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EDITION 020 | JUNE 2024


Characteristics of the Appellations and Historic Châteaux of Bordeaux

Written by - Cult Wines Team

Wine production in Bordeaux's revered French region is vast in size and scope. With over 125,000 hectares under vine and more than 7,300 châteaux producing well over 10,000 different wines, the area's offerings range from mass-produced supermarket wines to some of the world's finest, most exclusive, and highly sought-after wines.

Of Bordeaux's 60-odd appellations – known as Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC), which indicate the geographical origin, quality, and (generally) the style of wine – some are particularly well-known for their higher quality, investment-level wines. Here, we'll explore these distinct appellations, the regions in which they're located, and the key characteristics of the fine wines they produce.

Fine Wine Appellations in the Médoc

Located on the Left Bank, between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gironde estuary in southwestern France, the Médoc enjoys a relatively hot and humid climate, bathed in light, sun, and ample air circulation. This microclimate protects vines from late spring frosts and fungal diseases, helping to produce some of the boldest and most tannic wines in all of Bordeaux. Key appellations producing some of the region's finest wines include:


Pauillac is perhaps the most famous Bordeaux wine-producing commune in the Médoc, home to three of Bordeaux's five First Growth châteaux: Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Latour, and Château Mouton Rothschild.

The northern part of the appellation features high elevations and deep gravel on top of sand, marl, and limestone, while the southern part has larger gravel rocks and stones with more clay in the sub-soils.

The finest châteaux incorporate both to create wines with delicate aromas of black cherry, liquorice, crème de cassis, sour cherry, rose, iris, cedar, smoke, and incense – classic Bordeaux characteristics.

Top Châteaux in Pauillac:
  • Château Lafite Rothschild: Established in the 17th century, Lafite Rothschild has long been synonymous with elegance and quality, often described as the pinnacle of Bordeaux wine.
  • Château Latour: Dating back to the 14th century, Château Latour is renowned for its powerful and long-lived wines, embodying the strength and resilience of the Pauillac terroir.
  • Château Mouton Rothschild: Elevated to First Growth status in 1973, Mouton Rothschild is celebrated for its exceptional wines and artistic labels commissioned from famous artists.
  • Château Pontet-Canet: Pioneering biodynamic viticulture in Bordeaux, Pontet-Canet's history dates to 1705, with a commitment to sustainability and quality.


Saint-Estèphe is known for its rich mixture of rocks, clay, limestone, and gravel, with more clay here than in Pauillac, Saint-Julien, or Margaux.

Its proximity to the River Garonne, with its slopes and elevations, creates a variety of microclimates. The appellation's wines are powerful, rich, and full-bodied, designed to age with purity and intensity seldom found in other Bordeaux wines.

Top Châteaux in Saint-Estèphe:
  • Château Calon-Ségur: One of the oldest estates in the Médoc, Calon-Ségur dates to the 12th century and is known for its romantic heart-shaped label.
  • Château Cos d'Estournel: With its distinctive pagoda-style architecture, Cos d'Estournel, founded in the early 19th century, is celebrated for its opulent and exotic wines.
  • Château Montrose: Established in 1815, Montrose is renowned for producing some of the most consistent and long-lived wines in Saint-Estèphe.


The smallest of the major Bordeaux appellations in the Médoc, Saint-Julien's terroir comprises soils mixed with gravel, sand, limestone, and clay.

The best vineyards have gentle slopes with access to the Gironde estuary, which helps create a microclimate. Top Saint-Julien wines are noted for their intense and complex notes of blueberry, blackcurrant, plum, tobacco, and liquorice.

Top Châteaux in Saint-Julien:
  • Château Ducru Beaucaillou: Known for its distinctive and beautiful architecture, Ducru Beaucaillou has been producing exceptional wines since the 18th century.
  • Château Léoville Barton: Founded in the early 19th century, Léoville Barton remains family-owned and is renowned for its traditional, age-worthy wines.
  • Château Talbot: With a history stretching back to the 15th century, Talbot is celebrated for its consistent quality and approachable style.


