The point about this, I guess, is that you start to do a bit of word association. You will have heard of (or are going to hear of) lots of the place names listed below. But it always makes it that much easier to remember them when you’ve got your bearings on where they all are.
So I’m sorry boys and girls, but back to geography lessons to start with here.
The main areas of the Left Bank are the Médoc, Graves, and Sauternes.
Starting with the Médoc to the north of the city of Bordeaux. This is a nearly exclusively red wine area. This is split into 2 halves; the Bas-Médoc (usually just labeled Médoc) and the Haut-Médoc.
The Haut-Médoc is the more famous of the two. Within it there are smaller communes that take their name from local villages, such as Pauillac, Moulis, St-Estephe and so on. There’s actually a road, the D2 if I remember rightly, that winds all the way through these communes, and you just drive past massive château after massive château. It’s a bit surreal to be fair.
The Haut-Médoc is where nearly all the wines from the 1855 classification come from. In 1855 Emperor Napoleon III requested the best châteaux in the area to be ranked into 5 categories for an exhibition in Paris. The categories were 1st Growth down to 5th Growth. The rankings on the left bank haven’t changed since.
South of Bordeaux city, you’ve got Graves. Within Graves you’ve got a few more famous communes, probably the most famous being Pessac-Léognan. Here you get more reds, but also because of a slight change in soil and climate, it’s a great area for whites as well.
Also in Graves you’ve got the special area of Sauternes. Here growers use white wine grapes to produce sweet wine. They leave the grapes on the vine for a bit longer and wait for a special kind of fungus to take hold. Sounds disgusting, right? It’s harmless to humans they reckon, so let’s just move on. The fungus splits the grape, water evaporates, there’s more sugar concentration in the grape, so you get sweeter wine. Robert’s your mother’s brother.
Just before we knock the left bank map reading on the head, a quick note on the city of Bordeaux. I went for the first time a few weeks back. My life! It’s beautiful! The architecture, the layout, the flowing waterways. I’m going to start crying in a minute! If you ever get a chance; go. It’s top drawer.
Right bank next time.