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A Beginner’s Guide to Bordeaux Wine

Bordeaux is a traditional favourite among wine investors and collectors because of its high-quality red wines—typically Cabernet-Merlot blends with Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec varietals. Bordeaux was established by the Ancient Romans, officially classified in 1855, and dominates the auction sales market.

Why You Should Invest in Bordeaux Wines

Bordeaux wines are very high quality and tend to be highly regarded. This means that demand tends to outstrip supply. As such, they tend to have excellent value in the eye of the collector. Bordeaux wines are often in limited supply, which means a larger potential for value growth.

Bordeaux wines are sometimes challenging to find on the secondary market for purchase. However, the relative ease with which it can be aged means it is perfect for investors looking for a longer-term investment.

Bordeaux is an appellation with a long, rich history of producing high-quality red wines. The Bordeaux wine region is home to most of the best and most famous chateaux in the wine world. It is also home to some of the most prestigious and premium en primeur auctions throughout the year, helping support its high value.

5 Bordeaux Wine Varietals

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon varietals are predominantly found in the Bordeaux region. Cabernet is one of the four varietals most commonly used in Bordeaux wine. Along with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon is considered the most popular varietal globally. Cabernet Sauvignon is used to produce some of the world’s most famous and high-priced wines.

Cabernet Franc

Cabernet Franc is another varietal with a long history in Bordeaux. It was once considered a blending varietal, but it has since gained popularity as a varietal in its own right. Cabernet Franc also produces top-quality wines, such as Chateau Monbousquet and Grand Puy-Lacoste. The two varietals are often incorporated into the same wine.

Merlot

Merlot is the most crucial varietal in Saint-Emilion. It is one of the four most commonly-used varietals in Bordeaux. Merlot is also widely used in most French wines. It is commonly found in blends, but more and more, it is being used as a varietal in its own right. Merlot is typically denser and heavier than Cabernet Sauvignon.

Malbec

Malbec has become a growing varietal in Bordeaux. It has a strong reputation as a blending varietal in certain regions. It is a popular varietal in Argentina and has become popular in South American wine regions. Malbec is also becoming increasingly popular in the wine regions of Provence. It tends to be used predominantly in blends in France.

Petit Verdot

Petit Verdot is a varietal that has been historically used as a blending component in other Bordeaux varietals. It is typically used in blends and creates wines with strong tannin, high acidity and notes of cedar and truffles. However, it has become more prevalent in its own right. It is commonly found in Saint-Emilion and Pomerol.

Wine investment should always be approached with caution, but Bordeaux wine is a great option to consider.

Choosing Your Bordeaux

If you are overwhelmed by the cult status of Bordeaux, know that only ten per cent of these wines are technically collector’s class. Before you invest in any bottles, look at the label and consider a few things:

  • Where the wine comes from
  • Which appellation it is from
  • Who produced it
  • When it was bottled

1. Sub-Region

The first thing to look at is the sub-region. For example, the Pomerol region is based on the Left Bank of Bordeaux, while the Saint-Émilion area is on the Right Bank. You should try to pick a region and sub-region that you like before looking for a particular chateau. It’s important to remember that the sub-regions are never equal in terms of status—so, for example, Médoc is always more highly regarded than Graves.

2. Estate

Next, you need to think about the actual estate in question. Suppose a wine comes from a large estate. These estates tend to produce consistently high-quality wine and are often the choice of many consumers. Large estates such as Château Lafite Rothschild and Château Latour will often have more than one wine in any vintage, so it’s a good idea to understand what each wine is. If you get confused, go back to the appellation and sub-region to check where a wine comes from and ask yourself if you like that area.

3. Vintage

The vintage refers to the year that the wine was made, so it’s essential to pick a vintage and year you like before selecting the wine itself. Vintage is really just a year—it’s not a type of wine or a class of wine. Still, they’re often compared as though they are. Vintage years can vary a lot, which is why Bordeaux is often ranked as one of the most consistent fine wine regions—but it’s essential to look at a few different wines to see what you like.

The 1855 Classification of Bordeaux

The 1855 classification system was the first official classification in the history of Bordeaux wine. The Médoc classification system was created by Bordeaux’s wine brokers for the Paris Exposition Universelle as requested by Napaleon III. At the time, most chateaux in the region were not classified—making it difficult for consumers to find good wine. The 1855 Bordeaux classification ranked the top 58 estates in the Medoc (plus Haut-Brion from Graves) into five levels of Classified Growths based on price, reflecting each wine’s quality and demand.

The First Growths (1er Cru Classé)

There were only a handful of First Growths—or Premier Crus—in 1855, but they immediately established themselves as the highest quality wines in the region. They’re considered the finest and best wines in the Bordeaux region. 

