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Home | France | Médoc - The Lesser Méd . . .

Médoc - The Lesser Médoc

French wine can sometimes be hard to understand.  The system of classifications, the obligation to know regions, the conglomeration of vowels in wine terms (i.e. Bordeaux) can be quite intimidating.  Oh, and sometimes a name can have multiple meanings.  Case in point - Médoc.  As the Gironde widens before its eventual emptying into the Atlantic, the river passes the Médoc peninsula and some of the most famous vineyards in the world.  On that peninsula, there is the Appellation d'Origine Controlee (AOC) of Médoc as well as the AOC Haut-Médoc to the south.  To further complicate matters, sometimes the AOC of Médoc is referred to as Bas-Médoc, although the wines from the appellation only carry the title Médoc.  Confused yet?  Fret not; with a little bit of clarification the picture becomes clearer.

The Wines of Médoc

The Médoc AOC falls on the western side of the Gironde River, commonly referred to as the Left Bank, north of the AOC of Haut Médoc and the city of Bordeaux.  Encompassing just over 12,000 acres of vineyards, the AOC is amongst the most prolific producing regions within Bordeaux.  Wines from the Médoc AOC buck the Left Bank convention for making blends that primarily feature Cabernet Sauvignon. The appellation doesn't stray too far off course with its varieties (and couldn't even if it wanted to due to AOC regulations) but is an exception to the general rule of the Left Bank as a whole.  Here, vintners mimic their counterparts on the other side of the river, making blends based on Merlot but still with heavy influence from Cabernet Sauvignon.  Not surprisingly, this is mainly due to the soils found throughout the Médoc, which retain more moisture than the gravely soils further south.  Traditionally, these wines were more rustic and earthy than the more famous AOCs to the south and were not as cellar worthy.  Yet, it seems as though winemakers in the Médoc have reexamined their vineyards, replanted more appropriate varieties where necessary and introduced improved oenological techniques to raise the level of quality for the area.  For consumers this is not trivial as some would argue the AOC offers better value than the more expensive wines to the south.  Regardless of that specific debate, the wines of the Médoc offer a style that has become famous around the world.  By blending Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot with the previously mentioned varieties winemakers create balance, structure, and finesse.  Commonly aged in oak barrel, the wines usually offer woody and vanilla aromas combined with red fruits and possibly some spice.  Grilled red meats are a great match as well as regional dishes such as rabbit with mustard sauce.

Chateaux in Médoc

There are 66 Chateaux operating within the Medoc AOC.  Although none of the original 1855 Classified Bordeaux are included within this lesser known AOC, there are some 13 Cru Bourgeois, a classification of Medoc Chateaux generally considered a level below the Classed Growths but nonetheless of high quality.  Many consider wines from Medoc as some of Bordeaux best wine values.  Some of the well-known Chateaux include Château d'Escurac, Château Patache, Château Loudenne  and Château Les Ormes Sorbet.

Growing Grapes in Médoc

The climate in Southwest France is quite suitable to grape growing, evidenced by the mass amount of land under vine.  The summers in Bordeaux are relatively hot and dry with beneficial influence from the bordering bodies of water.  The cool breezes from the Atlantic mix with those from the estuary to not only regulate the temperature but provide significant air circulation within the vines.  Also the soils of the Médoc play a large role in winemaking here.  They were formed over hundreds of millions of years as the sedimentary deposits built up underneath the tropical sea that once covered the region.  The gravely composition of those sub-soils is important to viticulture here as the poor water retention requires the vine to burrow its roots deep to find water.  Yet, in the Médoc those gravely soils have faded away and have been replaced by heavier soils that retain more water.  It is this aspect that has allowed Merlot to take the lead in the blends of the AOC as Cabernet Sauvignon does better when it's forced to work hard for water.  But both grapes play an important role here and help create the blends that have become famous.  In the end, French wine isn't that confusing after all- good grapes make good wine, which make happy people. 

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·  Bordeaux - Best in the World?


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