All of these regions have their own appellation and Appellation d'origine contrôlée laws which dictate the composition of their vineyards, time of harvest and appropriate yields as well as various winemaking techniques. Bordeaux wine labels will include the region on the front if all the grapes have been harvested in a specific regions.
Estates in Bordeaux are often classified according to the reputed quality of the producer. On the Left Bank, the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855 is the starting point for classification and includes most of the Left Bank estates as well as Sauternes and Château Haut-Brion of Graves. Estates who were not classified in that listing may be classified under the Cru Bourgeois label. In 1953, the rest of the Graves was classified. In 1954, a separate classification of Saint-Émilion wine was set up for this Right Bank region.
While wine making styles do vary, a general rule of thumb is that the Left Bank is predominately more Cabernet Sauvignon based with the Right Bank more Merlot based. The Graves area produced both red wine and white wine from the Sauvignon blanc and Sémillon grapes. The area of Sauternes and Barsac are more known for the botrytized dessert wines.
The Central Médoc includes the area between St. Julien and Margaux. This area is home to many Crus Bourgeois including the Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnels rated Château Chasse-Spleen and Château Poujeaux. Within the Central Medoc there are the appellations Listrac-Médoc and Moulis-en-Médoc. Within Moulis, some wines estates near the village of Grand Poujeaux have added that name to their labels. The Listrac appellation is located on a lime stone based plateau and produced highly tannic wines that require a bit of aging before they soften.
The area just south of Margaux is called Southern Médoc with wines produced in this area using the Haut-Médoc designations or, in some cases, Margaux. This area includes the classified growths of Château La Lagune in Ludon and Château Cantemerle in Macau.
St-Estèphe has five classified estates. The Second Growths Château Cos d'Estournel and Château Montrose. The Third Growth Château Calon-Ségur. The Fourth Growth Château Lafon-Rochet. The Fifth Growth Château Lafon-Rochet. The region also has numerous Cru Bourgeois including Château Haut-Marbuzet, Château Les Ormes-de-Pez, Château de Pez, and Château Phélan Ségur. The area is also home to several independent vignerons who produce wine as various co-operatives such as the Marquis de Saint-Estèphe and Canterayne.
The area of Pauillac has more classified first growth estates then any other area of Bordeaux. These include the First Growths Château Lafite-Rothschild, Château Latour and Château Mouton Rothschild. The Second Growths Château Pichon Longueville Baron and Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. The Fourth Growth Château Duhart-Milon-Rothschild. The Fifth Growth Château Pontet-Canet, Château Batailley, Château Haut-Batailley, Château Haut-Bages-Liberal, Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Château Grand-Puy-Ducasse, Château Lynch-Bages, Château Lynch-Moussas, Château d'Armailhac, Château Pedesclaux, Château Clerc-Milon, and Château Croizet Bages.
St-Julien has the highest proportion of classified estates of all the regions in Bordeaux. They include the Second Growth Château Léoville-Las Cases, Château Léoville-Poyferré, Château Léoville Barton, Château Gruaud-Larose, and Château Ducru-Beaucaillou. The Third Growths Château Lagrange, Château Langoa Barton, Château Saint-Pierre, Château Talbot, Château Branaire-Ducru, and Château Beychevelle. These eleven classed growths account for nearly 80 percent of the entire region wine production.
The area is home to more classified second and third growths than any other appellation as well as one first growth, Château Margaux. The region is also home to the second growths Château Rauzan-Ségla, Château Rauzan-Gassies, Château Durfort-Vivens, Château Lascombes, and Château Brane-Cantenac. The region's third growths include Château Kirwan, Château d'Issan, Château Giscours, Château Malescot St. Exupery, Château Cantenac-Brown, Château Boyd-Cantenac, Château Palmer, Château Desmirail, Château Ferriere and Château Marquis d'Alesme Becker. The three fourth growths are Château Pouget, Château Prieure-Lichine, Château Marquis de Terme. The two fifth growths are Château Dauzac and Château du Tertre. The area's Cru Bourgeois include Château Labégorce Zédé and Château Siran.
