Bordeaux is the largest fine wine producing region on earth. It produces, on average, over 6 million hectoliters of wine each year, more than some entire countries. It has provided the model for the finest Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlots in the world, with many selling for thousands of dollars a bottle upon release. The vast majority of the wines produced in Bordeaux are red (Merlot being the most planted grape), but excellent dry white wine and perhaps the finest botrytis affected dessert wines (Sauternes being the most famous) are also produced here. Some of the very best values in wine can also be found here in the so called ‘Petits Chateaux.’
Bordeaux is located in Southwest France and divided into two “banks” by the Garronne and Dordogne Rivers, which meet around the Haut-Medoc to form the Gironde, a large estuary that flows into the Atlantic. The left bank is comprised mainly of gravely soil which favors the Cabernet Sauvignon, with Merlot playing the major supporting role along with Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. The right bank soils are mainly clay and limestone with some gravel. Here Merlot is the star with Cabernet Franc complementing it. The Entre-Deux-Mers is the land located between the two rivers and possesses all of the soil types. It gives its name to only a white wine, even though more red grapes (mainly Merlot) are planted here.
The famed 1855 Classification of the Medoc divides the wines into five different Crus or Growths: the First Growths, or Premiers Crus being the most prestigious. This was based on the prices the wines fetched at that time, but is still regarded as relevant. To this day, Bordeaux’s Premiers Crus wines command some of the heftiest price tags in the wine industry; they are: Château Lafite-Rothchild (Pauillac), Château Margaux (Margaux), Château Latour (Pauillac), Château Haut-Brion Pessac-Leognan (Graves) and, since 1973, Château Mouton-Rothchild (Pauillac).