A Whistlestop Tour of Bordeaux

bordeaux tour

The spiritual home of fine wine, packed full of household names that have become bywords for luxury and quality, Bordeaux is where many begin their collections. Below is a brief snapshot of the appellations of the region, the big names, some under-the-radar gems and what it is that makes them all so special.

Pauillac – Classic, Quintessential Claret

Home to three of the five Left-Bank First Growths and therefore many of the greatest Bordeaux wines ever made, Pauillac is the benchmark for quintessential, reference-point claret. Powerful, often austere in youth and with massive ageing potential, this is where any Bordeaux collection should begin and end.

Money no objectLatour, Lafite and Mouton-Rothschild are often as good as it gets, hugely prestigious and essential for any world-class cellar.

Value picksGrand Puy Lacoste is superb for the money, especially in top vintages where it always over-performs. Also, look out for Clerc Milon and the old favourite Batailley.

Margaux – Ethereal, Elegant & Chic

The lightest, most elegant and ethereal wines of the Medoc are exemplified in the First Growth of Chateau Margaux. Good Margaux is rarely cheap and consistency has been patchy in the past, particularly at the lower end. However the appellation has undergone a serious resurgence in recent years

Money no objectPalmer and of course Chateau Margaux

Value picksRauzan Segla, one of our top picks in recent years, as well as Brane Cantenac and a resurgent D’Issan.

St Julien – Quality and Consistency Across the Board

Crowd-pleasing, approachable claret from an appellation packed full of over-performing chateaux. The famous second growths of Leovilles Las Cases, Poyferre & Barton are old favourites and there is plenty to get excited about across the board with excellent consistency in quality in almost every price bracket. Like Pauillac, the Bordeaux fan will find plenty to love in St Julien and won’t have to break the bank in doing so.

Money no objectLeoville Las Cases & Ducru Beaucaillou are at the top of the tree (both are frequently of First Growth quality.)

Value PicksLeoville & Langoa Barton are always fairly priced and very well made. In the great years, the fantastic Chateau Gloria offers exceptional value for money – look out for the 2009 & 2010.

St Estephe – Full of Character, Charm and Built for Ageing

Traditionally the most rustic, tannic and backward of the Left Bank appellations. Often takes a long time to come round, but the best is well worth waiting for.

Money no objectChateau Montrose. The 1989 and 1990 are two of the finest wines in Bordeaux history although they may well prove to be matched by the stunning 2009 & 2010.

Value PicksCalon Segur is a special Chateau and still very affordable. Dame de Montrose, the second wine of Chateau Montrose, is often better than many classed growths, and the 2010 is one of the best buys in recent years.

Pessac-Leognan – Sublime Reds and Unmissable Whites

An appellation that is home to world-class reds and also some of the greatest dry whites on the planet. Haut-Brion is the flagship First Growth here (awarded more 100 point scores from Parker than any of its peers) but La Mission Haut-Brion is often its equal.

Money no objectHaut Brion and La Mission Haut Brion for world class reds and hyper-expensive whites made in tiny quantities.

Value picks – Plenty to get excited about. Smith Haut Lafitte, Pape Clement and Domaine de Chevalier are all superb in the mid-tier and excellent for the money.

St Emilion – A Byword for Excellence

Merlot and Cabernet Franc dominate now we’re onto the clay soils of the Right Bank and the wines vary from utterly elegant to big and fleshy and everywhere in between. St Emilion is home to some fantastic quality from the superstars of Cheval Blanc and Pavie to the tiny garagistes making small-production wines such as Clos St Martin, La Mondotte and Tertre Roteboeuf.

Money no object – Cheval Blanc, Ausone, Angelus and Pavie are the most famous names but the list is a long one with a plethora of tiny properties making miniscule amounts of stunning quality.

Value Picks – Croix de Labrie & Clos St Martin – both are tiny production and full of charm. These are a coup for any cellar.

Pomerol – The Home of Petrus and Le Pin

Small estates, clay soils, Merlot and some of the most expensive wines in the world, Pomerol is a go-to appellation for those wanting rich, opulent Bordeaux packed with character.

Money No Object – Le Pin and Petrus. Both have become synonymous with luxury, prestige and exclusivity. Not far behind in terms of quality and slightly more affordable, though still very much in the luxury bracket, Eglise Client and Vieux Chateau Certan are both exceptional.

Value Picks – Feytit Clinet is superb and still an absolute bargain. Gravette de Certan is the excellent second wine of Vieux Chateau Certan. Le Moulin, often compared by Robert Parker to Le Pin in style but a fraction of the price, is also well worth seeking out.


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