Drinks Atlas: Bordeaux, France - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

Drinks Atlas: Bordeaux, France

In the world of wine, Bordeaux’s reputation easily precedes it—even if that reputation only represents a fraction of the region. “People think it’s expensive. Even wine professionals will say, ‘Oh, I can’t afford to like Bordeaux,’” says Mary Gorman-McAdams, a Master of Wine and instructor with the Bordeaux wine school, who is also an independent wine consultant and educator working as a U.S. trade advisor for the CIVB. “That’s because the Grand Crus Classés are what’s most associated with Bordeaux. But they only represent 5 percent of the volume produced.” The remaining 95 percent comes from a region both vast and varied.

Bordeaux is the largest AOC in France by almost half, covering more than 270,000 acres and comprised of 65 individually recognized appellations within the main designations. “It’s a diversity of prices and a diversity of styles,” Gorman-McAdams says. “The average price of a bottle of Bordeaux here in the U.S. is $20.”

Not that Bordeaux hasn’t earned its lofty reputation. Vines have been grown in the region for thousands of years dating back to the Romans, with centuries of setbacks and advancements. Today more than 6,000 winemakers (65 percent of which are family-owned estates) create a wide range of styles. The region’s terroir—colloquially divided between the left and right bank of the Gironde—and an ideal climate have also played a large role.

“It’s predominantly gravels on the left bank, and gravels retain heat and drain really well, so they’re perfect to ripen Cabernet Sauvignon. You’ve got the deep clays, cooler soils, and limestone across on the right bank,” explains Gorman-McAdams. “And then you’ve got the oceanic climate. What’s really important is the gulf stream, which prolongs the warmth in the fall. You often hear in Bordeaux that it’s September that saves the harvest.”

However, increasingly erratic weather is escalating the push for sustainability efforts, and 75 percent of the vineyard area has now achieved some form of certification, with the most falling under Haute Valeur Environnementale. “It’s less strict than organic in terms of treatments, but has much higher requirements in terms of biodiversity and how you mind and manage your people, so it’s a much more holistic approach,” she says. “Bordeaux is a very large region, so it’s not like a sailboat in the harbor; it’s more like a tanker, and it takes a while to crank up and get going, but when it does …”

5 to Try

Château Paloumey, Haut-Médoc

The vast AOC of the Médoc is home to some of Bordeaux’s most famous (and expensive) vineyards, as well as smaller estates with a new generation of winemakers utilizing sustainable practices and crafting modern wines, like this lush, juicy red blend from Château Paloumey. $28.97, winechateau.com

Château Marsau, Francs, Côtes de Bordeaux

Family estate Château Marsau in the Francs appellation has been 100 percent organic since 2021, and is also planted fully to Merlot, resulting in their highly acclaimed single-varietal wine. Gorman-McAdams recommends the 2016 vintage for its succulent fruit and refined character. $24.99, wine.com

Calvet Crémant de Bordeaux Brut Rosé

Although the maison Calvet was founded in 1818, this crisp, fruit-forward sparkling rosé, made via the méthode traditionnelle, is representative of the more modern styles emerging from Bordeaux, notes Gorman-McAdams. $16.99, wine.com

Château Thieuley Blanc

Gorman-McAdams points to the women-owned family estate Château Thieuley for their excellent representation of Bordeaux’s dry white style. The blanc is a blend of primarily Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc, offering fresh flavors of white fruit and citrus. $12.99, grapeandstill.com

Clos Floridène Blanc

From the small Graves-region estate founded by the late Denis Dubourdieu, who was a seminal figure in the modernization of Bordeaux dry whites, the Clos Floridène Blanc offers bright acidity with flavors of grapefruit and grassy herbs. $26.99, totalwine.com

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