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The magnificent 10: top Bordeaux winemakers

vineyard and Chateau d'Yquem, Sauternes Region, France

No other wine region in the world has as prestigious a collection of names as Bordeaux. Knowing them all is like being able to list the seven wonders of the ancient world. They are luxury wines, accessible only to a few, privileged consumers. But don’t let that scare you away. Here they are in alphabetical order for your enjoyment:

1. Chateau Ausone

Courtesy of Ch Ausone
  • Named after the Latin poet Ausonius
  • Thought to be the oldest wine château in Bordeaux
  • Privately owned by the Vauthier family
  • Première Grand Cru Classé ‘A’ in St-Émilion
  • Typical blend: 55% Cabernet Franc, 45% Merlot
  • Young vintages with a price range of £400-1,800/ bottle
  • Second wine: Chapelle d’Ausone

2. Chateau Cheval Blanc

The legendary 1947 wine, courtesy of Ch. Cheval Blanc
  • Première Grand Cru Classé ‘A’ in St-Émilion
  • Considered the most famous wine in St-Émilion
  • The vineyard landscape is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO
  • Owned by chairmain of LVMH and his business partner
  • Blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot with proportions depending on the vintage
  • Young vintages with a price range of £500-1,200/bottle
  • Second wine: Le Petit Cheval

3. Chateau Haut-Brion

Courtesy of Ch. Haut-Brion
  • Première Grand Cru Classé,  from Grave, on the Left Bank
  • Smallest of the Left Bank first growths
  • The first property in Bordeaux to start selling wines under its own name
  • Bought in 1935 by Mr Clarence Dillon, an American banker. Today, managed by his grandson with his mother
  • Makes both red and white wines
  • More austere in style than the other Left Bank first growths, but also the most reliable
  • Typical blend for red: 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc
  • Typical blend for white:  Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, with proportions depending on each vintage
  • Young vintages with prices starting at £300/bottle for red and £1,000/ bottle for white.
  • Second wine: Le Clarence de Haut-Brion (previously called Bahans-Haut-Brion)
  • Sister wine: Ch. La Mission Haut-Brion

4. Chateau Lafite-Rothschild

  • Première Grand Cru Classé, from Pauillac, on the Left Bank
  • Owned by the family of Baron Rothschild
  • One of the most famous first growths in Britain
  • Most sought after first growth on the Chinese market
  • Blend of 80-95%  Cabernet Sauvignon, with Merlot making up much of the rest (though there are variations in every vintage)
  • Young vintages with prices starting at £600/bottle for less famous years
  • Second wine: Les Carruades de Lafite-Rothschild

5. Chateau Latour

  • Première Grand Cru Classé, from Pauillac, on the Left Bank
  • One of the most sought-after and expensive wine producers on the planet
  • Owned by the French businessman François Pinault
  • In 2012, it decided to withdraw from the en primeur market, releasing wines only when they are ready to drink
  • Typical blend: 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, with a dash of Petit Verdot
  • Very consistent in style every year
  • Price: ~£600/bottle for 2005 vintage, ~£1100/bottle for the 2010 vintage, which was rated 100 points by Robert Parker
  • Second wine: Les Forts de Latour
  • Third wine since 1989, developed primarily for restaurants

6. Chateau Margaux

Courtesy of Ch. Margaux
  • Première Grand Cru Classé, from Margaux, on the Left Bank
  • Considered the most elegant of the first growths
  • Poor performance in the 1970’s and 1980’s, but serious improvement in quality after that
  • Among the first properties in Bordeaux to start selling wine under their own name
  • Owned by the Mentzelopoulos family
  • Average price of £500/bottle, with 2005 and 2010 vintages more expensive than that. Less famous vintages at lower prices
  • Makes a superb white wine as well, Pavillon Blanc de Ch. Margaux, which can only qualify for Bordeaux AOC appellation because Margaux AOC is red only
  • Second wine: Pavillon Rouge du Ch. Margaux
  • Third wine: Margaux du Ch. Margaux

7. Chateau Mouton Rothschild

Courtesy of Ch. Mouton Rothschild
  • Second growth in the 1855 classification – the only wine promoted to 1st growth in 1973, following the persistence of its owner
  • From Pauillac, on the Left Bank
  • Owned by the family of Baron of Rothschild
  • Famous from its art-deco labels on the grand-vin, designed each year by a famous artist, among them Chagall and Picasso
  • Artists designing the label for the grand vin are paid in wine!
  • Typical blend: 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 8% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot
  • Known for its inconsistency in style
  • Price at ~£600/ bottle for younger vintages
  • Make a white wine, Aile d’Argent, again only Bordeaux AOC
  • Second wine: Le Petit Mouton

8. Le Pin

Courtesy of BBR
  • From Pomerol, on the Right Bank, not part of any official classification
  • Started as a vin de garage, with only 1ha of vineyard. Now it has 2 ha, but still minuscule production
  • Has a mystical, secretive quality – the producer doesn’t even have a website  (trust us, they don’t need it!)
  • Owned by Jacques Thienpont
  • 100% Merlot
  • Considered the most expensive wine in the world, more expensive than the Burgundian La Tache
  • Price: 2009 vintage: £3,900 (BBR); same year La Tache (Domaine de la Romanee-Conti): £2,750/bottle
  • No second wine

9. Chateau Pétrus

Courtesy of BBR
  • From Pomerol, on the Right Bank, not part of any official classification
  • Owned by the Moueix family and distributed through exclusive, hand picked agents
  • Started to receive international attention with the legendary 1945 and 1947 vintages. I remember hearing about this wine in the RED2 movie, when Catherina Zeta-Jones threatens to smash it as a torture measure
  • Best after a decade or two in the bottle
  • 100% Merlot
  • Price per bottle: £1,600-2000 for young vintages
  • No second wine

10. Chateau d’Yquem

Courtesy of Ch. d’Yquem
  • The greatest wine of Sauternes and, according to the famous 1855 classification, of the entire Bordeaux region
  • Sweet, golden, luscious, and apparently immortal
  • LVMH acquired majority ownership in 1999
  • Typical blend: 80% semillon and 20% sauvignon blanc
  • If the grapes are not good enough, they release no wine
  • Price starts at ~£150 for a half-bottle

 

So there you have it – the most acclaimed producers in all of Bordeaux. If you’re feeling inspired, why not tell us about your favourite Bordeaux experience in the comments below.

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