Probably, the most famous of all French wine regions is Bordeaux, the area extends 60 miles around the city along the rivers Gironde, Garonne and Dordogne creating Europe’s largest estuary and an ideal setting for winemaking that is complemented by a temperate climate with a short winter and high levels of humidity, courtesy of the nearby Atlantic Ocean.
Bordeaux was originally well known for its sweet white wines from the sub-region of Sauternes, but nowadays 90 per cent of Bordeaux wines are red. The red Bordeaux blend is one of the most imitated and most desired around the world and is made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec with small amounts of Carménère, almost extinct. The Cabernet Sauvignon is mostly used in blends on the Left Bank of the Gironde River, while the opposite Right Bank tends to carry a preference for Merlot – there are 60 appellations across both, playing host to more than 7000 wine-producing chateaux and more than 13000 growers. The best appellations from the left bank of the river are located in the sub-regions of Medoc and Graves and are Margaux, Saint-Julien, Pauillac, Saint-Estephe and Pessac-Léognan. And from the right bank of the river are Pomerol and Saint-Emilion.
Under the supervision of Napoleon III, in 1855, the Bordeaux classification was announced to guarantee quality and prestige worldwide. The classification includes the very best of Bordeaux wines from the Left Bank of the Gironde River and it ranked sixty top Bordeaux red, fifty-nine from the Medoc and one from Grave. The first rankings still stand 160 years later, with only one change made in 1973, which promoted Chateau Mouton Rothschild to Premier Cru status. The classification is divided into five Growths or Grand Cru Classés, with the top of the pyramid is made by just five extraordinary Chateaux with Premier Grand Cru Classé status - Château Lafite-Rothschild, Château Latour, Château Mouton Rothschild all three of them from Pauillac, Château Margaux from Margaux and Château Haut-Brion from Pessac. The classification also include fourteen fines sweet whites from Sauternes and Barsac - drawn up at the same time as the most famous Bordeaux’s.
The right bank of the river has never been part of the official 1855 Classification, and Saint-Emilion created its system for outlining quality in 1955, which has been updated more often with the last revision made in 2012. Properties are ranked based on four measures on a twenty point scale. The points are reputation, tasting, characteristics of the châteaux, and winemaking capabilities. The top châteaux wines are classified as Premier Grand Cru Classé A and B, with the Château Ausone, Château Cheval Blanc, Château Pavie and Château Angelus. Additionally, there is a less exceptional Grand Cru Classé classification. While there has never been an official classification for the Pomerol wines, certain châteaux are recognized among the best in their class such as Château Pétrus, Château Le Pin, Château Lafleur, Vieux Château Certan and Château Trotanoy.