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Bordeaux Wine Information

Bordeaux
Bordeaux is the world’s most productive wine region, churning out approximately 750,000,000 bottles of wine a year. From vin de pays or ‘table wine’ (the lowest classification of Bordeaux wine) to some of the most lauded wines in the world, Bordeaux produces every style of wine you can imagine.

Red wines from Bordeaux (known in England as clarets) attract the most attention, making up over three quarters of all wines produced. Nevertheless, Bordeaux’s white, sweet, rose and sparkling wine can be of superb quality and should not be overlooked by any serious wine enthusiast.

Tip: If you’re looking to cellar the wines you purchase then look for tannic reds, dry whites and sweet wines as these tend to have the necessary structure to age better and improve.


Grape Varieties:
Only six red-wine grape varieties and three white-wine varieties are permitted in the making of Bordeaux wine; this is to be contrasted with most new world producers that base wines on a single variety (known as ‘varietal’ wines).

Red:
Cabernet Sauvignon: Tannic and with the potential for great structure, Cabernet Sauvignon gives rise to distinctive wines that can develop well with age. In Bordeaux wine it is blended with other varieties to bestow other characteristics into the wine.

Merlot: Smoother than Cabernet Sauvignon, the Merlot grape is lower in tannins and makes wines with a softer texture that generally mature faster. In Bordeaux wine Merlot is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon in order to round off Cabernet Sauvignon’s rough edges.

Cabernet Franc: A parent of Cabernet Sauvignon, sharing its structure and flavour; however, the wine produced by this grape is not as full-bodied, with fewer tannins and less overall acidity. Conversely, Cabernet Franc boasts floral and herbaceous notes that Cabernet Sauvignon lacks. In Bordeaux wine Cabernet Franc is often blended with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon – it is very rarely used as the dominant grape in blends.

White:
Sauvignon blanc: Sauvignon blanc is renowned for its distinctive, penetrating aroma that carries notes of citrus fruits, gooseberries, passion fruits, bell peppers and freshly mown grass. In Bordeaux it is usually blended with Semillon in both sweet and dry wines.

Semillon: An extremely versatile grape, Semillon wines are aromatic, rich and full-flavoured. Semillon is almost always blended with other grape cultivars (particularly Sauvignon Blanc) to take create a complex, layered wine. Semillon wines have the potential to keep for a very long time in both dry and sweet styles.

Both Cabernet Sauvignon-based reds and Semillon-based sweet wines can keep in your cellar for a long time, and so will appeal to serious wine collectors; however, the emphasis here is on quality – wines from a particular vintage will have the necessary structure to keep well and improve with age, whilst some others may be better suited for drinking while young.

Remember! Quality of wine is more important than grape variety.

Classifications:
The Medoc (Red Wine Classification)

First Growth (Premiers Crus)

• Chateau Lafite-Rothschild (Pauillac)
• Chateau Latour (Pauillac)
• Chateau Margaux (Margaux)
• Chateau Haut-Brion (Pessac-Leognan, Graves)
• Chateau Mouton-Rothschild (Pauillac, reclassified from Second Growth status in 1973)

Second Growths (Deuxiemes Crus)
• Chateau Rauzan-Segla (Margaux)
• Chateau Rauzan-Gassies (Margaux)
• Chateau Leoville-Las-Cases (St. Julien)
• Chateau Leoville-Poyferre (St. Julien)
• Chateau Leoville-Barton (St. Julien)
• Chateau Durfort-Vivens (Margaux)
• Chateau Gruaud-Larose (St. Julien)
• Chateau Lascombes (Margaux)
• Chateau Brane-Cantenac (Margaux)
• Chateau Pichon-Longueville-Baron (Pauillac)
• Chateau Pichon-Longueville-Comtesse-de-Lalande (Pauillac)
• Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou (St. Julien)
• Chateau Cos d'Estournel (St. Estephe)
• Chateau Montrose (St. Estephe)

Third Growths (Troisiemes Crus)
• Chateau Kirwan (Margaux)
• Chateau d'Issan (Margaux)
• Chateau Lagrange (St. Julien)
• Chateau Langoa Barton (St. Julien)
• Chateau Giscours (Margaux)
• Chateau Malescot (Margaux)
• Chateau Cantenac-Brown (Margaux)
• Chateau Boyd-Cantenac (Margaux)
• Chateau Palmer (Margaux)
• Chateau La Lagune (Haut Medoc)
• Chateau Desmirail (Margaux)
• Chateau Calon-Segur (St. Estephe)
• Chateau Ferriere (Margaux)
• Chateau Marquis d'Alesme Becker (Margaux)

Fourth Growths (Quatriemes Crus)
• Chateau Saint-Pierre (St. Julien)
• Chateau Talbot (St. Julien)
• Chateau Branaire-Ducru (St. Julien)
• Chateau Duhart-Milon-Rothschild (Pauillac)
• Chateau Pouget (Margaux)
• Chateau La Tour Carnet (Haut Medoc)
• Chateau Lafon-Rochet (St. Estephe)
• Chateau Beychevelle (St. Julien)
• Chateau Prieure-Lichine (Margaux)
• Chateau Marquis de Terme (Margaux)

