France: Bordeaux

Northern Médoc

The wines of Saint Julien, Pauillac and Saint Estèphe
By Jane Anson

This Guide was last updated on 05 March 2010
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Main appellations

Saint Julien

Comprises 11 crus classés châteaux and 909ha, this small first-rate appellation for reds sits within sight of the Gironde on pebbly soil. The wines are full-bodied and elegant and on ageing develop wonderful cedary aromas.


Neighbour to St-Julien this red wine appellation covers 1200ha of well-drained gravelly hillsides, a haven for growing Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines are deeply coloured and intense and the longest-lived in the northern Médoc. There are 18 crus classé châteaux including three Premiers Crus.

Saint Estèphe

Covering an area of 1300ha this appellation is north of Pauillac and has gravel soils containing a higher proportion of clay than the more southerly ACs. There are five crus classé châteaux and the wines tend to have good firm acidity and tannin structure which enable them to age well.


This vineyard area lies on slightly higher land than Bas Médoc (although that AC designation is no longer used, preferring simply Haut Médoc and Médoc), and covers the region from just north of St-Estèphe running south hugging the banks of the Gironde and inland west of St Laurent-et-Bénon. An AC for red wines it includes the vineyard area not included in the communal ACs of St-Julien, St-Estèphe and Pauillac. The best wines are mainly from the Cru Bourgeois châteaux.


This AC covers the northernmost part of the peninsula, the (Bas-)Médoc. These flat clay vineyards produce wines with a higher Merlot content that are ready to drink fairly young.


Generic appellation for reds, rosés and whites (mostly dry) for the whole region and, with Bordeaux Supérieur, the only AC that can be used for whites and rosés within the Médoc district. In addition, some reds may on occasions be declassified to this appellation, or of course, if the château owns vineyards outside the Médoc appellations it will use ‘Bordeaux AC’ for the blend.

Bordeaux Supérieur

Covering the same area as the basic Bordeaux AC but with an extra half degree of alcohol and lower yields.

Crémant de Bordeaux

A very small amount of sparkling wine is made under this appellation. The majority of grapes must be from the main Bordeaux varieties and 100% from the Bordeaux AC area. The Traditional Method (bottle fermentation) is used.

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