Graves Rouge
The Graves, on the outskirts of Bordeaux, is close enough to urban life to allow the incongruity of graffiti covered walls enclosing the finest vineyards in the region. Starting where the Médoc finishes it skirts the western limits of the city of Bordeaux and continues parallel to the Gironde down to the southern extremity of the Bordeaux region. The Graves is the region that has seen the most dramatic improvements in quality in recent years despite the fact that its has been home to one of the region's most highly rated Chateau for 200 years.

The top chateaux produce red wines blended from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. Compared to the wines of the Medoc, they are a bit firmer and earthier, and have been described as “dusty.” The name Graves comes from the abundance of gravel in the soil. These pebbles and rocks not only serve as excellent drainage during the rains, but more importantly, they hold the warmth from the sun long after it sets, and the roots and vines bathe in their luxurious, gentle warmth for hours.

Frequently, the finest wines produced in the entire region hail from the unattractive, partly urbanized northern Graves appellation of Pessac-Léognan, home to Chateau Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion. The character of the Cabernet Sauvignon from the gravelly soils of the Graves is, to the student of Bordeaux wines, quite distinct when compared to the Cabernet of the Medoc: Deep, tannic, and frequently opaque in appearance with pure black fruits and a distinct tobacco, cedar, and smoke quality. Haut-Brion and La Mission excepted, the red wines of Pessac-Léognan have never been as fashionable as those from the Medoc, yet they are now often every bit as good and can represent better value.

Pessac-Léognan also produces Bordeaux's finest dry white wine from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. Pessac white wines are barrel fermented and oak aged and can often benefit from some years of cellaring. At their best these wines are concentrated, showing melon, citrus,and fig aromas and flavors which deepen with age.

Chateau d’Yquem, the worlds finest dessert wine, is produced in the sub-region called Sauternes. The wine is made of Semillon grapes that have been attacked by noble rot, or Botrytis Cinerea, which concentrates the sugar and flavor while dehydrating the grape. The resulting wine is exquisitely rich and viscous, but is beautifully balanced with an undercurrent of fresh acidity. Barsac and less notably, Cerons, are also producing sweet wines in the style of Sauternes. (Wine/Appellations)