Bordeaux Wines

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Bordeaux is the most important wine-producing region in the World. In terms of production, it produces roughly the same amount as Australia. In terms of quality, it produces some of the finest wines in the World. In terms of heritage and prestige, the region is peerless.


In terms of the finest wines, the region can be roughly divided into two parts: the left bank which includes the Médoc and Graves, and the right bank, which includes St Emilion and Pomerol.


The Left Bank

The left bank of Bordeaux is home to the greatest and most famous wines of Bordeaux. The major appellations are St Estèphe, Pauillac, St Julien, Margaux and Pessac-Léognan and Graves. The wines of the left bank are ranked according to the 1855 classification, a hierarchy ordered by Napoleon III at the time of the Paris Exhibition. The most famous wines are the first growths: Lafite-Rothschild, Mouton-Rothschild, Latour, Margaux and Haut-Brion. Other great wines of the region that are often of first-growth quality are Léoville-Lascases, Pichon-Lalande, Ducru-Beaucaillou and La Mission Haut-Brion. These, along with Pichon-Baron, Cos d’Estournel and Montrose are occasionally referred to as the “super-seconds”.


The best soils on the left bank are gravelly, and Cabernet Sauvignon is the predominant grape variety here. As a rule of thumb, the best Bordeaux châteaux are situated closest to the river: look closely at a map and you will see that the first growths, along with Ducru-Beaucaillou, Cos d’Estournel and Léoville-Lascases, are all situated at more or less the same distance from the Gironde estuary.


St Estèphe

St Estèphe is the most northerly of the Médoc appellations. It is noticeably cooler, and the soil contains slow-draining clay, which makes for excellent wines in the hottest vintages such as 2003 and 2009. The three finest wines of the appellation are Cos d’Estournel, Montrose and Calon-Ségur.

St Estephe borders Pauillac to the south, bordering Lafite-Rothschild. The wines can be austere in their youth, though age impeccably well, and there are a number of under-the-radar producers here that offer some very well-priced Bordeaux, notably Phélan-Ségur, Lafon-Rochet, Les Ormes de Pez and an F+R favourite, La Haye.



Arguably the most important appellation in the Médoc, Pauillac is home to three first growths – Latour, Lafite-Rothschild and Mouton-Rothschild, along with some of the most famous wines of Bordeaux. Châteaux Pichon-Baron, Pichon-Lalande, Pontet-Canet, Lynch-Bages, Grand-Puy-Lacoste and F+R favourite Batailley are all situated in this famous Bordeaux appellation.


Gravel soils predominate in Pauillac, the tell-tale characteristics of which are cassis, lead pencil and cigar box on the nose, and a silky sweet cassis note in the mouth.


St Julien

Bordering Pauillac to the north, St Julien is the Médoc’s most consistent appellation. Whilst St Julien has no first growths, it is home to Chx Ducru-Beaucaillou and Léoville-Lascases, two of Bordeaux’s finest wines, along with legendary properties Talbot, Gruaud-Larose, Léoville-Barton, Léoville-Poyferré, Branaire and Beychevelle.


If Pauillac is the Vosne-Romanée of Bordeaux, then St Julien is the Gevrey-Chambertin. The wines have a chunky, plummy weight to them, and are broader, more foursquare than their neighbours in Pauillac. There is a noticeable difference as one moves north through the appellation: Ch. Léoville-Lascases, for instance, borders Latour at the southern tip of Pauillac and there is a noticeable Pauillac-style poise to this great wine. Beychevelle Branaire and Gruaud-Larose, to the south of the St Julien appellation, are distinctly juicier and looser-knit.



Margaux is home to one of the greatest wines of Bordeaux, Château Margaux. Whilst the appellation is a large, and occasionally inconsistent one, the very best wines of Margaux are peerless in their feminine, seductive and perfumed character.


As well as Ch. Margaux, the appellation is home to Palmer, Giscours, du Tertre, and FINE+RARE favourite Rauzan-Ségla. The soils here are the most gravelly in the Médoc, with sandy soils in parts. This is what gives the finest Margaux wines their distinctly alluring, feminine character. At their very best they are peerless.


