If there is any single region in France worthy of a visit by the wine-loving traveller, it is surely the Bordeaux region, where the world’s widest range of wines and the best-known estates are to be found. Moreover, the singularly mild climate and the closeness of the Atlantic make it a specially privileged destination.
The wine-producing region of Bordeaux is at once the most extensive in France and the best-known in the world. It covers 115,000 hectares (110,000 hectares of AOC wine production) – 150,000 at the end of the XIXth century – around the city of Bordeaux. It is responsible for 26% of AOC production in France.
It is here that you find some of the most legendary estates in the world: Petrus, Yquem, Cheval-Blanc, Mouton Rothschild, Château-Margaux, Haut-Brion… But the region is not just a small number of big names, far from it: nowadays 13,000 growers are involved in viticulture, and the average size of a vineyard is 5 hectares.
The Bordeaux region produces an extraordinary variety of wines: reds, dry or sweet whites, rosés, crémants and more…. red wine accounts for 75% of total production. Historically the region has looked carefully to the quality of its wines: the earliest official classification appeared as early as 1855, and it is still in force today with a few adjustments to bring it a little more up to date.
The Wine Faculty in Bordeaux has one of the finest reputations anywhere, and grape varieties from Bordeaux are used to improve the quality of vineyards all over the world.
A Brief History of Bordeaux
Bordeaux wines have long upheld their traditions of quality, encouraged in part and since the XIIth century by the interest of the English aristocracy. The quality of the wines, and the near-total absence of bad vintages are however only a partial explanation for the inflated prices that have been asked recently!
Characteristics of Wine From Bordeaux
Favourable climatic conditions, diversity of soil and terrain, the use of complementary varieties of grape (cabernet-sauvignon, merlot, cabernet-franc for reds; sémillon and sauvignon for whites) are among the factors which explain the wide range of flavors and nuances to be found in Bordeaux wines.
Classification of the Wine
The generic appellation ‘Bordeaux’ is applied to all wines produced in the Gironde department, as long as they satisfy a number of relatively strict conditions relating to grape varieties and restrictions on yield.
Insider Travel Tip
Médoc or Saint-Emilion, Graves or Sauternes: you decide where you want to go, according to the amount of time you have and the wines that you hope to unearth.
Planning more? Here’s our guide to other wine making regions in France