The Wine Regions

Bordeaux is arguably  the most famous grape growing region of France and the world. Stunning châteaux dot the countryside and idyllic vineyards line the old roads everywhere you drive out from the city of Bordeaux. The wine region extends 100 kilometres around the city along three rivers – the Gironde, Garonne and Dordogne. The megastar châteaux are found up in the Médoc on the Left Bank situated on the Atlantic Ocean side of the rivers Gironde and Garonnne where you can find the appellations of  St Estèphe, Pauillac, Saint-Julien, Margaux, Haut-Médoc, Listrac Médoc and Moulis en Medóc. The right bank to the right and north of the Dordogne river, offers Pomerol, Saint-Émilion and their satellite appellations whereas south of the city you come across the appellations of Pessac-Léognan, Graves, Barsac and Sauternes.


The region can trace their ancestral roots back 2,000 years to when the Romans had rule over the area. It is now home to many of the world’s most well known châteaux, but these high-profile wine producers make up only a small fraction of the area’s 100,000+ha of vines which cover the Gironde area in Aquitaine. Below is a brief overview of the main regions and appellations to be found around Bordeaux city. 

'The name Bordeaux has become synonymous with elitism particularly the red wines. The world's most famous châteaux are to be found in the countryside surrounding the old city of Bordeaux.'

Map of Bordeaux Appellations
Map of Bordeaux Appellations

Left Bank - The Médoc

The left bank is where the most expensive wines in Bordeaux are mainly found. The famous appellations of Margaux,  Saint-Julien, Pauillac and St-Estèphe are all lined up the Médoc peninsula along with Haut-Médoc and other surrounding appellations such as Moulis en Médoc and Listrac. These appellations all have a focus on red wine making with Cabernet Sauvignon generally featured more heavily in the blends followed by Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Famous names such as Lafite, Latour, Mouton Rothschild and Chateau Margaux are all found here. The world's finest Cabernet Sauvignon blends are made in this beautiful part of Bordeaux. 

The Médoc begins just north of Bordeaux city and stretches all the way north, past the appellation of St-Estèphe to the Le Verdon port. The Left Bank is known for its gravelly soil deposits, giving the vines excellent drainage - perfect conditions for the Cabernet Sauvignon grape. The wines made here are famously robust with higher levels of tannin, making the wines ideal for aging for the long term. These wines display concentrated black fruit, balanced acidity, high tannins and have the structure and body to last for decades.


The Left Bank is where you find all of  the First Growth Bordeaux wines, along with all the other 1855 Classified Bordeaux wines of the Medoc including the Second Growths, Third Growths, Fourth Growths, and Fifth Growths. In addition, the Left Bank of Bordeaux has more than 200 châteaux that are classified as Cru Bourgeois. While most of these Cru Bourgeois are located in the appellation of Haut-Médoc, others are situated all over the Médoc peninsula. Cooped up down quiet roads you can find small châteaux which are comparatively unknown outside of the Médoc. 


The famous classification of the Médoc took place back in 1855. This ranking system was put in place by Napoleon III himself and still influences the wine market today. It was a classification system for France's best Bordeaux wines. The châteaux were ranked in importance from first to fifth growths (crus). All of the châteaux that made it on the list came from the Médoc region except for one: Château Haut-Brion from Graves.


The Official 1855 Classification


First-Growths / Premières Crus


Château Lafite Rothschild Pauillac 

Château Latour Pauillac 

Château Margaux Margaux 

Château Haut-Brion 


Second-Growths / Deuxièmes Crus


Château Mouton-Rothschild (elevated to first-growth in 1973) Pauillac 

Château Rausan-Ségla (Rauzan-Ségla) Margaux 

Château Rauzan-Gassies Margaux 

Château Léoville Las Cases St.-Julien 

Château Léoville Poyferré St.-Julien 

Château Léoville Barton St.-Julien 

Château Durfort-Vivens Margaux 

Château Gruaud-Larose St.-Julien 

Château Lascombes Margaux 

Château Brane-Cantenac Cantenac-Margaux (Margaux) 

Château Pichon-Longueville Baron Pauillac 

Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande (Pichon Longueville Lalande) Pauillac 

Château Ducru-Beaucaillou St.-Julien 

Château Cos-d'Estournel St.-Estèphe 

Château Montrose St.-Estèphe


Third-Growths / Troisièmes Crus


Château Kirwan Cantenac-Margaux (Margaux) 

