Year in, year out, France enjoys its prestigious reputation as the producer of the finest wines in the world. With a wine making history which spans several thousand years and owes its expertise to the Romans, it comes as little surprise that this most highly esteemed of the Old World wine countries continues to impress and enchant both novices and experts to this day. Despite the rise in quality of wines from neighboring European countries, not to mention the New World, the French wine industry continues to boom, with up to eight billion bottles being produced in recent years. However, France prides itself on always putting quality before quantity, and the wide range in fine produce is a testament to the dedication and knowledge of the wineries across the country. Indeed, from rich and complex reds to light and aromatic white wines, French wines are as varied and interesting as they are enjoyable to drink, making this country a firm favorite for wine lovers across the globe.
Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc make up the red grape "trio" of Bordeaux. Petit Verdot and Malbec grape varieties are also used in lesser proportions. As soon as the grapes are harvested, the juice ferments with the grape skins; this gives the wine its color and tannins. After several weeks in vats (or barrels), wines made from different grape varieties are blended. The wine is then aged in vats or oak barrels for months or even years.
Bordeaux red wines should ideally be served at 61°-65°F. Given their good balance of alcohol, tannin and acidity, these wines are perfect to enjoy with all kinds of food: Medoc and Graves pair well with red meats and roasts; Saint-Emilion, Pomerol and Fronsac wines pair well with white meats, poultry, game and even fish; Bordeaux, Bordeaux Superieur and Cotes de Bordeaux wines are ideal matches for grilled meats, pasta and even more exotic "fusion" dishes.
The district known as Medoc, the most famous red wine district of Bordeaux, stretches northwest along the Left Bank of the Gironde River from the city of Bordeaux for more than 50 miles. The Haut-Medoc is located on higher ground, and is where the greatest wines are found. The so-called Bas-Medoc, (permitted to bear the appellation Medoc), is situated near the mouth of the Gironde, and is home to more simple wines.
The topography of Medoc is very flat, with warm, well-drained gravelly soils. The Haut-Medoc boasts some of the most famous wine communes including St-Estephe, St-Julien, Pauillac, Margaux (where classed growths are concentrated), and the slightly less-known Moulis and Listrac. Cabernet Sauvignon is king in Medoc, with additional plantings of the other Bordeaux red varieties Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec.