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.
Vinous, 91 points: Good bright red-ruby. Sexy, pure aromas of dark cherry, rose and violet. Juicy, delicate and penetrating, with pinot-like weight and sappiness. Displays a captivating sweetness without any loss of energy. Finishes long...
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 96 points: Tasted with Baptiste Guinaudeau, the 2008 Lafleur is a wine for which I have a lot of time, and as it approaches a decade old, it is beginning to loosen up a little. There is plenty of fruit on the nose—more than I have...
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 93 points: One of the most beautiful wines of the vintage, the dark ruby/purple-colored La Lagune exhibits sweet cassis, camphor, truffle and white chocolate notes presented in a dense, medium to full-bodied, silky textured...
Decanter, 96 points: Another hit, although this is not as glamorous as some vintages of Mouton. The expression here is just a little more Pauillac, rather than Mouton. Layers of blackberry and grilled almonds are marked by a touch of...
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 97 points: It is hard to call Petrus a "sleeper of the vintage" but the 2008 will merit more attention than most consumers would think. Low yields of 30 hectoliters per hectare resulted in only 25000 bottles of this beauty. A wine...
Wine Spectator, 90 points: Juicy, with kirsch, raspberry and linzer torte notes that pump along nicely, with velvety tannins and a spice box and black tealoaded finish. Delicious. Drink now through 2015. 700 cases made. –JM
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