Since we began coverage on our recent sojourn to Bordeaux, I have received e-mails and calls discussing the rise and fall of French wine.
Many want to know where to find good French wines, while some argue that French wines no longer have a place on our shelves.
While Jamaica has experienced a major influx of really great new wines in recent times, I hasten to remind our readers that Bordeaux is home to some of the most expensive, sought-after wines in the world. A few weeks ago, we covered one of the main right bank wine regions -- St émilion. Today, we focus on the Médoc region on the left bank of the river.
Médoc & Haut-Médoc
The majority of Bordeaux wines available in Jamaica hail from the Médoc region. What confuses people is the fact that the same names are used for the geographic area and also for the wine region. Geographically, the term Médoc is often used to refer to the whole left bank region. Médoc is also the name of a controlled wine-making region or AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée). Most wineries prefer to use the names of the sub-appellations within the Médoc as they carry more prestige. Haut-Médoc is a smaller controlled wine area situated within the geographic Médoc, but it is south of the Médoc AOC, For comparison think Cornwall, St James, Montego Bay to understand Bordeaux, Médoc, Haut-Médoc.
In addition to Médoc & Haut-Médoc six other important wine-producing regions exist. Margaux AOC, Listrac-Médoc AOC, Moulis-en-Médoc AOC, Saint-Julien AOC, Pauillac AOC and Saint-Estèphe AOC. These are the names you will see on the wine bottle if the estate is located within any of these areas. If the wine-making estate falls outside of these areas, they can put Haut-Médoc on the bottle. We were very happy to be able to sit, taste and examine wines from each of these communes and be able to notice the clear differences -- it was an eye-opening journey, indeed.
Back in 1855, in order assist visitors to the Exposition Universelle de Paris, Napoleon III requested a classification system for France's best Bordeaux wines. Wine professionals of the day ranked the wines according to a château's reputation and trading price, which at that time was directly related to quality. The wines were ranked in importance from first to fifth growths (crus). All of the red wines that made it on the list came from the Médoc region, except for one: Château Haut-Brion from Graves. Sixty-one properties are on that list. They are not cheap.
For the best value in Bordeaux wines, look to Cru Bourgeois. The term Cru Bourgeois (boor-ZHWAH)tBourgeois wineries called Château Fontesteau. On our final day in Bordeaux we were feted at another Cru Bourgeois property called Château Liouner. See photo highlights.
There is a Bordeaux wine for everyone, regardless of your preference. No two Bordeaux are alike, even if produced on adjacent lands. The character of the wine is found in the soul and hands of the winemaker and the traditions he or she follows.
Christopher Reckord — businessman, entrepreneur & wine enthusiast. Send your questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on twitter: @Reckord