Fifth Growths (Cinquiemes Crus)
• Chateau Pontet-Canet (Pauillac)
• Chateau Batailley (Pauillac)
• Chateau Haut-Batailley (Pauillac)
• Chateau Haut-Bages-Liberal (Pauillac)
• Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste (Pauillac)
• Chateau Grand-Puy-Ducasse (Pauillac)
• Chateau Lynch-Bages (Pauillac)
• Chateau Lynch-Moussas (Pauillac)
• Chateau Dauzac Labarde (Margaux)
• Chateau d'Armailhac (Pauillac)
• Chateau du Tertre (Margaux)
• Chateau Pedesclaux (Pauillac)
• Chateau Belgrave (Haut Medoc)
• Chateau de Camensac (Haut Medoc)
• Chateau Cos Labory (St. Estephe)
• Chateau Clerc-Milon (Pauillac)
• Chateau Croizet Bages (Pauillac)
• Chateau Cantemerle (Haut Medoc, added in 1856)

Sauternes and Barsac (Sweet White Wine Classification)

Premier Cru Superieur (Superior First Growth)

• Chateau d'Yquem (Sauternes)

First Growths (Premiers Crus)

• Chateau La Tour Blanche (Sauternes)
• Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey (Sauternes)
• Chateau Clos Haut-Peyraguey (Sauternes)
• Chateau de Rayne-Vigneau (Sauternes)
• Chateau Suduiraut (Sauternes)
• Chateau Coutet (Barsac)
• Chateau Climens (Barsac)
• Chateau Guiraud (Sauternes)
• Chateau Rieussec (Sauternes)
• Chateau Rabaud-Promis (Sauternes)
• Chateau Sigalas-Rabaud (Sauternes)

Second Growths (Deuxiemes Crus)
• Chateau Myrat (Barsac)
• Chateau Doisy-Daene (Barsac)
• Chateau Doisy-Dubroca (Barsac)
• Chateau Doisy-Vedrines (Barsac)
• Chateau D'Arche (Sauternes)
• Chateau Filhot (Sauternes)
• Chateau Broustet (Barsac)
• Chateau Nairac (Barsac)
• Chateau Caillou (Barsac)
• Chateau Suau (Barsac)
• Chateau de Malle (Sauternes)
• Chateau Romer (Sauternes)
• Chateau Lamothe (Sauternes)

As might be expected, many view the 1855 classification as outdated – not least because it was only intended to be used as a listing for the Exposition Universalle de Paris of 1855, a grand exhibition showcasing the very best of France. More than 150 years on, it’s fair to say there have been significant changes. Nevertheless, there is consensus that the chateaux at the top of these lists make some of the finest wines in the world.

A “Super Second” is a casual wine term used to denote certain second growth estates that produce wine that is widely considered to be as good as the offerings of first growth estates. Below is a list of ‘super second’ estates:
• Chateau Leoville-Las-Cases (St. Julien)
• Chateau Leoville-Barton (St. Julien)
• Chateau Pichon-Longueville-Baron (Pauillac)
• Chateau Pichon-Longueville-Comtesse-de-Lalande (Pauillac)
• Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou (St. Julien)
• Chateau Cos d'Estournel (St. Estephe)
• Chateau Montrose (St. Estephe)
• Chateau Palmer (Margaux -although actually a third growth it is so well respected that it is included on the list)

Cru Bourgeois Classification
Another classification system used is the Cru Bourgeois (ordinary growth) classification. Created in 1932 by the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce, it includes many of the better chateaux from the Medoc that were neglected in the 1855 Bordeaux Classification:

Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnels
• Chateau Chasse-Spleen (Moulis)
• Chateau Haut-Marbuzet (St. Estephe)
• Chateau Labegorce-Zede (Margaux)
• Chateau Les Ormes-de-Pez (St. Estephe)
• Chateau de Pez (St. Estephe)
• Chateau Phelan-Segur (St. Estephe)
• Chateau Potensac (Medoc)
• Chateau Poujeaux (Moulis)
• Chateau Siran (Margaux)
Cru Bourgeois Superieurs - 87 chateaux
Cru Bourgeois - 151 chateaux

Cru Bourgeois exceptionnels can sometimes be considered the equivalent of a grand cru classe chateau. One major advantage this classification system has is that it is updated frequently, the last revision taking place in 2003 (a more recent update was voided and the classification system has attracted much controversy since).
The Graves Classification System

Although Sauternes and Chateau Haut-Brion were included in the 1855 Bordeaux Wine Classification, all other producers in the area were ignored completely. After the Second World War this became a bone of contention, as this omission directly affected the price and desirability of Graves wine. Eventually, in 1959, the Graves Classification was made official after years of negotiation.

