Situated in the beautiful South-West of France, the Bordeaux region is one of the largest wine-growing areas in France with a total area of over 125,000 hectares. With the Atlantic Ocean to the west of the region, the land’s coastal temperatures are mitigated by the Gulf Stream pulling warm tropical currents up its western shores. This makes the Bordeaux region the ideal place for vines to thrive. On average, the region produces a staggering 900,000 million bottles of wine a year and the range of wines varies from large quantities of common Vin de Pays, to some of the most prestigious, sought after and expensive wines in the world.
Bordeaux has huge swathes of vine covered land owned by over 9800 producers, making wine tailored to a variety of styles. Commonly, the vines grown to the left of the river Garonne and the Gironde estuary are referred to as the ‘Left Bank’- with its key sub regions being the Medoc and Graves & Pessac-Leognan. The vineyards to the right of the Dordogne River and the Gironde are referred to as the ‘Right Bank’- its key sub regions being Pomerol and St-Emilion. Over the many centuries, granite deposits from the river have characterised the ‘terroir’ of the land, in particular on the Left Bank, in comparison to the Right Bank’s limestone soils.
The terroir plays a huge part in determining which grape varietals will thrive, thereby giving the Left Bank and Right Bank’s appellations their own distinct wine styles. Across the entire Bordeaux region, the region produces more famous red wine than any other region in the world. The region also produces some superb dry white wines, decadent sweet wines and some fine examples of rosé and Sparkling wines all produced over a staggering 60 appellations.
The History of Bordeaux Wine
The history of the Bordeaux region is long and extensive, however almost every key aspect of its history is intertwined with its wine making. In or around 60BC the Romans dominated the region, planting vineyards and cultivating their prized grape varietal of choice, Biturica. The Romans thrived off the production of wine from this grape, noting that the hardy grape and climate were perfectly matched. After the end of the Roman Empire and right into the Middle Ages, vineyards planted off the Gironde continued to be cultivated.
By 1152, the then future King of England, King Henry II and the Duchess of Aquitaine married, with the superb Bordeaux wines being served at the ceremony! This union of France and England led to the wines of the region almost exclusively being traded with Great Britain, and vineyards were extended to cover a large part of the Right Bank. After the Hundred’s Year War between France and England, which brought an obvious stop to wine trade, the region's trade bloomed with other countries that took up the mantle and encouraged wine making in the region to thrive. The Dutch played a huge role in this, implementing new storage techniques and making wine distribution easier.
By the 17th Century, the collective wine making region of ‘Vignoble de Bordeaux’ was born. The wine region was in its element! In 1855, a new winemaking classification was introduced so that consumers could identify the best of the wines and regions with ease. This classification system has barely changed to this day and despite the impact of the World Wars on the region, by the 1980s, Bordeaux was on the world's map for producing red wines set to dominate the industry, auctions and collectors cellars worldwide.
The grape varietals permitted to be used within the region are determined by the appellation within which the winemaker is operating.
Bordeaux red wines are permitted to use six grape varietals; Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carménère. The best producers tend to only polarise on three varietals, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot being King. The importance of giving the winegrowers a number of varietal options is as a result of each varietal flowering at different times. Should one crop fail as a result of the adverse weather that the Bordeaux region can occasionally be prone to, they can rely on another varietal to supplement the style of the wine.
Cabernet Sauvignon, being a key varietal in the region is a bold grape, bringing power, dense black fruit flavours and tannins to the wine. It thrives on the Left Bank.
Merlot being Cabernet Sauvignon’s equal in winemaking, are often blended together and referred to as the ‘Bordeaux Blend’. Merlot thrives on the Right Bank and brings juicy berries and a softening to Cabernet Sauvignon’s raw power.
A delicious example of this balancing act between grape varietals can be tasted in our Bordeaux: Château De Bonhoste Red 2019. A splendidly well rounded, well balanced, dark fruited red wine, with softened medium tannins and acidity, perfect when paired with a Veal dish.
White Bordeaux wines are permitted to use seven grape varietals; Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadelle, Colombard, Merlot Blanc, Sauvignon Gris and Ugni Blanc. Once again, grape growers polarise on three varietals, with the others merely being auxiliary. Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc being Queen of the varietals.
When Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc are blended together, they create a stunning aroma and complexity sought after and cherished by many white wine lovers worldwide as they perfectly hold their refreshing acidity. Muscadelle often appears in the blend to bring a spicy, aromatic quality that makes Bordeaux white wines a delight to drink.
