The great wines of Bordeaux completely dominate wine investment and collecting. No other region offers the luxury brand status, or has the same climate and terroir. In 1855 Napoleon III requested a classification of France’s best Bordeaux wines, based solely on price. This created a recognised classification, ranking 58 red and 21 white wines from Premier Cru to Cinquième cru.Immutable ever since it has allowed the estates of Bordeaux to consistently push the boundaries of quality.
Bordeaux was once under a shallow tropical sea containing calcium rich shells, before turbulent geographic activity turned these shells into the rich limestone soil we see today. These fossils remained under swampland until the 17th Century when Dutch engineers drained the water uncovering the rocky mounds of gravel treasured today. Bordeaux’s climate is special, moderated by the influence of the Atlantic Ocean which creates a maritime climate, with moderate winters and warm but variable summers; as a result Bordeaux experiences significant vintage variation. The vines benefit from the Gulf Stream and the protective warming effect of the Gironde Estuary which splits into the Garonne, left-bank (Medoc) and the Dordogne, right-bank (St.Emilion, Pomerol).
The left bank, where Cabernet Sauvignon dominates, is closer to the Atlantic Ocean and the soil is predominately a mixture of gravel with a subsoil of clay. On the right-bank in St-Emilion, further away from the moderating influence of the Atlantic, the soil is predominately limestone, famed for retaining balanced amounts of water and providing an even uptake to the roots. In Pomerol clay dominates, allowing easy absorption of water, keeping the vines cool under the summer sun and helping the dominant Merlot grape retain its backbone of acidity. The four major grapes varieties in Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot are blended to create the eponymously named and emulated Bordeaux blend.