Margaux, the southernmost appellation in the Médoc, boasts a variety of soil types, including limestone, chalk, clay, sand, and gravel, meaning the style and quality of Margaux wines can vary significantly. Archetypal Margaux wines tend to be deep, ruby in colour, perfumed and floral with soft, silky tannins. These wines are typically more refined and elegant than those from other Bordeaux regions.

Top Châteaux in Margaux:
  • Château Margaux: Often referred to as the "Versailles of the Médoc," Château Margaux has been a symbol of elegance and finesse since the 12th century.
  • Château Palmer: Known for its aromatic complexity and luxurious texture, Palmer has a rich history dating back to the early 19th century.
  • Château Giscours: With records dating back to the 14th century, Giscours is noted for its grandeur and the opulent style of its wines.
  • Château Rauzan-Ségla: This château, established in the 17th century, has a reputation for producing wines with excellent balance and longevity.

Fine Wine Appellations in Graves

Graves – the original name for the Pessac-Léognan appellation – is a Left Bank region located just south and east of Bordeaux city, characterised by and named for its unique gravel soils (graves).

Unique among Bordeaux's sub-regions, Graves is equally respected for both its red and white wines. Historically, however, Graves is seen as the birthplace of Bordeaux's highest-quality reds, earning the region a shining global reputation. Collectors with a nose for investment-worthy wines should pay attention to the following appellations:


Pessac-Léognan became its own appellation in 1987. It is well-suited to the production of red, white, and sweet Bordeaux wines, though this diversity requires growers to remain vigilant as the soils can be too warm for white wines and slightly too cool for reds.

This situation demands extreme care and attention to detail, making wines from Pessac-Léognan some of the highest quality in Bordeaux. Reds are supple, firm, and rich with blackberry notes, while whites are powerful, round, and lively with floral, fruity aromas.

Top Châteaux in Pessac-Léognan:
  • Château Haut-Bailly: Renowned for its elegant and balanced wines, Haut-Bailly's history dates to the 16th century and has consistently been a benchmark for quality.
  • Château Haut-Brion: One of the oldest and most prestigious châteaux in Bordeaux, Haut-Brion has been producing world-class wines since the 16th century and was the first château to introduce the concept of estate bottling.
  • Château La Mission Haut-Brion: Sister estate to Haut-Brion, this château has a history dating back to the 16th century and is known for its powerful and complex wines.
  • Domaine de Chevalier: With a history going back to the 18th century, Domaine de Chevalier is celebrated for its refined and long-lived wines, both red and white.


Sauternes is a unique appellation in the Graves region, primarily producing sweet whites renowned for their intense fruity, floral, and vanilla aromas.

Located just 25 miles southeast of Bordeaux city, Sauternes has five communes, each with its unique terroir comprising chalk, limestone, sand, clay, gravel, and rolling hills aside steep elevations. It's the most expensive wine to produce in all of Bordeaux.

Top Châteaux in Sauternes:
  • Château Climens: Known as the "Lord of Barsac," Climens has been producing exquisite, sweet wines since the 16th century, prized for their elegance and longevity.
  • Château Guiraud: With origins in the 18th century, Guiraud is renowned for its rich, complex wines and commitment to organic viticulture.
  • Château Suduiraut: Dating back to the 15th century, Suduiraut is famous for its opulent and long-lived Sauternes.
  • Château d'Yquem: Arguably the most famous sweet wine producer in the world, d'Yquem has a history of excellence dating back to the 16th century and is the only Sauternes to hold the Premier Cru Supérieur classification.

Fine Wine Appellations on the Right Bank

While the Left Bank is famed for its gravelly soil, cool climate, and wines with high acidity, tannins, and immense ageing potential, the Right Bank is better known for soil rich in clay and limestone, warmer weather, and smooth, 'drink me now' wines – predominantly Merlot, as opposed to the Left Bank's dominant Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Right Bank provides an excellent jumping-off point for collectors looking to create a varied, diverse portfolio of Bordeaux wines. However, two appellations stand out for investment potential:


Saint-Émilion, in Bordeaux's Libournais region, is said to be the oldest active wine-producing appellation in Bordeaux, with a history dating back to the ancient Romans. Now one of the biggest producers in Bordeaux, the appellation can be roughly divided into three distinct terroirs: the limestone plateau, the slopes closest to the plateau, and the flats.