Pessac-Léognan and Graves

Graves is historically Bordeaux’s most important region and the one upon its reputation was founded. Even today, ask any old-fashioned Bordeaux connoisseur their favourite Bordeaux appellation and the answer will invariably be “Graves”. Pessac-Léognan sits within Graves and has the best soils of the area.


The finest wines of Graves begin with first growth Les Carmes Haut-Brion and sister property La Mission Haut-Brion, and the appellation is home to some of Bordeaux’s finest wines: Smith-Haut-Lafitte, Haut-Bailly, Domaine de Chevalier, Les Carmes Haut-Brion and Pape-Clement.


Graves is also home to some of the finest white wines of Bordeaux. Generally a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, Pessac-Léognan whites are fresh yet complex, and some of the finest white wines on the market. Haut-Brion Blanc and La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc are as beautiful as they are expensive, whilst the brilliant Domaine de Chevalier Blanc and Smith-Haut-Lafitte Blanc offer wines of extraordinary class and character for considerably less money.


The Right Bank

St Emilion and Pomerol are the two other most famous wine regions of Bordeaux, home to the very best, and the most expensive wines of the region. The predominant grape varieties are Merlot and Cabernet Franc, which perform very well in the mostly clay soils. Styles vary hugely throughout this fascinating region, and the wines are generally more plush, more fruit-driven and more extracted than those on the left bank, though this does depend very much on winemaking styles.



Pomerol is home to Ch. Pétrus, Ch. Lafleur and Ch. Le Pin , three of the World’s most sought-after wines, along with the great winemaking estates of Vieux Château Certan, Eglise-Clinet, and la Conseillante. Whilst Pomerol is one of the World’s most prestigious wine regions, there is no official classification. Other châteaux producing great Pomerol wines are Clinet, Feytit-Clinet, l’Evangile, Lafleur-Pétrus and Trotanoy.


The best Pomerol soils are clay, and the wine is predominantly Merlot, with some estates (notably Ch. Lafleur and Vieux Château Certan) including a proportion of Cabernet Franc.


St Emilion

St Emilion is home to the great Bordeaux estates of Cheval Blanc, Ausone, Angélus and Ch. Pavie. The style of wines throughout St Emilion is very diverse, with winemaking methods and approaches as important as terroir when it comes to the difference in styles.


FINE+RARE favourite Ch. Canon is one of the best examples of St Emilion and what it really should taste like. Chx Angélus and Pavie favour a more modern style, which is to say more fruit driven and with considerable use of oak. Ch. Ausone is St Emilion’s most expensive wine along with Cheval Blanc. Both of these properties make some of the finest St Emilion available, though with price tags to match. Other notable properties are Clos Fourtet, Figeac , Quintus, Le Dôme and the idiosyncratic Tertre Rôteboeuf.


Sauternes and Barsac

Sauternes is home to the finest sweet wines in the world, and the greatest sweet wine of them all, Ch. d’Yquem. Situated just south of Graves, Sauternes has a unique microclimate that promotes the growth of “noble rot” or Botryitis Cinerea. This noble rot, brought on by lingering evening mists, dehydrates the grapes on the vine, concentrating the juice and, importantly, the sugar. This is arguably the most natural sweet wine.


Barsac is an appellation in its own right, situated within Sauternes, the most famous Barsac wines being Climens and Coutet. The very best Sauternes wines are from the estates of Rieussec, de Fargues, Suduiraut, La Tour Blanche, Doisy-Daene and Doisy-Vedrines. Fine Sauternes wines are amongst the most complex of any sweet wines, and will keep and develop for decades and even centuries.



This vintage produced the biggest selling En Primeur campaign to date at FINE+RARE; demand was enormous. Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin was clear on just how good the vintage was: “Let’s cut to the chase: 2016 is unequivocally a great vintage in Bordeaux. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise… the pleasure they will give Bordeaux lovers is immeasurable.” Antonio Galloni agreed: “The 2016s are absolutely remarkable wines.” He went on to advise that “readers will find compelling wines on both the Left and Right Banks” and “savvy readers will find much to like among the more modestly priced wines of 2016.”



