1960s Archive

The Bordeaux Appellations

continued (page 4 of 5)

True Sauternes (note the final s, even in the singular) is a rich, golden wine. high in alcohol (often over 14 per cent) and decidedly sweet; there is no such thing as a “Dry Sauternes” from France. The finest Sauternes are all sold under the names of specific chateaux, and are château-bottled; the leading vineyards include Château d'Yquem (a true grand seigneur, and in a class apart), then Châteaux Guiraud, Rayne-Vigneau, La Tour Blanche, Lafaurie Peyraguey and Cos Haut-Peyraguey, Rabaud, Suduiraut, Rieussec, Filhot, Coutet, Climens, etc. The grapes grown are the Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, plus a small amount of Muscadelle: these are picked late, in a series of harvestings, when they are not only ripe but overripe, and when their juice has been further concentrated by the action of a beneficent mold, the so-called “pourriture noble” botrytis cinerea. As a result. Sauternes are among the sweetest of all natural wines, and should properly be described as natural dessert wines. At their best they are quite extraordinary. velvety and almost creamy despite their strength, remarkable for their fruit, their breed, and their bouquet. The term Haut Sauternes is a trade designation, generally given to Sauternes that are particularly sweet, bur it has no official meaning, and legally any wine that can be called Sauternes may also be sold as Haut Sauternes.


The northernmost and, after Sauternes itself, the most famous of the five townships of Sauternes. It is some twenty-five miles southeast of Bordeaux, and its vineyards arc on low, rolling hills that overlook the Garonne River. All Barsacs, legally, are Sauternes, made by the same methods and from the same grape varieties. They are all rat her sweet, (hough often somewhat less sweet than other Sauternes, and with a special delicacy and fruit. Chateau Climens and Chateau Coutet are the outstanding vineyards, but there are many smaller good ones; all the best of them châteaubottle their production except in very poor vintage years.

Côtes de Bordeaux

Name given to two adjoining vineyard districts in the Bordeaux Country, both on the rather steep right bank of the Garonne River, southeast of Bordeaux itself. Correctly, the northern and more important of the two is called the Premières Côtes de Bordeaux; it produces some rather ordinary red wine, plus a great deal of good, iaitly sweet, and sometimes very sweet white wine, recalling that of the Sauternes district across the river, but with less distinction and class. Cadillac is the best known of the various village names. The southern area is called Côtes de Bordeaux-St. Macaire, and only white wines may be so labeled; most of these, too, are sweet, but a few drier ones are now being made, some of good quality.

Loupiac and St. Croix-du-Mont

are two small villages directly across the Garonne from Barsac and Sauternes. Both produce wines quite similar to Sauternes although less expensiveȔ golden, luscious, fruity, rather high in alcohol (over 13 per cent), and sweet.


Literally, Between Two-Seas. One of the major divisions of the Bordeaux Wine Country, comprising almost one-fifth of the whole Gironde département. Geographically, it consists of a triangle of rather lovely, rolling lulls between the two confluent rivers, Garonne and Dordogne, and should perhaps more logically be call Entre-DeuxFleuves. Portions of it (Côtes de Bordeaux, Loupiac, Ste. Croix-du-Mont, Graves de Vayres, and Ste. Foy-Bordeaux) are considered separate districts under French wine law; what remains produces a vast amount (not far from en million gallons a year) of rather common and inexpensive white wine. Red wines arc not entitled to the appellation, and are sold as Bordeaux or Bordeaux Supérieur.

Until quite recently. Entre-Deux-Mers wines were generally somewhat on the sweet side; faced with a declining demand. the growers made a courageous and intelligent decision, and set out to produce dry wines exclusively. They adopted the amusing slogan, “Entre deux buitres (between two oysters)ȔUniteDeux-Mers”; the quality of the wines has improved and is still improving; they arc today good values in their price class, though hardly distinguished.

Graves de Vayres

Secondary Bordeaux district, geographically part of Entre-Deux-Mers. on the left bank of the Dordogne River, not far from St. Emilion. The dry white wines arc passable, the reds less good. Some of the whites are now shipped in tall, green Alsace bottles, but they resemble neither Alsatian wines nor the truly fine wines of Graves proper.

St. Foy-Bordeaux

Another geographical subdivision of Entre-DeuxMers. quite properly considered a separate district by French wine law. Passably good, semisweet, inexpensive white wines, they arc somewhat like Monbazillac, produced nearby, although the latter is not, of course, a Bordeaux wine.

St. Emilion

Ancient and wonderfully picturesque little town, rich in ruins and medieval buildings, set on the edge of an escarpment overlooking the green Dordogne Valley, some twenty miles east of Bordeaux. It was already famous for its wines in the fourth century, and, with sixteen thousand acres of vines, its district produces more superior wine today than any other division of the Bordeaux Country. Most of the best vineyards are in the township of St. Emilion itself, but seven adjoining communes are also entitled to the appellation, and five more, plus a portion of a sixth, may add the words St. Kmilion to their own name on wine labels, as Lussac-St. Emilion, etc. The finest wines come either from the steep, chalky slopes of the escarpment itself (vim des côtes), or from the high, gravelly plateau behind (vins des graves, or Graves-St. Emilion); among the former, Châteaux Ausone, Bélair, Magdelaine. Canon, Clos Fourter, Beauséjour, La Gafflière-Naudes are perhaps the most famous, with at least thirty or forty others deserving almost equal rank; of the latter. Château Cheval Blanc is easily first, with Châteaux Figeac, Croque Michotte, Corbin, etc., not too far behind.

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