This variety leads to differences in wine taste and style across the area, but the finest châteaux produce generous, full-bodied wines with a velvety tannic structure and aromas of red fruit, sweet spices, and smoky vanilla.

Top Châteaux in Saint-Émilion:
  • Château Angélus: Established in the 18th century, Angélus is noted for its iconic bell tower and its full-bodied, expressive wines.
  • Château Ausone: With roots in Roman times, Ausone is one of Saint-Émilion's most historic and prestigious estates, known for its rare and exceptional wines.
  • Château Canon: Dating back to the 18th century, Canon is celebrated for its elegant and refined wines, reflecting the limestone-rich terroir.
  • Château Cheval Blanc: One of Bordeaux's most renowned estates, Cheval Blanc has a history of producing legendary wines since the 19th century, known for their complexity and longevity.


What Pomerol lacks in size – it's the smallest of all Bordeaux's major wine-producing appellations – it makes up for in reputation, producing some of the most expensive, collectible, and sought-after wines in the world.

Curiously, it is the only major Bordeaux appellation that has never been classified. Like Saint-Émilion, its terroir can be divided into three parts, with the best estates located on the 'Pomerol plateau', home to different clays, gravel, and iron deposits in the soil. Wines from Pomerol are typically refined, powerful, intense, and sensual, with aromas of violet, red berries, truffles, and game.

Top Châteaux in Pomerol:
  • Château Clinet: Dating back to the 19th century, Clinet is known for its refined and powerful wines, often described as the epitome of Pomerol elegance.
  • Château Lafleur: Founded in the 19th century, Lafleur produces some of the most distinctive and complex wines in Pomerol, prized for their depth and longevity.
  • Château Le Pin: A relative newcomer, established in the 20th century, Le Pin has quickly become one of the most sought-after wines in the world, known for its lush and opulent style.
  • Petrus: Perhaps the most famous name in Pomerol, Petrus has a history dating back to the 19th century and is renowned for its rich, velvety wines that command astronomical prices.

Bordeaux's wine region offers a remarkable variety of styles, each with its own unique character and storied history. From the bold, tannic wines of the Médoc to the elegant and refined bottles of Margaux, and from the renowned estates of Saint-Émilion to the luscious sweetness of Sauternes, Bordeaux has something to captivate every wine lover.

Understanding the distinctive qualities of these appellations and the historic châteaux that produce them enriches the experience of enjoying Bordeaux wines. Whether you're savouring the robust reds of Pauillac or the smooth Merlots of Pomerol, Bordeaux's rich heritage and exceptional wines provide endless opportunities for discovery and pleasure.

Explore Bordeaux Wines


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Ornellaia Charity Auction Raises £325,000

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Qvevri: The Choice Drink of Summer

An 8,000-year-old wine from Georgia, known as Qvevri, is gaining popularity this summer. Made using ancient techniques in large clay pots buried underground, this wine is celebrated for its unique taste and historical significance. Enthusiasts are drawn to its traditional methods and rich cultural heritage, making it a sought-after choice among modern wine lovers.


Martin Docherty, Senior Relationship Manager - Cult Wines - 2018 Domaine du Pélican Arbois Chardonnay

What we’re drinking

2018 Domaine du Pélican Arbois Chardonnay

Martin Docherty, Senior Relationship Manager - Cult Wines

Domaine du Pélican is a unique gem from the lesser-known Jura region, specifically Arbois, about 80 km east of Burgundy. This wine is crafted by the esteemed team at Marquis d'Angerville, renowned for producing some of the best wines in Burgundy.

What I love about this Domaine is that it offers all the expertise, rigour, and investment of d'Angerville combined with the great terroir of Jura at an affordable price.

Sourced from vineyards in Arbois and Montigny-les-Arsures at nearly 400 metres altitude, the 2018 Arbois Chardonnay undergoes fermentation and élevage in 350—and 500-litre barrels, with only 5% new oak, for 10 months. The wine stands out with its toasty, spicy notes, creamy texture, and subtle salty finish, showcasing the winemaking team's expertise.