A vintage well received by the critics. It is generally acknowledged to be the best since 2010. Rapid flowering was followed by a scorching summer, however late rains cooled things down just in time. Rainfall wasn't homogenous, therefore some areas fared better than others. Steven Spurrier announced that "Bordeaux is back", while Neal Martin called it "a great vintage with a clutch of potentially spectacular wines" and Antonio Galloni said of the wines that: "At their best, the 2015s are spectacularly rich, racy wines loaded with personality." Scores for the top wines are generally high, while for the lesser wines critic tasting notes often refer to them being the "best ever" produced.


Better than 2011, 2012 and 2013 and probably better than anything between 2005 – 2009 and 2000 – 2005. A relatively dull August in France made for wines that lack the energy and depth of a truly great year, though a fantastic late summer saved the day. This can accurately be considered as one of the best of the second-tier vintages.


The most challenging year that most Bordelais can remember. Rain, rot and dilution. The very best wines will give pleasurable early drinking though a year to buy selectively and certainly not one for the cellar. The top wines of the vintage are Pichon-Lalande and Eglise-Clinet. A good year for the dry white wines of Bordeaux and some outstanding Sauternes and Barsac wines were made.


A tricky vintage for Bordeaux, though with some successes notably in Pomerol and Graves, where the Merlot had been safely harvested before a difficult October. The top wines of the vintage are Haut-Brion, La Mission Haut-Brion, Haut-Bailly and Eglise-Clinet. A poor year for Sauternes though another top vintage for the dry whites.


An average year after the stellar duo of 2009 and 2010. More consistent than 2012, the wines are generally better than vintages such as 2007, and maybe on a par with vintages like 2008. The best estates of Pauillac and St Julien produced some good wines, and the top wines of the vintage are Le Pin, Latour, Margaux and La Mission Haut-Brion.


The second vintage of a lifetime in a row for the Bordelais, and a vintage that came with unprecedented prices to boot. The top wines of 2010 are ethereal: alcohol, tannin, fruit and acidity are all turned up to eleven on the dial yet with remarkable balance. Very much a vintage for the long term, the top wines of the vintage are La Mission Haut-Brion, Latour, Cheval Blanc and Montrose. The dry whites, and the Sauternes, are very good as opposed to great.


A modern-day version of 1982 and along with 2005 and 2010, a candidate for the greatest modern-day vintage in Bordeaux. What differentiates 2009 from 2010, though, is the up-front charm of this delicious vintage. As with all of the truly great vintages, the wines are excellent from top to bottom and the better-priced wines should be picked up whilst they are still available. The top wines of the vintage are many, though one has to mention Latour, Cos d’Estournel and Ducru-Beaucaillou.


A good, if not great year. A lack of summer sunshine was saved by September, and the quality of the wines is largely down to how much each property was prepared or able to sort the fruit at harvest. The best 2008s are perfectly correct in a somewhat austere style, and many are starting to drink nicely now. The top wines of the vintage are Lafite-Rothschild, Latour and Pontet-Canet.


Rain, rain and rain. A very tricky year in Bordeaux though the estates that made the right decisions in the vineyard and the winery have made some forward, easy drinking styles that with only a few exceptions are drinking very nicely now. The top red wines of 2007 are Lafite-Rothschild and Latour, with an excellent showing for Pichon-Baron. 2007 is an excellent vintage for the sweet and dry whites of Bordeaux: Domaine de Chevalier Blanc and Ch. Yquem are the stars.


Born in the shadow of the brilliant 2005, 2006 is probably the best vintage between 2005 and 2009 and one that remains overlooked. The style is firm, and there are plenty of very good, if not quite great, wines to choose from in a year that is just starting to approach maturity. 2006 Pomerols stand out as being particularly successful and the top wines from the left bank are Lafite-Rothschild, Haut-Brion and Léoville-Lascases.