An example of a sublime Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc blend Bordeaux white wine can be enjoyed in our Bordeaux: Château Anniche White 2018. This luscious, pale gold, white Bordeaux wine has fresh citrus notes balanced with inviting exotic fruit, lychee and mango aromas. The undertones of white blossom notes, lemon grass harmonised with its tangy acidity on the palate, makes this a must have should one wish to explore a classic Bordeaux white wine.
Bordeaux Wine Styles
With Bordeaux AOC being the larger regions appellation, sub regions with their own appellations and styles have been created each showing how each appellations’ terroir has characterised its wine style. With over 60 appellations within the wider Bordeaux region, there is sure to be a wine to suit any taste.
At Pierre Hourlier Wines, we have selected some of the best wines from across the region, to reflect the differing styles that can be found in the region, balancing quality with superb value.
Red Bordeaux and Red Bordeaux Superieur
At the wines simplest, the wines are classified as Bordeaux AOC to reflect the larger region, or Bordeaux Superior being those deemed more superior in quality to the larger Bordeaux AOC wines.
Above this, there are more specific appellation sub regions located on both the Left and Right Bank of the Bordeaux region, such as Haut-Medoc, Pomerol and Margaux. Grand Cru wines are deemed the best of the best!
Should you wish to ‘up the ante’ in your Bordeaux wine tasting experience, our Bordeaux Supérieur: Château Brun Despagne Querre 2014 is a superb superieur at exceptional value. This wine is a stunning, deep, seductive red wine with extra concentration of flavours as a result of low yield grapes being utilised and ageing in new oak barrels.
Red Cotes de Bordeaux
Cotes de Bordeaux of the Right Bank appellations is one of the newer appellations in the Bordeaux region and is made up of:
-Blaye- Côtes de Bordeaux, known for its merlot predominant wines;
-Cadillac- Côtes de Bordeaux situated on the hills overlooking Grave;
-Castillon- Côtes de Bordeaux which produces wines akin to the style of St-Emillion without carrying the big price tag; and
-Francs- Côtes de Bordeaux known for quality wines at a reasonable value.
At Pierre Hourlier wines, we have a selection of Cotes de Bordeaux wines which each display the appellations uniqueness:
The Left Bank appellation of Medoc produces some of the Bordeaux regions most famous red wines with the best of the vineyards growing on the gravelly, heat retaining soils within the Haut-Medoc appellation.
At Pierre Hourlier Wines, our Medoc: Chateau Villa Carmin Red 2016 is one of our most exclusive production wines, with only 12,000 bottles produced per annum, from a plot of 2 hectares. A discernible dark fruit aroma wine with a marked edge of oak, makes this wine a perfect pair with white meats or cheese boards.
A fantastic Haut-Medoc wine, Haut-Medoc: Château Grandis Red 2012, is a deep, bold, tannic wine with aromas of blackcurrant, blackberry, oak, leather and granite.A delight on its own or when paired with beef, game or large flat mushrooms.
‘Libournais’ wines, commonly refers to those marvellous, merlot predominant wines of the Right Bank in Bordeaux. It is not an appellation in itself however the reference includes those superb, lighter wines of the Right Bank wines such as those found in Pomerol and Saint-Émilion. They can be separated in character as they are usually wines that are soft, less tannic, well rounded and best drunk young. These are the wines to enjoy when you want something simple and enjoyable whilst offering more complexity than the wider region’s Bordeaux AOC wines.
The largest dry white wine appellations are that of Bordeaux Blanc and Entre-Deux-Mer (‘between two seas’). The wines are almost always a blend of the key white grape varietals of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon and are incredibly drinkable. Some fine examples of dry white wines are prized from within the Left Bank Grave and Pessac Leognan appellations.
The sweet wines of Bordeaux are some of the best in the world, masterly blending Sémillon with smaller quantities of Sauvignon Blanc and sometimes Muscadelle for balance. Interestingly, the wine growers obtain the desired sweetness of the wines by allowing the grapes to succumb to what is known as ‘Botrytis’ or fondly referred to as ‘Noble rot’. The rot is not your standard ‘rot’, it is a particular kind that when managed for a purpose such as creating sweet wine, pierces the skin of the grape, allowing for water in the grape to evaporate, leaving behind a delicious concentration of sugar, acid and flavours. The artistry and mastery of winegrowing required to ensure the right balance is achieved is admirable.
