When discussing Left bank claret, frequent reference is made to ‘classed growth' and ‘cru bourgeois' wines. Full details of the Bordeaux classifications are available, including the 1855 classification for classed growth properties of the Médoc and the 2003 Cru Bourgeois classification.
Medoc, the most northerly appellation in Bordeaux lies here, on the left bank. The appellation applies only to red wines, and some are based largely on Merlot, unlike the great wines of the Haut-Médoc further south which is Cabernet Sauvignon country. There are some good value wines here. Our recommendations: Châteaux Patache d'Aux, Potensac, la Tour de By. La Tour-St-Bonnet, Haut Canteloup.
South of the Médoc we have the Haut-Médoc, a larger region which includes the villages of St-Estèphe, Moulis, Listrac, Pauillac, St-Julien and Margaux. With regard to the Haut-Medoc itself, this region includes five classed growths. Our recommendations: La Lagune, Sociando Mallet, Cantemerle, Lanessan, Caronne Ste Gemme, Malescasse. Camensac has undergone a renaissance in recent years. La Tour Carnet and Coufran can also be good buys. Barreyres is another old favourite.
Most northerly of the top left bank appellations is St-Estèphe, a region producing wines characterised by dominant tannins and bug, earthy flavours in their youth, developing elegance with age. Our recommendations: Montrose, Cos d'Estournel, Meyney, Lafon Rochet, les Ormes-de-Pez.
Next, Pauillac, led by its three first growth châteaux; Lafite-Rothschild, Mouton Rothschild and Latour. Pauillac and St-Julien are the two great appellations of the Haut-Médoc. Blackcurrant fruit with cedar, and more specifically pencil-shavings, gives Pauillac away every time! Our recommendations: Lafite Rothschild, Latour, Mouton Rothschild (all first growths), Pichon Lalande, Lynch-Bages, Pontet Canet, Pichon Baron, Clerc Milon, Haut Batailley, Haut Bailly, Batailley, Haut Bages Liberal, Grand Puy Lacoste and Duhart Milon.
St-Julien is next, another truly classic region. Characterised by a sublime balance of perfume, structure and mineral fruit, it is for some the epitome of red wine drinking. Our recommendations: Léoville Barton, Ducru-Beaucaillou, Léoville-Las-Cases, Langoa-Barton, Talbot, Gruaud Larose, Beychevelle, Branaire-Ducru, Lagrange, Gloria and St. Pierre.
Further south, and set back from the Gironde estuary, is Listrac. This region does not have the quality of St-Julien or Pauillac, more closely resembling St-Estèphe in style. Our recommendations: Château Clarke has a good reputation.
Moulis is next door, similarly set back from the Gironde. It is the smallest of the six appellations in the Haut-Médoc. There are some classy and good value wines here. Our recommendations: Chasse-Spleen, Poujeaux.
Finally, Margaux, a perfumed, elegant wine, produced from a sprawling array of vineyards at the southern end of the Haut-Médoc. This region is populated by a large number of underperforming châteaux turning out wines of erratic quality. Nevertheless there are a few that always perform. Our recommendations: Margaux (a first growth), Palmer, d'Issan, Rauzan Segla, d'Angludet, Brane Cantenac, Durfort Vivens has seen some improvements under the management of Gonzague Lurton.