Château d'Issan Cantenac-Margaux (Margaux) 

Château Lagrange St.-Julien 

Château Langoa Barton St.-Julien 

Château Giscours Labarde-Margaux (Margaux) 

Château Malescot-St.-Exupéry Margaux 

Château Cantenac-Brown Cantenac-Margaux (Margaux) 

Château Boyd-Cantenac Margaux 

Château Palmer Cantenac-Margaux (Margaux) 

Château La Lagune Ludon (Haut-Médoc) 

Château Desmirail Margaux 

Château Calon-Ségur St.-Estèphe 

Château Ferrière Margaux 

Château Marquis-d'Alesme-Becker Margaux


Fourth-Growths / Quatrièmes Crus


Château St.-Pierre St.-Julien 

Château Talbot St.-Julien 

Château Branaire-Ducru St.-Julien 

Château Duhart-Milon Rothschild Pauillac 

Château Pouget Cantenac-Margaux (Margaux) 

Château La Tour Carnet St.-Laurent (Haut-Médoc) 

Château Lafon-Rochet St.-Estèphe 

Château Beychevelle St.-Julien 

Château Prieuré-Lichine Cantenac-Margaux (Margaux) 

Château Marquis de Terme Margaux


Fifth-Growths / Cinquièmes Crus


Château Pontet-Canet Pauillac 

Château Batailley Pauillac 

Château Haut-Batailley Pauillac 

Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste Pauillac 

Château Grand-Puy-Ducasse Pauillac 

Château Lynch Bages Pauillac 

Château Lynch-Moussas Pauillac 

Château Dauzac Labarde (Margaux) 

Château Mouton-Baronne-Philippe (Château d'Armailhac after 1989) Pauillac 

Château du Tertre Arsac (Margaux) 

Château Haut-Bages Libéral Pauillac 

Château Pédesclaux Pauillac 

Château Belgrave St.-Laurent (Haut-Médoc) 

Château Camensac (Château de Camensac) St.-Laurent (Haut-Médoc) 

Château Cos Labory St.-Estèphe 

Château Clerc Milon Pauillac 

Château Croizet-Bages Pauillac 

Château Cantemerle Macau (Haut-Médoc)

The Right Bank

The right bank is where you find the famous appellations of Pomerol and Saint-Émilion. The famous clay soils of Pomerol and the limestone-based vineyards found in many of the best Saint-Émilion terroirs are home to the most highly prized Merlot dominant blends including Château Ausone, Château Cheval Blanc, Petrus, Château Angelus, Château Figeac and Château Pavie.


Cabernet Franc is the second grape variety often used in the production of the wines made here. The wine style is generally smoother than the left bank powerhouses. The right bank tend to have lower levels of tannin and milder acidity.  Luscious red wines found here are caked in dark fruit chocolate, spice and liquorice. 


Saint-Émilion’s picturesque village is a fortified medieval town located on top of the limestone hilltop above the Dordogne river in Bordeaux, France. Here you can find many fine wine stores and wine bars.

South Appellations

South of Bordeaux on the left bank you find the famous appellations of  Pessac-Léognan, Sauternes, Barsac and other appellations. This region is bordered on the north by the Garonne river and is known for its intensely gravelly soil and unctuous sweet wines. 


The region of Graves, located just south of the city of Bordeaux, is home to the first growth estate Château Haut-Brion. The area specialises in red wines made predominantly from Cabernet Sauvignon and to a lesser degree Merlot. The white wine is made using Sauvignon blanc and Sémillon. These wines are rich and creamy, full bodied and age-worthy.


Further south you find Basrac and then Sauternes which is the most famous region in Bordeaux making sweet, golden-colored white wines.  Sauternes is famous around the world for these sweet dessert wines. The wine is made using grapes which are affected by a fungus called Botrytis cinerea. This fungus causes a ‘noble rot’ to form whereby Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Muscadelle grapes shrivel, resulting in the berries increasing in flavour and sugar concentration. Botrytis occurs in the region when there are warm and dry weather conditions, along with a mist which forms from the nearby river which descends over the vineyards during the night, promoting the growth of the fungus. Some extremely famous producers are found in the region including Château d’Yquem which fetches insanely high prices.