Two key styles of sweet wines are enjoyed in Bordeaux. The first being the decadent, bold, syrupy sweet lusciousness of Sauternes and Barsac sweet wines. The best example of these sweet wines can be aged for decades. Their lighter, less full bodied styles can be seen in those of the Cadillac and Loupiac appellations amongst others, and are often enjoyed young. They are the perfect substitute for the prestigious Sauternes appellation wines.
At Pierre Hourlier Wines, we are pleased to be able to offer some superbly valued examples covering both styles. Our Cadillac sweet wine, Cadillac: Château Haut-Roquefort 2014, offers rich opulence at great value, with a nose of candied fruits and a lingering aromatic finish.
A sublime, opulent, memorable Sauternes sweet wine can be found in our Sauternes: Château Haut-Bergeron 2015. A hugely popular wine, being both rich and luscious, with a perfumed nose of apricot and spice, ending with a long, exceptional aftertaste.
Buy Bordeaux Wine from Hourlier Wines
At Pierre Hourlier Wines, we have an exceptional range of some truly superb examples of Bordeaux wines, covering many of the appellations located within the region, which you can buy online, directly from us. Our specialism and expertise is in being able to seek out and offer our customers excellent quality Bordeaux wines at an exceptional value. Without extensive experience or expertise such as those found in a specialise merchant such as ourselves, this can be hard to achieve given the huge variance in wines produced in the Bordeaux region- from lesser quality wines- to bottles selling at auctions across the world at some of the highest prices of any commodity in the world! We pride ourselves in knowing we have brought our customers some of the best examples, at affordable prices and exceptional value.
Our Pomerol: Chateau Brun Mazeyres 2016 is a perfect example of a prime quality wine, at exceptional value. A firm popular amongst our customers seeking an excellent quality Bordeaux, this wine offers intense aromas of blackberry fruit, brambles, plum and herbaceous notes, whilst maintaining elegance on the palate with lovely depth and a lively finish.
Our wine producers have been carefully sought by us and by dealing directly with the vineyards, we have tasted, sourced and brought the wines to you, to be bought either directly from our store or from our website. Should you have any queries on wine selection or would like a personal recommendation, please feel free to contact us and we would be delighted to share our expertise, discussing your tastes and requirements with you.
How do I best serve Bordeaux wine?
Bordeaux red wines are best served at room temperature. As is the case with many delicious red wines- especially those you wish to drink now, are young, or have been aged- we always suggest you decant these first, allowing the wine to breathe. This can either be achieved by using a purpose bought decanter or if you do not have one to hand, even a jug will do! Allowing a Bordeaux wine to breathe really brings out the flavours and notes of the wine. Once you see the difference, you’ll want to decant all your red wines before drinking them!
Bordeaux white wines are best served chilled to lightly chilled. We would recommend bringing the wine out of your refrigerator a short time before serving to allow the flavours and notes to come out and shine.
What food is best paired with Bordeaux wine?
Bordeaux red wines are predominantly made of the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grape varieties known as the ‘Bordeaux blend’. This means the wines often have beautifully balanced notes of dark berry fruits, plum, hints of red fruits and herbaceous or minty elements. They are the perfect pairing to meats such as veal, lamb and game dishes. They also pair well with bolder vegetable dishes with lush beefy mushrooms, and of course cheese boards.
Bordeaux white wines, often a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon are a perfect pairing to white meats and light, fragrant salads.
As for Bordeaux’s sweet wines, they are a perfect complement to any sweet dessert however the key is to pair with desserts that are a little less sweet that the wine itself. This keeps the wine from being overpowered on the palate and you can retain the fruity, candied, honey notes of the wine in each taste.
How long does Bordeaux wine last?
The best Bordeaux red wines can be aged for decades, particularly from vintages noted to have been exceptional years for the wine growers. At Pierre Hourlier Wines, we’ve made this step simple for you by noting on each product description an approximate indication of how long the wines can be aged for, in the right storage conditions. Please contact us should you require specific advice for a particular wine, or if you would like assistance with storage suggestions. We are always happy to share our expertise and assist where we can to help you achieve the best experience from your wine.
What is the best Bordeaux wine?
As with all wines, the best Bordeaux wines will always be the wine style that you have found you enjoy most, suited to your own individual palate. However, there are some villages, and Chateaux that have been noted to be simply the best of the best, and afforded Grand Cru status. At Pierre Hourlier Wines, we highly recommend the following which we deem to be exceptional examples of Bordeaux wines to be enjoyed now or aged: