1960s Archive

The Bordeaux Appellations

continued (page 3 of 5)


One of the best sections of the Haut-Médoc, producing Clarets remarkable for their bouquet, silky texture, and great breed. The appellation now covers, in addition to the small township of Margaux proper, most of the neighboring communesȔCantenac, Soussans, Arsac, and Labarde. The finest Margaux wines of course carry a château label: Château Margaux, a grand seigneur, and its scarcely less illustrious cousins. Rausan-Ségla. Rauzan-Gassies, Brane-Cantenac. Lascombes, Palmer, etc.


Another subdivision of the Haut-Médoc, which gives hardly any great wine at all but much that is good, dependable, well-balanced, and not too expensive. The production zone comprises the township of Moulis and most of that of Listrac, plus portions of five others nearby.

St. Julien

Township in the very center and heart of the Haut-Médoc. Its wines include none of the very highest rank, bur practically no poor ones cither, and they are almost invariably the most expensive of the Bordeaux regionals. Called the perfect Claret for Claret lovers, St. Julien is a little fuller than Margaux. generally has more finesse and bouquet than St. Esléphe. matures sooner than Pauillac. Famous châteaux include Léoville-Poyferré, Batton, and Las-Cases, Beychevelle. Gruaud Larose, etc.


Celebrated little town in the Haut-Médoc, perhaps the most remarkable wine-producing township in the world. Within its communal limits are produced a number of the very greatest red wines of Prance: Château Lafite, Château Latour, Château MoutonRothschild, and many' others of almost equal reputation and class, as PillionLongueville, Pontet-Canet, Lynch-Bages, Batailley, etc. All these, of course, carry the words Appellation Pauillac Contrôlée on their labels, and not much wine is sold simply as “Pauillac.” The wines of Pauillac, in good years, are “classic” Clarets in every sense of the word; full-bodied, long-lived, with great bouquet and a special, incomparable distinction, they arc beyond praise.

St. Estèphe

Northernmost of the major wine-producing townships of the Haut-Médoc. directly adjoining Pauillac. Its best wines (Châteaux Cos d'Estournel, Calon-Ségur, Montrose, etc.) are sturdy, full-bodied, generous, and attractive; they have perhsps less finesse and breed than comparable Clarets from Margaux, St. Julien, and Pauillac. but a sort of forthright, lusty charm instead, which renders them most agreeable. There are many excellent lesser vineyards, crus bourgeois and the like, and regional wines Libeled “St. Estèphe” are generally good values, although occasionally a hit on the heavy side, and a shade common.


The word in French simply means gravel, or gravelly soil, and is used in a combined form in connection with several districts in the Bordeaux country. Alone it means a specific, defined area on the left bank of the Garonne River, largely west and south of the city of Bordeaux. Total production in a normal year is in the neighborhood of a million gallons, of which about one-quarter is red wine, the rest white. The appellation “Graves Supérieures” is restricted to white wines of better than average quality, despite the fact that the finest red Graves consistently bring higher prices than the finest white; most of these reds, however, do not carry the name Graves but arc sold under the label of a specific château. Ignored, with the single and notable exception of Chateau Haut-Brion, by those responsible for the Classification of 1855, the Graves châteaux have now been officially classified in part, though how competently is perhaps open to question.

The best red Graves come from the villages of Pessac, Léognan, and Martillac, and include Châteaux Haut-Brion, Pape-Clémént, Haut-Bailly, Chevalier, Malartie-Lagravière, Smith-Haut-Lafitte, etc. In character they arc closer to the Médocs than to the St. Emilions, Pomerols, etc.; they age well, but with rare exceptions have a little less distinction, are a little less “classic” than their Médoc compeers, and someone has quite properly said that they are like soft, as compared with glossy, prints from the same negative, less distinct and less clean.

The finest white Graves come principally from the township of Léognan, plus a few exceptions from Talence, Pessac, Martillac, Cadaujac, etc.; these are dry wines, although with a trace of moelleux, or softness, they are often better, being lighter and drier, in years rated fair or poor than in years rated great, although this is by no means true of the reds. The best are: Domaine de Chevalier, Laville-Haut-Brion, Carbonnieux, Olivier, Bouscaut, etc., but many others of less fame produce good wine, too. including several near Langon, at the extreme southern end of the Graves district. The rare white wine of Château Haut-Brion, at least in my opinion, is often too high in alcohol and hardly worthy of its celebrity.

Officially the Graves district includes three townships (Cérons, Podensac. and IIIats) which adjoin Barsac and produce rather sweet, golden wines, of excellent class but far nearer Sauternes than what one expects from a wine labeled “Graves.” These are usually marketed as Cérons.

The white Graves arc made largely from the Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grapes, and where the former predominates the quality is better. Red Graves come from the Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, plus some Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, etc.


Originally and properly the name of a little French village, set down in a district of vine-covered hillsides some thirty miles south of Bordeaux. The officially delimited Sauternes zone comprises five townships, Preignac, Bommes, Fargues, Barsac, and Sauternes itself, and the total annual production hardly exceeds 300,000 cases; no wine of other origin may legally be sold as Snuternes in France or in most other ccuntries, the United States being, of course, an exception.

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