Bordeaux wine, sometimes referred to as Claret, is any wine produced in the Bordeaux region of southwest France. Bordeaux is centered on the city of Bordeaux, on the Garonne River. To the north of the city the Dordogne River joins the Garonne forming the broad estuary called the Gironde and covering the whole area of the Gironde department, with a total vineyard area of over 120,000 hectares making it the largest classified wine appellation in France.
The major reason for the success of winemaking in the Bordeaux region is the long-established history of winemaking as well as an excellent environment for growing vines. The geological foundation of the region is limestone, leading to a soil structure that is heavy in calcium. The Gironde estuary dominates the regions along with its tributaries, the Garonne and the Dordogne rivers, and together irrigate the land and provide an Atlantic Climate, also known as an oceanic climate, for the region. Bordeaux lies at the centre of the confluence of the Dordogne and Garonne Rivers, which flow into the Gironde.
These rivers define the main geographical subdivisions of the region:
"The right bank", situated on the right bank of Dordogne in the northern parts of the region around the city of Libourne. In this area wines produced are dominated by Merlot with a little Cabernet Sauvignon. The most famous wines are Saint Emilion and Pomerol.
Entre-Deux-Mers, French for "between two seas" is the area between the two rivers Dordogne and Garonne, in the centre of the region. This area is famous for its white wines both dry and sweet (where the grapes have been affected by noble rot (Botrytis).
"The left bank", situated on the left bank of Garonne, in the west and south of the region, around the city of Bordeaux itself. The left bank is further subdivided into:
Graves, the area upstream of the city Bordeaux.
Médoc, the area downstream of the city Bordeaux, situated on a peninsula between Gironde and the Atlantic at the Left Bank of the Gironde.
Cabernet Sauvignon dominates here but there is also a significant portion of Merlot in the wines too.
Permitted red grape varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec and there is a small amount of Carménère.
Several white grapes are permitted but the most common are Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Muscadelle.
There are four different classifications of Bordeaux, covering different parts of the region:
The Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855, covering (with one exception) red wines of Médoc, and sweet wines of Sauternes-Barsac.
The 1955 Official Classification of St.-Émilion, which is updated approximately once every ten years, and last in 2006.
The 1959 Official Classification of Graves initially classified in 1953 and revised in 1959.
The Cru Bourgeois Classification, which began as an unofficial classification, but came to enjoy official status and was last updated in 2003.
The 1855 classification system was made at the request of Emperor Napoleon III for the Exposition Universelle de Paris. This came to be known as the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855, which ranked the wines into five categories according to price. The first growth red wines (four from Médoc and one, Château Haut-Brion, from Graves), are among the most expensive wines in the world.
The first growths are:
Château Lafite Rothschild, Pauillac
Château Margaux, Margaux
Château Latour, Pauillac
Château Haut-Brion, Péssac-Leognan
Château Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac (promoted from second to first growth in 1973)
At the same time, the sweet white wines of Sauternes and Barsac were classified into three categories, with only Château d'Yquem being classified as a superior first growth.
In 1955, St. Émilion AOC were classified into three categories, the highest being Premier Grand Cru Classé A with two members:
Château Cheval Blanc
In the 2012 classification, two more Châteaux became members:
There is no official classification applied to Pomerol. However some Pomerol wines, notably Château Pétrus and Château Le Pin, are often considered as being equivalent to the first growths of the 1855 classification, and often sell for even higher prices.