France: Bordeaux

Southern Graves and Sauternes

Home of the great sweet whites - dry whites and reds too
By Jane Anson

This Guide was last updated on 11 May 2010
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Main wine styles

Sweet Whites

Sweet wine production is of great importance here. Rich, honeyed, lush wines are made from grapes affected by noble rot (botrytis cinerea) that concentrates the sugars, acidity and flavours in the grape. These wines are costly to make because of the risk and the work involved in carefully selecting only those grapes affected by noble rot, meaning that yields are usually very low.

Dry Whites

Crisp, dry whites are produced from blends of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon grown on the sandier soils. The quality has improved immensely over recent years due to the investment in new technology, and the use of new oak.


The reds are blends using mainly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with a small dose of Cabernet Franc. Ageing in oak barrels is usually for 15-18 months, but can be up to two years. The wines are fresh and fruity, and due to the significant Merlot content are supple and more approachable when young.


Bordeaux clairets and rosés are made by macerating red grape varieties for a short time. Both are fresh and fruity, clairets have a more intense colour. Very little is produced though it is increasing.

Sparkling Wines

Crémant de Bordeaux is mainly white with a little rosé, generally Brut. It can offer good value for money.

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