Overview of Bordeaux's Wine
Whenever I'm traveling, I always try to visit local vineyards if the region we are staying in is known for wine. Over the years, I've grown a general curiosity about the different types of wines and the history that goes with it.
So naturally, when Samantha and I were headed to our second trip to France together, we had to spend part of time in one of the most renowned wine regions in the world, Bordeaux. After a few days, I by no means became an expert on Bordeaux wine but would say I know know a little bit more than your average wine drinker. Here is a quick run down.
The best place to start is the Medoc region which is home to the 1855 classification system, but more on that later. This was the first region we visited on our trip and is where we did our full day wine tour with Bordovino. Wine from Bordeaux is predominately red and the wines from this region are no exception as the most common types are Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Now, for the classification, in 1855 Napoleon had asked for a classification of of the best wines from the region. What came of it was a five tier system with different chateaus ranked on each of the five levels. There are of course hundreds of chateaus in the region that aren't on the classification system and even some who basically share the same land as those ranked in the first tier of the classification system. So a pro trip is to figure out unclassified chateaus next to a chateau on the classification system and then buy bottles from there. This way, they will be significantly cheaper but you’ll know it’s excellent wine because it is from the same plot of land.
In terms of the top chateaus, there are five chateaus that are the first level of the classification system. They are Chateau Margaux, Chateau Haut-Brion, Chateau Latour, Chateau Mouton Rothschild and Chateau Lafite Rothschild. And if the last two sound familiar, it's because it is the same Rothschild family that was so prominent in the New York social scene. If you were to buy a bottle in a restaurant from one of these vineyards, it better be a special occasion as it is going to break the bank.
While the Medoc region is one of the better known regions, the Saint Emillion region can also give it a run for it’s money. They decided to also come up with their own classification system with the highest being chateaus ranked as Grand Cue Classe.
And while the five chateau’s I mentioned above from Medoc will add a comma to your bill if you were to buy a bottle, the most expensive bottle from the region you will find is a few miles down the road from Saint Emillion in Persol, by a Chateau called Petrus. A bottle from Petrus will at least run you a few thousand if not over $10,000 depending on the vintage.
A few more tips on Bordeaux wine before I overload you with information:
-Typically chateau’s make two bottles, their main label bottle which will be more expensive and then a less expensive table wine
-In order for a Bordeaux wine to be a true Bordeaux wine, it must have the picture of the chateau printed on the label
-The region of Bordeaux is very strict in terms of the type of wines it can produce unlike regions such as Napa thus you will only find certain types of wines from this region
-The best vintage years are 2005, 2009 and 2010
-A visit to a chateau is about $10 - $20 and you can try to drop in but should make an appointment ahead of time