flavors laced with the savory/mineral notes that are so typical of...
Wine Spectator, 94 points: There's pure crushed fruit on the nose, with raspberry, dark chocolate and berry. Full-bodied, with supervelvety tannins and a long, long finish. Has wonderful balance and richness. The best young red ever from this...
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