The perfect vintage? 2010 and 2009 might get the headlines but ask any UK merchant what the best vintage of the past ten years is and more often than not they will say 2005. Fruit, tannin, acidity and alcohol in perfect harmony, the hallmark of this vintage is its perfection. The mid-table wines are just starting to show their class, though will keep for decades; the best wines from 2005 will need more time. The top wines of 2005 are many, though Ch. Margaux derives a mention as this may well turn out to be one of the greatest wines ever made.


A large crop of classically-styled wines that in retrospect were very well-priced on release. The style of the vintage is fresh and clean, with many wines drinking very well now. Stars of the vintage are Margaux and Latour, with Gruaud-Larose making a particular success of the vintage.


A very hot vintage for Bordeaux. Too hot for many: no Le Pin was made in 2003 and the Merlot was in many cases a disaster. On the left bank, though, there are some excellent wines from Pauillac and St Estèphe in particular. The jury is our on just how long these high tannin-low acidity wines will keep for, and even the best wines from 2003 are approachable now. The top wines of the vintage are Latour, Lafite-Rothschild and Montrose.


A mixed vintage, with some very pleasant surprises for those that like classic, linear claret. At the time of release the wines were extraordinarily well priced and they still look inexpensive today. The best wines are drinking perfectly now, and want to be drunk rather than kept further. The wines of the 2002 vintage are Lafite-Rothschild, Léoville-Lascases and Pichon-Lalande.


Born in the shadow of 2000, 2001 is a vintage that shows better and better. With the exception of 2000, it is probably the best vintage since 1996. The wines from the left bank are correct, and drinking very well know, whilst on the right bank many wines are superior to their 2000 counterparts. The top wines of the vintage are Pétrus, Le Pin and Ausone. 2001 is a truly great vintage for the sweet whites of Sauternes: the best since 1983. 2001 Ch. d’Yquem is a candidate for one of the greatest wines ever made.


The first of the modern-day great vintages coincided with the turn of the millennium and the heyday of Mr Robert Parker. 2000s are exceptional wines, with a hallmark of minerality underneath generous fruit. The best wines are already showing their class, though will most likely last for decades. The top wines of 2000 are La Mission Haut-Brion, Margaux and Lafleur.


An early-maturing and easy vintage for Bordeaux. Those growers who attempted to make blockbuster wines failed, whilst those who made easy-drinking, forward styles mostly achieved just that. There is great pleasure to be found in the best wines. The wines of the vintage are Lafite-Rothschild, Palmer and Margaux.


Classically austere in the Médoc, with foursquare wines that are drinking well now. The wines of Pessac-Léognan are particularly good, as are the wines of St Emilion and Pomerol. The starts of the vintage are Haut-Brion, Cheval Blanc and Lafite-Rothschild.


A vintage that will be best remembered for price. An average year, priced as if it were a great one. Inventory stayed on merchants’ books for years. The very best are still drinking and can be attractive but, for the most part this is a forgettable year. An excellent vintage for Barsac and Sauternes.


Average at best on the right bank but a brilliant year for the Médoc and Graves, where a perfect late summer matured the Cabernet Sauvignon to perfection. The wines have fruit, tannin and a delightful fresh acidity. At classed growth level the wines are drinking, though nearly all will benefit from more time. The best wines will keep for decades. The wines of the vintage are Lafite, Latour, Margaux, Léoville-Lascases and Pichon-Lalande.


Rich and tannic, a good vintage for the left bank and a particularly good one for Pomerol. The style of the wines is big and powerful, and some Médoc wines till need more time. The best Pomerols have entered their plateau of maturity. The wines of the vintage are Haut-Brion, Latour, Pichon-Lalande and Eglise-Clinet.


After three very difficult years 1994 gave some hope for the Bordelais; indeed the vintage could have been a great one bar for rain in September. The wines are complete, if a little on the austere side, and should be drunk soon. The top wines of 1994 are Latour, Léoville-Lascases and Angelus.


