Nestled in the curve of the river Garonne in southwestern France is the beautiful city of Bordeaux. Beyond being a prolific port town, Bordeaux is the most popular and well-known wine region on earth.
Bordeaux has thrived as a wine-growing region because of its temperate climate and rich history. The red wine is a unique blend of at least two varietals from the region — Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, while the dry and sweet whites are comprised of Sauvignon Blanc and/or Semillon. The proportion of grapes in a Bordeaux fluctuates depending on the weather, climate, harvest, and the preferences of the winemakers.
There are 57 appellations of Bordeaux wine. A wine’s appellation certifies that it has originated from its designated terroir and signifies some level of its quality. In France, the present appellation system originated from the region's appellation d’origine laws, formed in 1919 as a way to stimulate the viticultural economy by protecting the quality of French Wine. The system is complex, but guides to the appellations of Bordeaux can offer a wealth of information for wine aficionados to use to their advantage.
The 57 Appellations of Bordeaux
Divided into unique regions and varieties, the 57 appellations include:
Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur
1. Bordeaux AOC
Bordeaux AOC wines are created from rich Cabernet Sauvignon and balanced by juicy Merlot. The appellation may include the spice of a Cabernet Franc. AOC wines are produced in the region of Gironde.
2. Bordeaux Supérieur
This complex red wine is produced from older vines, giving Bordeaux Supérieur exceptional aging potential. This exclusive AOC must age for a minimum of one year prior to sale.
3. Bordeaux Clairet
Bordeaux Clairet is named for its recognizable ruby color. The Clairet is luminous, smooth, light, and easy to drink.
4. Bordeaux Rosé
The Bordeaux Rosé is a regional appellation that can originate anywhere in the Gironde area. This light and fresh appellation is beholden to strict production norms and can be challenging to produce due to its sensitivity to oxidation.
Medoc originates from the peninsula of Bordeaux, situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gironde River. Medoc produces wine that is known for its simple quality and lower price point.
The Haut-Médoc appellation accounts for about one-third of the vineyards located on the Left Bank.
7. Listrac Medoc
This blend of aromatic Cabernet Sauvignon, fruity Merlot, and a touch of spicy Cabernet Franc originates near the Landes Forest.
This well-known variety gleans its name from the windmills — moulins — of the French countryside.
Margaux encompasses Soussans, Margaux, Arsac, Cantenac and Labarde. Margaux wines are elegant and feature the dominant Cabernet Sauvignon.
This wine originates in perhaps the most illustrious region of Bordeaux. Pauillac vineyards are elevated on a gorgeous hilltop with exceptional drainage capabilities.
As the largest appellation in the Médoc, Saint-Estephe is historical and represents the clout of the Bordeaux region. It is cooler than the rest of its region, being in the northernmost section, and is known for producing full-bodied wines.
Saint-Julien rests in the center of the Médoc region. The superior wines of this appellation are powerful yet elegant and peak after about a decade of careful aging.
Graves offers an exquisite balance between supple and firm with its predominance of Merlot and weaker presence of Cabernet Sauvignon.
According to Bordeaux history, Pessac-Leognan is the origin of wine-growing in the region over 2000 years ago. This terroir has been a notable presence in the region since the Middle Ages.
Côtes de Bordeaux
15. Premières Côtes de Bordeaux
The hilly, sunny Premières Côtes de Bordeaux vineyards originated in the Roman era and have long exported their renowned wines to England and beyond.
Located on the right bank of Gironde, Blaye wines enjoy the benefit of the sun and a sloping clay-limestone terroir.
17. Premières Côtes de Blaye
The terroir of this northernmost appellation consists of hills and valleys and is separated from Médoc by the estuary. The constant sun, fresh air, and clay and limestone soil yield exceptional wines.
18. Côtes de Bourg
Bourg vineyards stand at the crux of the Garonne and the Dordogne Rivers, ofering a warm microclimate. This family-based appellation produces wines that feature flavors of spices and red fruits and possess an excellent aging potential.
This obscure appellation consists of 19 villages in the easternmost section of Bordeaux and uses Merlot as a base.
20. Bordeaux Côtes de Francs
This tiny, temperate region is centered around the area’s historic church and family-run wineries. These wines are delicious young and age well from five to 10 years.
21. Côtes de Castillon
Hidden away behind Saint-Emilion, this appellation produces smooth, pleasant, and charming wines. Castillon has recently become competitive with the main appellations on the right bank.
22. Graves de Vayres
Established in 1936, Vayres focuses on the production of red wine. It stands out as a region of rare gravel soil amongst an expanse of clay-limestone soil.
