It is irrefutable that Bordeaux is one of the world’s most important fine wine regions, and indeed a strong argument can be made that it’s the single-most important wine-producing area on the planet.
The reasons for this are countless and varied, but there is no greater concentration of top-quality oenologists, wine producers than can be found in Bordeaux, not to mention the 125,000 hectares under vine producing perhaps 60 million cases of wine each year. In fact, there are nearly 20,000 producers throughout the region. And it is as if the entire city of Bordeaux, home to more than one million people, exists solely to facilitate the creation and dissemination of wine for the world.
Bordeaux is an important port city located near France’s south-west Atlantic coast, on the Garonne River (flowing into the Gironde Estuary), and is the capital of the ancient Aquitaine region. Around 500 kilometres southwest of Paris, the city is practically surrounded by vines, and driving in nearly any direction will lead to one commune or another. Most of the famous villages and Châteaux are within an hour or thereabouts drive.
The vast majority of the region is relatively flat, with gentle undulations rolling across the landscape. The region is commonly divided in two – the Cabernet-based wines of the ‘left bank’, and the Merlot-dominant wines of the inland ‘right bank’. Soils vary from light, well-drained silty gravel over heavier clays around the Gironde(an area recovered from swamp by the Dutch in the 17th century) while inland heavier clays, often over calcareous outcrops are typical.
The moderate climate is influenced by the nearby Atlantic Ocean, although frost can be a problem.
2020: Very promising, third great consecutive vintage.
2019: A very strong vintage.
2018: 9.5/10. Superb wines, polished and textured. Great purity and detail. Hold.
2017: 7.5/10. A very good, even and somewhat consistent vintage. Attractive wines. Hold or drink.
2016: 10/10. Superb vintage. Wonderfully balanced, mineral-laden yet ripe wines. Consistent throughout. Great freshness and approachability. Drink or hold.
2015: 9/10. Excellent vintage, with the wines quite consistent throughout the region. Ripe yet balanced, lovely minerality and depth. Hold.
2014: 8/10. A vintage that in earlier times may have been a disappointment, the wines are rich and detailed, with very good depth and freshness. Perhaps a touch homogeneous, but very worthy wines. Drink or hold.
2013: 6/10. Somewhat light and dilute wines, many showing herbaceous and sometimes unripe notes. A difficult vintage saved from disaster by the use of modern winemaking technology and knowledge. Drink.
2012: 7.5/10. A vintage that is underrated and overlooked, producing some delicious wines that whilst not scaling the greatest heights, offer very good drinking. Well-balanced and medium-bodied, with lovely fruit and freshness. Drink or hold.
2011: 7/10. A perfectly acceptable and pleasing vintage, producing wines of reasonable power. Medium-bodied and higher acid style. Drink or hold.
2010: 10/10. Powerful, rich and intense wines. High alcohols, very long lived. Hold.
2009: 10/10. Ripe, succulent and textural. Utterly pleasurable. Drink or hold.
2008: 8/10. Quite sturdy, structured wines, lovely minerality and herbal notes. Right-bank perhaps more consistent. Drink or hold.
2007: 6.5/10. Forward, leafy and somewhat irregular vintage. Some wines can be brittle. Whilst the vintage lacks greatness, the wines can be very enjoyable. A bistro vintage. Drink.
2006: 6.5/10. Very powerful, tannic and structured. Uneven. Some wines can be a little hard and foursquare. Pomerol did well. Drink or hold.
2005: 9.5/10. A superb vintage, even, ripe and structured. Consistent throughout Bordeaux. The wines are delicious now, but most will certainly hold for another decade or two. Drink or hold.
2004: 6/10. A difficult and somewhat uneven vintage, some wines showing excessive herbaceousness. A more classic or traditionally-styled vintage. Good but unexciting. Drink.
2003: 9/10. The heatwave vintage, very uneven and mixed. The best (often northern Medoc) are brilliant, utterly delicious and very long-lived (eg, Montrose, Latour). Some are overripe and somewhat unbalanced, lacking freshness. Most are drinking now, but some a monolithic and will live throughout this century.
2002: 7/10. A pleasant, if uninspiring vintage, classic ‘bistro’ vintage. Although the wines may lack some depth and detail, they are pleasing and straightforward. Better on the left-bank than the right. Drink.
2001: 7/10. Somewhat nondescript and often overlooked, there are some charming, very approachable and pleasing wines from 2001. Few scale any great heights, but a very reliable, pleasing vintage. Drink.
2000: 8.5/10. Much-hyped, and certainly an excellent vintage, but some of the wines lack some richness and depth. Overshadowed by some subsequent vintages. Drink or hold.
Other great vintages: 1998 (right bank), 1996, 1995, 1990, 1989, 1982, 1961, 1959, 1955, 1949, 1947, 1945, 1929, 1928.