The 1959 classification affords 16 chateaux the status of Grand Cru Classe, divided equally into red and white wine groups (it is possible to be classified for both).

Red-Wine Classification (Grande Cru Classe)

• Chateau Bouscaut
• Chateau Haut-Bailly
• Chateau Carbonnieux
• Chateau Domaine de Chevalier
• Chateau de Fieuzal
• Chateau d'Olivier
• Chateau Malartic-Lagraviere
• Chateau La Tour-Martillac
• Chateau Smith-Haut-Lafitte
• Chateau Haut-Brion
• Chateau La Mission-Haut-Brion
• Chateau Pape Clement
• Chateau Latour Haut-Brion

White-Wine Classification (Grande Cru Classe)

• Chateau Bouscaut
• Chateau Carbonnieux
• Chateau Couhins
• Chateau Couhins-Lurton
• Chateau Domaine de Chevalier
• Chateau Haut-Brion (added 1960)
• Chateau La Tour Martillac
• Chateau Laville Haut Brion
• Chateau Malartic-Lagraviere
• Chateau d'Olivier

The classification naturally omits some sterling wine producers, including:
• Chateau Pape Clement.
• Chateau Smith-Haut-Lafitte
• Chateau de Fieuzal

St. Emilion Classification:
St. Emilion produces wines to rival those of the Medoc, and yet the creators of the 1855 Bordeaux Classification neglected to include it. It wasn’t until a full century later, in 1955, that the appellation was graced with a classification system. Unlike the rigid, archaic 1855 Classification, this new system was set up so that it could be regularly reviewed and revised every decade; chateaux could be elevated or demoted based on their performance.

Although regular reviews are desirable, they inevitably attract fierce controversy. This came to the fore in 2006 when the classification was suspended indefinitely after four demoted chateaux filed suit – in doing so they opened a can of worms. To cut a long story short, the classification was indefinitely suspended in March 2007 before being declared invalid in July 2008… before being restored with its 1996 rankings a week later.

Naturally, those who were demoted are delighted with the decision to revert back to the 1996 rankings; conversely, those estates that were promoted are none too happy and have launched a campaign of their own. The result was that in December 2008 the eight chateaux that were promoted were returned to their 2006 status – even though the 2006 rankings are officially ‘invalid’.

Below you will find the 2006 St. Emilion rankings (now defunct):

Premiers Grands Crus Classes A

• Chateau Ausone
• Chateau Cheval Blanc

Premiers Grands Crus Classes B

• Chateau Angelus
• Chateau Beausejour (Duffau-Lagarrosse)
• Chateau Beau-Sejour-Becot
• Chateau Belair
• Chateau Canon
• Chateau Figeac
• Chateau La Gaffeliere
• Chateau Magdelaine
• Chateau Pavie
• Chateau Pavie-Macquin (promoted)
• Chateau Troplong-Mondot (promoted)
• Chateau Trottevieille
• Clos Fourtet

Grands Crus Classes
• Chateau Balestard la Tonnelle
• Chateau Bellefont-Belcier (promoted)
• Chateau Bergat
• Chateau Berliquet
• Chateau Cadet Piola
• Chateau Canon la Gaffeliere
• Chateau Cap de Mourlin
• Chateau Chauvin
• Chateau Corbin
• Chateau Corbin Michotte
• Chateau Dassault
• Chateau Destieux (promoted)
• Chateau Fleur-Cardinale (promoted)
• Chateau Fonplegade
• Chateau Fonroque
• Chateau Franc Mayne
• Chateau Grand Corbin (promoted)
• Chateau Grand Corbin Despagne (promoted)
• Chateau Grand Mayne
• Chateau Grand Pontet
• Chateau Haut Corbin
• Chateau Haut Sarpe
• Chateau L'Arrosee
• Chateau La Clotte
• Chateau La Couspaude
• Chateau La Dominique
• Chateau La Serre
• Chateau La Tour Figeac
• Chateau Laniote
• Chateau Larcis Ducasse
• Chateau Larmande
• Chateau Laroque
• Chateau Laroze
• Chateau Le Prieure
• Chateau Les Grandes Murailles
• Chateau Matras
• Chateau Monbousquet (promoted)
• Chateau Moulin du Cadet
• Chateau Pavie-Decesse
• Chateau Ripeau
• Chateau Saint-Georges-Cote-Pavie
• Chateau Soutard
• Clos de l'Oratoire
• Clos des Jacobins
• Clos Saint-Martin
• Couvent des Jacobins

Removed from Grand Cru Classe
• Chateau Bellevue
• Chateau Cadet Bon (appealed decision)
• Chateau Faurie de Souchard
• Chateau Guadet Saint-Julien (appealed decision)
• Chateau La Marzelle (appealed decision)
• Chateau La Tour du Pin Figeac (Giraud-Belivier)
• Chateau La Tour du Pin Figeac (Moueix)
• Chateau Petit Faurie de Soutard
• Chateau Tertre Daugay
• Chateau Villemaurine (appealed decision)
• Chateau Yon Figeac

 

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