Bordeaux Beyond the Classics: Exploring Lesser-Known Appellations

Dive into the intriguing world of Bordeaux's hidden treasures beyond the classics, where tradition and innovation intertwine amidst the vines. While Bordeaux's renowned classics have their charm, there's a whole array of lesser-known gems waiting to be discovered. From the historic Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux to the captivating Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux and the intriguing Graves de Vayres, each appellation has a unique story to share, waiting to be explored.

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Côtes de Bourg

Prepare to be pleasantly surprised by Côtes de Bourg, often overlooked but bursting with quality and value. This gem specializes in Merlot-based red wines and is nestled around the picturesque town of Bourg, just north of Bordeaux city. With 15 communes bordering Blaye to the north and extending southeast toward Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur, there's plenty to explore in this hidden corner of Bordeaux.

Benefitting from its proximity to the Right Bank, Côtes de Bourg dances to the rhythm of Merlot, the region's star grape variety. Once known for its big, bold reds, Côtes de Bourg now delights with softer, fruit-forward wines, a delightful blend of tradition and modern flair. These stylistic changes were mostly driven by the ever-changing consumer preferences, as well as modern winemaking techniques. In most cases, the wines are only made from Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, with an occasional addition of Malbec for color and succulence.

Looking for a special one to try? How about the 2019 Chateau Guerry Bernard Magrez - known as the man with 40 Chateux! It's an exceptional example of the region's uniqueness.

Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux

Join the adventure in Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux, (just west of the Entre-deux-Mers on the right bank) where classic red blends steal the spotlight. Formerly known as Premières Côtes de Bordeaux, this appellation boasts 39 charming communes, including Cadillac, Loupiac, and Sainte-Croix-du-Mont, renowned for their luscious sweet white wines. But here, it's all about the reds!

Crafted predominantly from Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc, these wines are a true testament to Bordeaux's winemaking prowess. With dashes of Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Carmenère adding a touch of excitement, Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux promises a delightful journey through Bordeaux's rich winemaking heritage.

The Côtes de Bordeaux appellation was established in 2009 to unify Bordeaux's diverse "côtes" under one banner, simplifying the region's appellation structure for better market appeal. It was first proposed by the Association des Côtes de Bordeaux in 1985. After extensive negotiation and collaboration among Bordeaux's wine-producing regions, it was finally approved.

Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux

Nestled across the Gironde from Médoc, expect to find another gem, Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux. Formerly known as Premières Côtes de Blaye, this appellation offers a tantalizing array of both red and white wines, each with its own unique charm. Just like with Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux, the new appellation was formed in 2009 to consolidate Bordeaux's various "côtes" under a single umbrella.

You can expect some classic red blends dominated by Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. Or, explore traditional Bordeaux white blends of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Muscadelle. Whatever your preference, Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux promises a journey filled with discovery and delight.

The 2018 Chateau Montfollet Icone perfectly captures this Bordeaux delight, being described as dense and concentrated, but above all, remarkably balanced.

Graves de Vayres

Another gem, Graves de Vayres AOC, is nestled within the Entre-Deux-Mers subregion of Bordeaux. Despite its modest size spanning approximately 392 hectares (about 970 acres), this appellation packs a punch with its delightful red and white wines, each with its own unique personality. The appellation includes the historic town of Vayres, renowned for its medieval castle, along with Arveyres, situated across the Dordogne River.

Red wines from Graves de Vayres almost always prioritise Merlot, creating lighter styles compared to those of neighboring Saint-Émilion. Although the district's history includes sweet wines, there is a clear preference towards drier, fresher styles. In the case of white wines, some producers age their white wines in barrels to enhance complexity.

The region’s success lies in the varying solid composition. While clay soil is most common in Entre-Deux-Mers, Graves de Vayres benefits from higher levels of gravel. This would explain the name, “graves”, which translates to “gravel.” This gravel soil is highly beneficial for Cabernet, which thrives in looser soil, while Merlot excels in the heavy, moisture-retaining clay.

Final Thoughts of the Lesser Known Appellations

As our journey through Bordeaux's lesser-known appellations comes to a close, it's evident that exploring these gems is not just about discovering new wines—it's about immersing ourselves in the rich tapestry of Bordeaux's winemaking heritage. By delving into these overlooked regions, we uncover the stories of passionate winemakers, centuries-old traditions, and innovative techniques that shape each bottle. Cheers to the joy of discovery and the endless possibilities that await in every glass!

If you're a Bordeaux enthusiast, have a look at our wide selection that is bound to surprise and delight!