Rain, rain and rain. A vintage that gave some decent early drinking but most of these wines should have been drunk by now.


Another poor vintage. Drink up soon.


A very difficult vintage and not one to seek out. Notable surprise successes are Lynch-Bages and Palmer.


An excellent vintage for Bordeaux. An exceptionally hot year made for ripe, rich and lush wines, many of which are at their peak now. The weight and ripeness of fruit makes this one of the easier vintages to pick in blind tastings. This is arguably a vintage to pick up now whilst the wines can still be found. The top wines are Margaux, Montrose and La Mission Haut-Brion. Sauternes was also very successful.


Similar to 1990 in quality, though 1989s tend to have a little more purity than their 1990 counterparts. Very, very good on both sides of the river, the top wines of 1989 are Haut-Brion, La Mission Haut-Brion and Pétrus, all of which are legendary wines. The white wines, both dry and sweet, are also exceptional in 1989.


The first of three good vintages in a row for the Bordelais, though 1989 and 1990 put 1988 in the shade. The 1988s are classic in the very best sense of the word, with an austerity that only Bordeaux can do well. All wines are drinking now and only the best will keep further. The wines of the vintage are Lafite-Rothschild, Léoville-Lascases and Lafleur. An excellent year for Sauternes.


A vintage that split opinions. Many of the wines are still on the tannic side at nearly thirty years old, though there are some undeniable beauties to be found, and the top wines appear to be suitable for further ageing. Best on the left bank, the top wines of 1986 are the 100-point triumvirate of Mouton-Rothschild, Lafite-Rothschild and Léoville-Lascases.


A very good vintage for Bordeaux though only the very top wines are still showing their best. Margaux, Haut-Brion and Léoville-Lascases are the wines of the vintage.


A noteworthy year on account of the success of the commune of Margaux: both Palmer and Margaux itself made exquisite wines. Solid in the rest of Bordeaux though most wines will be in decline, or at best fully mature. The wines of the vintage are the aforementioned Palmer and Margaux, and 1983 was a very good year for Sauternes and Barsac.


A legend, and the vintage that made the fortune of a certain Robert Parker Junior. Rich, sweet and simply gorgeous, the very best wines are still at their peak and look set for many years to come. The wines of the vintage are Latour, Mouton-Rothschild and the exceptional Pichon-Lalande.


A legendary vintage. Spring frosts made for a small crop; an August drought and dry September did the rest. 1961s in good condition can be outstanding wines. The wine of the vintage is undoubtedly Ch. Palmer: a candidate for the wine of the century. Good bottles are still going strong.


One of the greats and a decent-sized vintage to boot. The first growths are all very fine indeed, and well-stored bottles are still drinking very well. The pick of the bunch is probably Mouton-Rothschild, though it is a very close call.


A vintage that produced some legendary wines: Lafite-Rothschild, Mouton-Rothschild and Margaux all produced something exceptional in what was an irregular but ultimately very good growing season. The right bank was also a great success, particularly for Cheval Blanc and Pétrus. Calon-Ségur and Domaine de Chevalier are also worthy of mention.


A small crop of excellent wines, some of which are still drinking if stored well. Mouton-Rothschild is the wine of the vintage, closely followed by Latour and Pétrus. Beychevelle and Batailley are also particularly good, though as with all wines of this age, storage is key.


An exceptionally hot year made for rich, ripe and opulent wines. 1947 Cheval Blanc is one of Bordeaux’s legends, as is 1947 Pétrus. The Médoc first growths (and Mouton –at the time a second growth) all performed well. Latour a Pomerol is the wild card.


“L’Année de la Victoire” and arguably the finest vintage of the 20th Century. A small crop on account of May frosts, and a fully ripe one on account of a dry and hot summer. A plethora of legends were produced by Latour, Margaux, Lafite-Rothschild, Mouton-Rothschild, La Mission Haut-Brion along with Léoville-Lascases, Cos d’Estournel, Beychevelle and more. These wines must be bought with care but correctly cared for bottles are still showing well.

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