On the Wine Road
In Bordeaux, wine is king. The Bordeaux region is the most important wine producing region in France with 119,000 hectares and almost 60 appellations. Divided in 5 sub regions Medoc (North-West), Graves (South-West), Entre-Deux-Mers (South-East), Rive-Droite (North East) and Sauternais (South-West), Bordeaux region hosts some of the best wines as well as some of the richest chateau owners in the world.
The 1855 Classification of Medoc and Graves
Taken with the 1851 London Great Exhibition, Napoleon decides in 1853 that France will hold its own Universal Exhibition that will bring together industry and fine art for the first time in Paris in 1855. Foremost political, he intends to demonstrate the glory of the nation by promoting traditions and culture. He asks for the best items produced in the country to be displayed at the exhibition.
Napoleon requests a classification of Bordeaux wines to feature the bests to visitors from all around the world. Then, brokers from the wine industry rank the wines from first to fifth growths (‘crus’) according to chateau’s reputation and trading price, which was directly related to quality. They select 60 wines, all of them from the Medoc region except for one: Château Haut-Brion from Graves. The classification barely change since 1855. Only one new chateau – chateau Cantemerle – enters the list in 1956 as a fifth growth. Also in 1973, the powerful baron Philippe de Rothschild, obtains the first growth grade for the initially second Mouton-Rothschild.
Another similar classification is made for sweet varieties of white wines from Sauternes and Barsac.
First growths (‘1ers Grands Crus Classés’)
- Château Lafite-Rothschild, Pauillac
- Château Latour, Pauillac
- Château Margaux, Margaux
- Château Mouton-Rothschild, Pauillac (1973)
- Château Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan
Second Growths (‘2èmes Grands Crus Classés’)
- Château Brane-Cantenac, Margaux
- Château Cos-d´Estournel, Saint-Estèphe
- Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, Saint-Julien
- Château Dufort-Vivens, Margaux
- Château Gruaud-Larose, Saint-Julien
- Château Lascombes, Margaux
- Château Léoville Las Cases, Saint-Julien
- Château Léoville Poyferré, Saint-Julien
- Château Léoville Barton, Saint-Julien
- Château Montrose, Saint-Estèphe
- Château Pichon-Longueville-Baron, Pauillac
- Château Pichon-Longueville-Comtesse, Pauillac
- Château Rauzan-Ségla, Margaux
- Château Rauzan-Gassies, Margaux
Third Growths (‘3èmes Grands Crus Classés’)
- Château Boyd-Cantenac, Margaux
- Château Calon-Ségur, Saint-Estèphe
- Château Cantenac-Brown, Margaux
- Château Desmirail, Margaux
- Château Ferrière, Margaux
- Château Giscours, Margaux
- Château d´Issan, Margaux
- Château Kirwan, Margaux
- Château Lagrange, Saint-Julien
- Château La Lagune, Haut-Médoc
- Château Langoa Barton, Saint-Julien
- Château Malescot-Saint-Exupéry, Margaux
- Château Marquis d´Alesme-Becker, Margaux
- Château Palmer, Margaux
Fourth Growths (‘4èmes Grands Crus Classés’)
- Château Beychevelle, Saint-Julien
- Château Branaire-Ducru, Saint-Julien
- Château Duhart-Milon-Rotschild, Pauillac
- Château Lafon-Rochet, Saint-Estèphe
- Château La Tour Carnet, Haut-Médoc
- Château Marquis de Terme, Margaux
- Château Pouget, Margaux
- Château Prieuré-Lichine, Margaux
- Château Saint-Pierre, Margaux
- Château Talbot, Saint-Julien
Fifth Growths (‘5èmes Grands Crus Classés’)
- Château d´Armailhac, Pauillac
- Château Batailley, Pauillac
- Château Haut-Batailley, Pauillac
- Château Bellegrave, Haut-Médoc
- Château Camensac, Haut-Médoc
- Château Cantemerle, Haut-Médoc
- Château Clerc-Milon, Pauillac
- Château Cos-Labory, Saint-Estèphe
- Château Croizet-Bages, Pauillac
- Château Dauzac, Margaux
- Château Grand-Puy Ducasse, Pauillac
- Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac
- Château Haut-Bages-Libéral, Pauillac
- Château Lynch-Bages, Pauillac
- Château Lynch-Moussas, Pauillac
- Château Pedesclaux, Pauillac
- Château Pontet-Canet, Pauillac
- Château du Tertre, Margaux
Bordeaux Wine Road
Bordeaux Wine Road is one of the most fascinating trip for wine lovers. With about 7,000 ‘chateaux’, it would be a life time to visit all of them. In a week or two, you will already enjoy some of the treasures offered by the region. To get the most of it, you might book a tour to visit some of the famous vineyards and wineries. Although, this is not necessary. If you plan a trip on your own, it is better to book your visits & tastings in advance. Some of them are free and some cost about 6 to 10 euros. In July and August, most of the ‘chateaux’ are open every day. And with the development of oenotourism, some of them are developing new kind of activities around wine & tasting but also concerts…
During the summer, Bordeaux is home to many exciting events and lively local festivals. The Apero’ Vigneron – winemaker aperitif – are a great way to combine wine tasting & regional tourism. Every Sunday at 6.00 pm, the Sorellina houseboat leave the Garonne River for a wine tasting with a winemaker from Blayais.
The 61 wines from Medoc classification are of course of great interest. So are many others out of the ranking. Note that syndicates from the wine industry ran two other classifications in 1966 and 1978. Updated in 2003, it is now known as the official ‘Crus Bourgeois’ classification. The list includes 247 wines from the Medoc.
Any vineyard from Graves are eligible for the ‘AOC’ appellation. Although most of them are situated in the area from Brede to Langon. 2/3 of the vineyards are dedicated to red wines production and 1/3 to white wines.
Rive-Droite is situated North of Bordeaux on the right side of the Gironde and Dordogne. It holds famous wines from Bourgeais and Blayais in the North-West, from the Libournais in the center including Saint Emilion, Pomerol and Fronsac, and from the Castillon in the East. If you’re coming from the Medoc, it is very nice to take the boat with your car from Lamarque to Blaye – also famous for the Citadel of Blaye (UNESCO world heritage site) – and then to drive South to Saint-Emilion and the Castillon. Saint-Emilion has its own wines’ classification since 1959, updated every 10 years. Last ranking was in 2006. The three categories (Premiers Grands Crus Classés A, Premiers Crus Classés B and Grand Crus Classés) now includes 74 wines.
Where to stay?
Bordeaux. Une Maison à partager. Marie-Cecile and Pascal are fantastic hosts who knows very well the region. They are real foodies and love to share their passion for healthy and organic food. Great breakfast. Dinner served on demand. Book on: http://www.bedandbreakfast.com/france-bordeaux-une-maison-partager-details.html.
Blaye. Les Denias. Very nice place and hosts. Dinner served on demand. To make a reservation, call Ms LIU on +33 5 57 64 32 93 or send an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saint-Emilion. Maison Girondine. What a lovely place to stay near Saint-Emilion. Quiet and peaceful. Book on: http://www.chambres-hotes.fr/chambres-hotes_maison-girondine_sainte-terre_24688.htm.