Saint-Emilion consists of over 800 winegrowers and is known for being an exquisite terroir. Beyond this, Saint-Emilion is known for its immense beauty and historical value.
24. Saint-Emilion Grand Cru
Saint-Emilion Grand Cru yields some of the highest quality wines in the Bordeaux region due to its strict production norms — a formal tasting after one full year of aging is required.
25. Lussac Saint-Emilion
True to Saint-Emilion style, Lussac wines are elegant and possess strong structure, with Merlot as a dominant element.
26. Puisseguin Saint-Emilion
This obscure AOC is known for resting at the highest elevation in Saint-Emilion.
27. Montagne Saint-Emilion
This appellation is little known but has a rich history of surviving invasions and, later, enjoying wealth. It is on the rise among its neighboring regions.
28. Saint Georges Saint-Emilion
Though it is the smallest appellation in Bordeaux, Saint Georges is outstanding for its consistent growing capabilities.
Pomerol has survived the spread of urban development in nearby Libourne. Its most lucrative soils exist in its highest elevations.
30. Lalande de Pomerol
A highly sought-after appellation, Lalande is renowned in the region for its dimensional Merlot and distinctive, expressive flavors.
Known for its complex and powerful wines, Fronsac inhabits a rugged landscape and boasts a long-running history of wine production.
Located upon higher terrain, the steep slopes of this appellation yield strong, dimensional wines.
33. Bordeaux and Bordeaux Sec
Dry and fruity, these white wines are produced under strict mandates on dryness and residual sugar levels.
Located between the Dordogne and Garonne rivers, this appellation produces lively, smooth, and dry white wines and is the biggest dry white appellation in the Bordeaux region.
Similar to Entre-Deux-Mers, these wines feature flavors of citrus, yellow flowers, and exotic fruits.
Despite being the largest Côte appellation, this appellation falls short of the region’s Premieres Côtes de Blaye.
38. Premières Côtes de Blaye
Nestled on a rocky ridgeline, the Premières Côtes de Blaye is suitable for white grapes such as Sauvignon and Sémillon.
39. Côtes de Bourg
Côtes de Bourg is a modern Bordeaux appellation that produces full-bodied and aromatic wines — blends of Sauvignon, Sémillon, and Colombard.
40. Bordeaux Côtes de Francs
Cotes de Francs is well-known among casual wine drinkers for its lower price point.
This appellation is dominated by Sémillon because of how well it takes to its terroir.
42. Graves de Vayres
These white wines are round, powerful, and complex — known for their elegance, hazelnut flavors, and barrel-matured qualities.
Surrounded by a bustling city, this modern appellation produces rich, well-aging wines.
44. Crémant de Bordeaux
These sparkling wines share careful production techniques similar to Champagne.
Nurtured by night mists and warm autumn afternoons, Barsacs possess a deep nose and elegant bouquet.
46. Bordeaux Moelleux
These sweet wines can be created anywhere within the Bordeaux region, and they must possess more than four grams of sugar per liter.
47. Bordeaux Supérieur
Bordeaux Supérieur produces classic sweet wines.
Haut-Benauge is a small appellation that creates both dry and sweet white wines.
Cadillac is a region that exclusively produces wines that are sweet or white.
Cérons is obscure, but its dessert wines are considered by some to be one of the gems of the region.
51. Côtes de Bordeaux-Saint-Macaire
The minor sweet wines of this region are cultivated on slopes that are well-exposed to the elements.
52. Graves Supérieures
Another sweet wine, this appellation can be compared to the Cérons appellation and focuses on Sémillon and Sauvignon grapes.
The sweet wines of Loupiac are beholden to extremely strict regulations.
54. Premières Côtes de Bordeaux
This appellation produces fruity red wines in the north and sweet white wines in its more temperate southern regions.
This appellation is considered the most prolific producer of sweet white wines. Located in a gorgeous, hilly village, these wines are airy and lively.
This versatile appellation produces both red and white wines.
Composed of Sauternes, Fargues de Langon, Bommes, Preignac, and Barsac, elegant Sauternes wines possess a distinctive golden color, which eventually develops into a rich amber hue.
How to Shop for Bordeaux Wines
Wine aficionados worldwide seek out the luxury of Bordeaux wines for their exquisite quality and singular history. As one of America's leading Bordeaux retailers, JJ Buckley Fine Wines can help you find the Bordeaux wine you desire. We even offer an approachable and effective consultancy service to help you understand the value of each distinctive appellation.