If you've recently started collecting wine, you'll want to know the best wines to acquire. As it turns out, Bordeaux wines should be right at the top of your list. These wines blend premium grape varieties - primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot for red Bordeaux, and Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadelle and Semillon for white Bordeaux. Combined with the estate's pride of production, regional differences help create the bold complexity for which Bordeaux wine is known.
Bordeaux Wines and Their Regions
The Bordeaux region is known for its excellent climate and rich soil, which comprises limestone, gravel and clay. It has two divisions - Left Bank and Right Bank - that have immediate influence on the wines they produce.
Left Bank wines come from the gravelly soils of Graves and the Medoc, which is further divided into subregions like Pauillac, Margaux and Saint-Julien. These wines have distinctly bold flavor notes - especially spices and currants - and they are high in tannins and thus ideal for long-term aging. Left Bank wines often contain 70 percent Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.
Right Bank wines come from the clay-rich areas of Pomerol and Saint-Emilion. These wines have softer tannins along with plenty of floral notes and fruits like plum and black cherry. Right Bank blends usually have 70 percent Merlot or Cabernet Franc grapes.
White Bordeaux primarily comes from the Pessac-Léognan and Sauternes regions of Graves, although other subregions along with Entre-Deux-Mers produce it as well. White Bordeaux, either dry or sweet, is known for its lemon, vanilla and citrusy notes.
Although there is wide variety in terms of quality and taste, certain Bordeaux wines are essential for your wine collections.
1. Chateau Lafite Rothschild
Produced in the northern part of the Pauillac subregion, Lafite-Rothschild wines age exceedingly well and are rich in tannins and are highly aromatic, featuring plenty of red berry, currant, spice, smoke and damp earth notes. The blend of grape varieties changes with each vintage, but usually consists of 80 to 95 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 5 to 20 percent Merlot. Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc sometimes total 1 to 3 percent of the blend.
2. Chateau Haut-Brion
Located in the Pessac-Léognan subregion, the Haut-Brion estate produces red and white wine, although white wine production is more limited. These wines are highly suited to long-term aging, anywhere from 15 to 50 years. Haut-Brion Rouge, first aged for up to 24 months, releases intense notes of damp earth, spice, plum, berries, smoke and tobacco. Haut-Brion Blanc, first aged for 13 to 16 months, releases aromatic notes of lemon peel, honey, grapefruit and melon.
3. Chateau Pichon-Lalande
Harvested and produced in the Pauillac subregion, Pichon Lalande wines release their full flavors after 10 to 12 years of aging. These wines are softer and have rich flavor notes, including berries, cassis and chocolate. The grape percentages vary with each vintage, but the estate is known for including a higher amount of Merlot - typically anywhere from 20 to 40 percent. Pichon Lalande wines age in French oak barrels for up to 18 months.
4. Chateau Petrus
Produced in the Pomerol subregion of the Right Bank, Petrus wine is made from 100 percent Merlot grapes; in the past, the blend included up to 20 percent Cabernet Franc. This complex, aromatic wine is rich and decadent, releasing notes of truffles, plums, spices, coffee, cherries and chocolate. Pétrus ages in 50 percent new oak barrels for up to 20 months, and it reaches peak maturity anywhere from 15 to 45 years after bottling.
5. Chateau Margaux
Found in the Medoc in a subregion of the same name, the Margaux estate is a long-standing winery that produces both red and white wine. Margaux, a red Bordeaux, is full-bodied with plenty of dark berries, florals and truffle notes. It is aged for about 18 to 24 months before bottling and is typically made from at least 85 percent Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Pavillon Blanc, on the other hand, is made from 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc grapes. This dry white Bordeaux is aged in French oak barrels for about 7 to 8 months.
6. Chateau d'Yquem
Positioned in the Sauternes region, the d'Yquem estate produces a high-class sweet white wine that's known for its ability to age well for decades, often 35 to 60 years or more. Chateau d'Yquem wine is highly aromatic, starting with honey, stone fruit and tropical fruits when young and evolving to butterscotch, spices and caramel when aged. Made from Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes, d'Yquem wine is aged for 30 months before bottling. The estate also produces a dry white wine in select years.
7. Chateau Latour
Located in the Pauillac subregion, the Latour estate produces fine red wines with rich tannins and full body, releasing currants, dark fruits, spices, cedar and fresh floral notes. The wine features a blend of at least 70 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 20 percent Merlot, and is aged in 100 percent new oak barrels. Chateau Latour wine has a long aging window, anywhere from 18 to 60 years.
8. Chateau Ausone
Harvested and produced on the Right Bank in the Saint-Emilion subregion, Ausone wines have an intense flavor of rich minerals, licorice and dark fruits; they usually feature equal amounts of Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes. The red Bordeaux ages for up to 24 months in 100 percent new oak barrels before bottling and is ideally suited for long-term aging, with peak maturity at anywhere from 20 to 50 years.
9. Chateau Mouton-Rothschild
Harvested and produced in the Pauillac subregion, Mouton Rothschild is a tannin-rich red Bordeaux with intense depth and flavors, including dark berries, Asian spices, florals and tobacco. Up to 85 percent of any given vintage comes from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, with Merlot making up most of the remainder. Their dry white wine, Aile d'Argent, is a blend of Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle grapes.
10. Chateau Cos d'Estournel
Found in the Medoc in the Saint-Estephe subregion, the Cos d'Estournel estate produces red Bordeaux and a dry white wine. The red Bordeaux wines have an ideal balance of flavors, including rich tannins, spices, florals and fruit. Cos d'Estournal reds are made from about 65 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, with Merlot comprising about 33 percent and Cabernet Franc the remainder. Cos d'Estournel Blanc is made from at least 80 percent Sauvignon Blanc grapes.
These essential wines can help you expand your fine wine collection to include the best of Bordeaux. For more information on wine collecting, explore our article on how to start a wine collection.
Copyright JJ Buckley Fine Wines 2018.