The Mountain Times

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The success of Bordeaux

The Bordeaux region of France is the third largest wine-growing area in the world with just less than 300,000 acres under vine.

Only the Languedoc wine region (also in France) with over 600,000 acres under vine is larger and California in total with more than 500,000 acres would be second. But consider that all of the European territory of France with just over 211,000 sq. mi. is only about 25% larger than all of California (160,000 sq mi). Located halfway between the North Pole and the equator, there is more vineyard land planted in Bordeaux than in all of Germany or ten times the amount planted in New Zealand.

The biggest reason for the success of winemaking in the Bordeaux region is the favorable environment for growing vines. Geologically the region is dominated by limestone, leading to a soil structure that is heavy in calcium. The Gironde estuary brings water to the regions along with its tributaries, the Garonne and the Dordogne rivers, and together they irrigate the land and provide a maritime climate for the region.

Regarded one of the best, Chateau Haut-Brion was the first recorded 'First Growth' to be imported to the United States, when Thomas Jefferson purchased six cases during his French travels and had them sent back to his estate in Virginia. For the centuries since, admirals, an archbishop, a Grand Marshal of France, a Governor of Guyenne, three mayors of Bordeaux, and more recently the Ambassador of the United States in Paris, C. Douglas Dillon, who was Secretary of the U.S. Treasury when John F. Kennedy was President, have been owners of the estate. Today it is the Duchesse de Mouchy, granddaughter of American banker Clarence Dillon, making Haut-Brion the only first-growth Chateau to be American-owned.

 "Château Haut-Brion" is the only non-Médoc estate to be included in the classification of 'Premier Cru Classé' in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. Located in the Graves region only a mile from the city of Bordeaux, the vineyard consists of 109 acres producing 12,000 to 15,000 cases of wine each year. The best vineyards are located on the well-drained gravel soils that are frequently found near the Gironde River. An old saying in Bordeaux claims the best estates can "see the river" from their vineyard.
Red Bordeaux, which is also known as Claret in the U.K. or Meritage in the U.S. is generally made from a blend of grapes. Allowed grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Carmenere. Malbec and Carmenere are seldom used these days, and if so, only in small quantities.

White Bordeaux, including the sweet Sauternes, is made from Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Muscatelle. One of the nicest whites comes from Château Lamothe, just outside of the Graves region. It has huge underground cellars in the quarries that were excavated in the 17th century to build many of the other Estates around Bordeaux.

 Steeped in history, Bordeaux still sets the standard for many, when it comes to great wine.

Tagged: Bordeaux, Wine Experiments