  • Château Lafite Rothschild, Pauillac
  • Château Latour, Pauillac
  • Château Margaux, Margaux
  • Château Haut-Brion, Graves
  • Château Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac (reclassified from Second Growth status in 1973)

The Second Growths (2ème Cru Classé)

The Second Growth wines are also referred to as Deuxièmes Crus or Haut-Crus. These wines were created to fit the First Growths and the other Bordeaux wines and are considered essential chateaux and the best non-First Growths in the region.

  • Chateau Rauzan-Segla, Margaux
  • Chateau Rauzan-Gassies, Margaux
  • Chateau Leoville-Las Cases, St-Julien
  • Chateau Leoville-Poyferre, St-Julien
  • Chateau Leoville-Barton, St-Julien
  • Chateau Durfort-Vivens, Margaux
  • Chateau Gruaud-Larose, St-Julien
  • Chateau Lascombes, Margaux
  • Chateau Brane-Cantenac, Margaux
  • Chateau Pichon Longueville Baron, Pauillac
  • Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
  • Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, St-Julien
  • Chateau Cos d’Estournel, St-Estèphe
  • Chateau Montrose, St-Estèphe

The Third Growths (3ème Cru Classé)

The Third Growth wines were created to fill the gap between the Second Growths and the other Bordeaux wines. They’re still considered to be very high quality and expensive.

  • Chateau Kirwan, Margaux
  • Chateau d’Issan, Margaux
  • Chateau Lagrange, St-Julien
  • Chateau Langoa Barton, St-Julien
  • Chateau Giscours, Margaux
  • Chateau Malescot St Exupery, Margaux
  • Chateau Cantenac Brown, Margaux
  • Chateau Boyd-Cantenac, Margaux
  • Chateau Palmer, Margaux
  • Chateau La Lagune, Haut-Medoc
  • Chateau Desmirail, Margaux
  • Chateau Dubignon, Margaux
  • Chateau Calon-Segur, St-Estèphe
  • Chateau Ferrière, Margaux
  • Chateau Marquis d’Alesme Becker, Margaux

The Fourth Growths (4ème Cru Classé)

The Fourth Growths are sometimes referred to as Quatrièmes Crûs. They’re actually the most common Bordeaux wines in terms of numbers. 

  • Chateau Saint-Pierre, St-Julien
  • Chateau Talbot, St-Julien
  • Chateau Branaire-Ducru, St-Julien
  • Chateau Duhart-Milon, Pauillac
  • Chateau Pouget, Margaux
  • Chateau La Tour Carnet, Haut-Medoc
  • Chateau Lafon-Rochet, St-Estèphe
  • Chateau Beychevelle, St-Julien
  • Chateau Prieure-Lichine, Margaux
  • Chateau Marquis de Terme, Margaux

The Fifth Growth Chateaux

The Fifth Growths, or Cinquièmes Crûs, are the lowest ranking. 

  • Chateau Pontet-Canet, Pauillac
  • Chateau Batailley, Pauillac
  • Chateau Haut-Batailley, Pauillac
  • Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac
  • Chateau Grand-Puy-Ducasse, Pauillac
  • Chateau Lynch-Bages, Pauillac
  • Chateau Lynch-Moussas, Pauillac
  • Chateau Dauzac, Margaux
  • Chateau d’Armailhac, Pauillac
  • Chateau du Tertre, Margaux
  • Chateau Haut-Bages-Liberal, Pauillac
  • Chateau Pedesclaux, Pauillac
  • Chateau Belgrave, Haut-Medoc
  • Chateau de Camensac, Haut-Medoc
  • Chateau Cos Labory, St-Estèphe
  • Chateau Clerc-Milon, Pauillac
  • Chateau Croizet Bages, Pauillac
  • Chateau Cantemerle, Haut-Medoc [added in 1856]

Invest in Bordeaux

Bordeaux has a long history, with a wealth of traditions and some of the world’s most essential chateaux and vineyards. When purchasing a bottle, it’s essential to know that Bordeaux wine is typically very consistent, so even the lowest-ranked wines are generally considered high quality. If you’re looking to taste some of the best wines in the world, Bordeaux is an excellent place to start.

Cru Wine makes buying wine easy and simple with a more enriched experience. Founded in London in 2013 by wine passionates Gregory Swartberg and Kristiaan Nooitgedagt, Cru Wine aims to offer private clients an opportunity to buy and collect wine with a modern approach. If you want to invest in Bordeaux wine, you’ve come to the right place! Get in touch with us, and let’s talk!

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