The ‘left bank’ is the area of Bordeaux vineyards that lie to the west of the Gironde estuary and the Garonne River.
The red wines of the left bank are typically rich in Cabernet Sauvignon and are known for their complexity and aging potential.
The Médoc, to the north of Bordeaux city, is made up of 8 appellations. The most famous of these are Margaux, St-Julien, Pauillac and St-Estèphe.
In 1855 Napoleon III had the very best wines of the Médoc classified in a pyramid of 5 levels. These are known as the 1st to 5th Growths. Only the very top rung of châteaux were included so even 5th Growth wines were considered to be exceptional. The classification remains largely unchanged since 1855.
The Médoc appellations neighbour one another but their wines are subtly different in character from one another. Let GT schedule in a private wine tasting and coaching session for you and you can understand these differences and learn which are your preferred appellations.
The Graves area to the south of Bordeaux city is also home to the Pessac-Leognan appellation known in equal measure for its white wines as well as its reds. Its most prestigious vineyard, Château Haut-Brion, was the only red wine château not from the Médoc to be included in the 1855 classification. It received the exalted 1st Growth status during this classification (one of only 5 vineyards to achieve this accolade).
The Sauternes and Barsac appellations lie further south still. They are situated in an area where the interactions of the Garonne and Ciron Rivers cause early morning mists to encourage the white wine grapes to be attacked by the bacteria Botrytis. This brings about what is known as ‘noble rot’ – a natural process that concentrates the sugar levels in the grapes. When pressed these grapes release the nectar that develops into the famous sweet white wines of Bordeaux. The wines of this region were also classified in 1855 and the most famous and highly ranked of all was Château d’Yquem. Even today its wines stand out as being something extremely special compared to its counterparts.
The countryside and culture in the Sauternes area is very different to that of the rest of the Bordeaux region. We would highly recommend that you allow us to put some time aside in your itinerary to visit this region even if you are not currently fans of sweet white wines.