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The Médoc on the left bank of the Gironde estuary is a long narrow strip of flat monoculture devoted to the production of red wine. The gravelly well-drained areas of the Médoc are well suited to the ripening of Cabernet Sauvignon, the dominant grape variety planted here.

The Médoc contains four great communes that host all of its great estates. These sub-appellations extending from south to north are Margaux, Saint-Julien, Pauillac, and Saint-Estèphe. The wines from each of these communes has been assigned classic characteristics through centuries of intellectual deconstruction by connoisseurs, though it is not always possible to easily discern the difference between, for example, a Saint-Julien and a Margaux in a blind tasting. In a nutshell these characteristics are: Firm, austere wines with "pencil shaving" aromas in Pauillac; Softer, fruitier, and more supple wines from Margaux; Inky, solid, leaner wines from Saint Estèphe; Saint-Julien falls somewhere between the firmness of Pauillac and the suppleness of Margaux.

The Médoc has plenty of vineyards outside its four classic commune appellations. Cru Bourgeois, which can rival the quality of Cru Classé estates but rarely the price, present the consumer with the possibility of good Médoc wine at reasonable prices. Cru Bourgeois chateaux from the sub-appellations of Moulis and Listrac in the Médoc, as well as from the "big four" appellations are more than ever a counterpoint to the high prices of the leading Chateaux wines.

Wines labeled as Médoc come from the northern part of the appellation starting 37 miles north of Bordeaux, while those produced in between use the term Haut-Médoc or one of the more precise commune names. (Wine/Appellations)