The Graves is considered the birthplace of claret. In the Middle Ages, the wines that were first exported to England were produced in this area. Château Pape Clément, founded at the turn of the fourteenth century by the future Pope Clement V, was the first named chateaux in all of Bordeaux. In 1663, Samuel Pepys' mention of Château Haut-Brion was the first recorded mention of French Claret in London.
The area received appellation status in 1987 and produces both red and white wines. All of the estates named in the 1959 Graves classification are located in this appellation.Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant grape variety, followed by Merlot and the white wine grapes Sauvignon blanc and Sémillon. The white wines of this area are barrel fermented and aged on their lees.
Sauternes is a subregion of Graves known for its intensely sweet, white, dessert wines such as the Premier Cru Supérieur classified Château d'Yquem. Wines produced in the region of Barsac, such as Premiers Crus Château Climens and Château Coutet are allowed to be labeled either with the commune name or with Sauternes. The intense sweetness is the result of the grapes being affected by Botrytis cinerea, a fungus that is commonly known as noble rot. In the autumn, the Ciron river produces mist that descends upon the area and persists until after dawn. These conditions are conducive to the growth of the fungus which desiccates the grape and concentrates the sugars inside. The three main grapes of this area are Sémillon, Sauvignon blanc and Muscadelle.
Production costs for this area's botrytized wines are comparatively high. The evaporation and fungus produce low yields, five to six times less then in other Bordeaux regions. The grapes are normally harvested individually from the bunch with pickers going through the vineyards several times between September and November to ensure that the grapes are picked at their optimal points. The wine is then fermented in small oak barrels, further adding to the cost. Even with half bottles of the First Growths priced at several hundred dollars, these wines still have difficulties turning a profit and in the mid 20th century a string of bad vintages drove many growers in the region out of business.
The wines of Pomerol have a high composition of Merlot in their blends and are considered the gentlest and least tannic and acidic of Bordeaux wines. Cabernet Franc, known in this area as Bouchet is the second leading grape and helps to contribute to the dark, deep coloring that is typical of Pomerol wines. Due to the reduced tannins found in these wines, they can typically be drunk much younger than other red Bordeaux. The chateaus in the area are not classified, with the winemakers seemingly disinclined to devise one, although Château Pétrus is often unofficially grouped with the First Growths of Bordeaux.
Saint-Émilion wines were first classified in 1878 and have been continuously revised with the most recent revision occurring in 1996. Chateaux are divided into two First Growth classification-Premiers Grands Crus Classés A, which currently includes Château Ausone and Château Cheval Blanc, and Premiers Grands Crus Classés B which currently includes 13 chateaux such as Château Angélus and Château Figeac. Below the Premiers crus are the Grands Crus Classés which currently includes 55 chateaux. Estates can apply for classification by passing two tasting panels.
North of Libournais, this area sits on the Right Bank of the Garonne and Dordogne rivers and is one of the oldest wine producing regions in Bordeaux, exporting wine long before the Médoc was even planted. Merlot is the main grape of the area followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. The area around Bourg also has sizable Sauvignon blanc planting for sparkling wines and Ugni blanc for cognac.
Historians date the first vineyards from the 2nd century AD, when the Romans planted the first “Vitis Biturica”. The appellation has a range of gravel, alluvium, clay and limestone soils. The wine from Côtes-de-Bourg is mostly red made from a combination of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Cabernet Franc grapes. There is only a small amount of white wine made from Ugni Blanc and Colombard grapes. There are around 200 Chateaux producers in the appellation including Chateau Roc de Cambes, Chateau Nodoz, Chateau Fougas Maldoror, Chateau Falfas, Chateau Civrac, Chateau Tayac, Macay, Chateau Rousette, Chateau Haut Maco, Chateau Guiraud.