What is the best Bordeaux fine wine? This can be a difficult question to answer since this French wine region has more than 10,000 producers within its 60 designated growing regions.
The Bordeaux wine region is very complex. However, once you know a few basics, you’ll be able to start enjoying it in no time.
All of the wine in this region is in the highest quality rating in the French wine ranking system. This means that all Bordeaux wines are considered a 'fine wine'.
Here are a few other basics that you need to know about this region:
Even though producers are allowed to use six red grapes, most of the reds produced here are either primarily Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon.
Before we continue, it’s also important for you to learn just a little about how the French government regulates its wine. Each of the 60 growing regions have a specific – and I mean very specific – set of rules they have to follow when making their wines.
The official name for the highest quality French growing regions is Appellation d'Origine Controlee (AOC). Learn more about this and other labeling requirements on the French labels page.
The regulation starts with the amount of grapes they can produce per hectare (1 hectare is ~2.5 acres). These regulations extend all the way through to the percent of each variety they can use in their blends.
These rules are not designed just to restrict producers, but to ensure they always produce consistent, high-quality ones. All of the AOC regions in France must follow these rules - not just this region.
These regulations stay the same from year to year. Once you know a little about the grapes used to produce wines in each region, you can quickly pick out Bordeaux fine wine that you know you will enjoy.
Now that you have a few of the basics and know a little about how French wine is regulated, let’s move into a few specifics.
The easiest way to learn about Bordeaux fine wine is to break the 60 regions up into three separate groups. The first group includes regions with Merlot dominant blends, the second group includes regions with Cabernet Sauvignon dominant blends, and the final group includes all the other types in this region.
The final section is where I'll give you a few details on the whites and roses.
Merlot is the most grown red here. More than 60% of the vines in this region produce Merlot grapes.
The majority of the Merlot dominant Bordeaux fine wine regions are located in the area known as the Right Bank. These regions sit along the right side of the Gironde River. The soils, temperatures and other growing conditions on this side of the river are perfect for Merlot wines.
I have to admit that I really didn’t respect Merlot until I had the opportunity to try the Merlot from these regions. Now, it's one of my favorite types of red wine.
I’m fortunate enough to have visited the Bordeaux fine wine region several times. Based on my visits, my favorite Merlot regions here are:
The great thing about Saint Emilion is that they are widely available both within and outside of France. They can be expensive – but you can still find some great ones in the $30 price range. Learn more about St. Emilion.
It’s cheating a little for me to say that I favor the other regions since neither Bourg nor Blaye wines are widely available outside of France. Many producers here are small, so these wines are really hard to find outside of France. However, if you stumble on one, pick it up! You will not be disappointed.
The typical aromas and flavors of Merlot dominant wines include red fruit, cherry and violet. You will also find hints of truffle and licorice.
Here’s the full list of Merlot-based regions.
There’s one more thing I want to call out about these. Pomerol, one of the Merlot-based regions on this list, has some of the most expensive bottles in the world.
While I love their wines, they are very, very expensive.
Wines from Chateau Petrus in Pomerol sell for more than $1,000 a bottle
for the highest quality vintages. For average vintages, a bottle of Petrus
can still sell for a few hundred dollars.
If you absolutely love Merlot - and have a large budget for reds - then this is yet another Merlot dominant Bordeaux fine wine region I recommend you try. Learn more about Pomerol.
Find Merlot dominant dry red wines from this region online.
Bordeaux is home to the world-famous Cabernet Sauvignon grape. It’s documented that this grape was originally found here around the 1600s. I won't cover its full history here – but you can learn more on the Cabernet Sauvignon history page.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the second most grown red here. Thousands of Bordeaux fine wine blends are produced every year with this as the dominant grape.
Most regions that focus on Cabernet Sauvignon Bordeaux fine wine are located in the area known as the Left Bank. All of these French fine wine regions sit on the left bank of the Gironde River.
This is from my most recent visit to the region.
Chateau Branaire-Ducru is in the Saint Julien growing area.
The soils temperatures and other environmental factors here are different from the right bank. They all come to get to make the perfect environment for Cabernet Sauvignon grape vines.
The typical flavors and aromas of Cabernet Sauvignon dominant reds from this region include blackberry, blackcurrant, and spices. You will also taste and smell hints of leather and plum.
My favorite regions are Saint Julien, Margaux and Pauillac. Here is a list of all the Cabernet Sauvignon dominant regions:
As you can see, there are quite a few more Merlot dominant regions in Bordeaux than those that focus on Cabernet Sauvignon.
Discover the best Cabernet Sauvignon dominant dry red wines from these regions online.
Two of the other most important Bordeaux fine wine regions are Graves and Pessac-Leognan. Both of these regions produce dry reds. However, both regions offer both Merlot dominant and Cabernet Sauvignon dominant blends.
Because of the varying soils in these two regions, producers switch up their plants based on what works best for their soils. Learn more about both of these regions on the Graves page.
Two other important regions for dry red wine are the Bordeaux and the Bordeaux Superieur wines. Producers that make these wines can use grapes from any part of the larger region.
The percentage of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon used in these blends varies from producer to producer. This means any one you find that is labeled either Bordeaux or Bordeaux Superieur could be primarily Merlot or primarily Cabernet Sauvignon.
Even though I mentioned these two areas at the end, the two accounts for almost 50% of the bottles produced here. In addition, they are some of the easiest wines to find and the most budget friendly.
These are two additional types, but are not typically available outside of France. Both of these are made from the five red types mentioned at the top of the page.
The difference with these two wines is that they are not as dark as the typical Bordeaux red wine. The Rose wines are a lighter rose color similar to other rose wines. The Clairet wines are lighter than the typical red wine blends, but slightly darker than the rose wines.
These two make up about 5% of the wine produced here.
The rest of the wines are either sweet and dry whites. The three main grapes used to make these white wines are Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle.
Most of the dry white wines are made from a certain percentage of all three of these white wines. Sauvignon Blanc typically makes up the largest percentage in these wines. Here is a list of the regions that make dry white wines:
As you can see from the list, some of the regions create more than one type of wine.
Most of the sweet white wines are made from the Semillon and Muscadelle white grape varieties. Even though just a small percent of the wines made in Bordeaux are sweet white wines, they are some of the most famous.
Here's a list of all the regions that make sweet white wine here:
Dry, reds from here are very balanced. This means they pair well with food and are the perfect choice for meals.
The dry reds from Bordeaux, pair really well with heavier meals such as red meat or really spicy dishes. The medium bodied Bordeaux wines pair really well with almost any meal including steaks or chicken.
For the best results, you should serve your dry, red Bordeaux wine at around 62 to 64°F (17 to 18°C).
You should also serve your Bordeaux red wine in a standard Bordeaux red wine glass. Compare prices and read reviews to find the best red wine glasses.
If you get the chance to visit, it's an experience you will never forget. The best times to visit are August and September when the grapes are started to ripen.
However, I've also visited in the spring and summer. It's also beautiful during these times, as the vines and grapes are just starting to grow.
Discover some tips for getting and staying in the region.
The best way to learn more about Bordeaux fine wine is by visiting some of the chateaux and small towns in the region. On the Wine Tasting page, you will find some of my recommendations for guided tours in this region. Here you can also find some tips for visiting the region if you decide you want to venture out on your own.
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