The wine offers a fresh and savoury bouquet, leading to a beautifully open and textural palate. Notes of ripe nectarines, orchard fruit, and zesty orange are complemented by a slight salty twist, providing a tangy freshness that enhances its brilliance.

In summary, Domaine du Pélican produces exceptional wines that reflect its terroir, offering both delight and a masterclass in winemaking without breaking the bank. Cheers!


Our fine wine feature

What I've Discovered About Oak in Wine: Transforming Good Wines to Great

Written by - Jessie Wu, Client Account Manager - Cult Wines

When it comes to wine, one of the most delightful contributors to its flavour profile is the role of oak in wine ageing. Oak barrels have been a staple in winemaking for centuries, imparting unique flavours and aromas that can elevate a wine's overall character.

This was famously spotlighted in 1982 when Robert Parker predicted the exceptional quality of Bordeaux wines from that vintage, many of which were aged in new oak barrels. With their bold, oaky characteristics, these wines set the stage for what would become known as the 'Parkerization' effect.

Whether it's American oak with its bold vanilla and coconut notes or French oak offering subtle hints of spice, toast, and smoke, the type of oak used and the cooperage process—including barrel size and toasting level—play a crucial role in the final product. These oak-induced characteristics can transform a good wine into a great one, enhancing its flavour, aroma, texture, and complexity.

The Science Behind Oak Ageing

To truly appreciate oak's influence, it's essential to understand the science behind it.

What I've Discovered About Oak in Wine: Transforming Good Wines to Great

The porous nature of oak allows for micro-oxygenation, which softens the tannins and integrates the flavours, adding to the wine's complexity and ageing potential.

Additionally, oak contains compounds like lignin, which contributes vanilla notes, and hemicellulose, which adds to the sweet, toasted flavours. The time a wine spends in oak and the age of the barrels can also significantly impact the final product, with newer barrels imparting stronger flavours than older ones.

'Parkerization' and the Wine Revolution in the pre-2000s

Now, let's sprinkle a little controversy into our oak barrels with the concept of Parkerization. Named after the famous wine critic Robert Parker, this term describes the trend of wineries tailoring their wines to suit Parker's taste, which often leans toward aged, high-alcohol, oaky, and richly extracted wines. Many argue that this led to a homogenisation of wine styles, favouring the bold and brash over the subtle and delicate.

However, it's essential to remember that consumers played a massive role in this shift. They craved those intense, fruit-forward wines and bought them in droves, turning the "international style" into a global sensation. Parker didn't create this trend; he merely validated it, guiding wine lovers toward the best examples of what they were already thirsty for.

Is Oak Still Popular? On a More Modern Palate

In the post-Parkerization era, we're witnessing a delightful resurgence of diverse wine styles that cater to a broader range of palates.

Today's wine enthusiasts are increasingly adventurous, exploring wines that emphasise terroir, balance, and subtlety over sheer power and oakiness. Natural wines have gained significant traction with minimal intervention and a focus on organic and biodynamic farming. Winemakers embrace indigenous grape varieties and traditional methods, producing wines with lower alcohol content, fresher acidity, and more pronounced minerality.

This shift represents a new era, emphasising authenticity and individuality rather than adhering to a singular, dominant style. As a result, the wine world is richer and more varied than ever, offering something for every taste and preference. Whether you're a fan of the bold and oaky or the light and nuanced, there's a wine out there just waiting to be discovered and enjoyed.

The Future of Oak in Winemaking

Looking ahead, the role of oak in winemaking will continue to evolve. Innovations in cooperage and winemaking techniques, such as using oak alternatives like staves, chips, and cubes, allow for more controlled and varied oak influence without the expense of traditional barrels. Additionally, the increasing focus on sustainability is driving the exploration of renewable resources and practices in barrel production.

As consumers become more educated and discerning, winemakers will likely continue experimenting with oak to create unique and memorable wines. While the Parkerization era spotlighted a particular style, the trend towards diversity and authenticity promises an exciting future for wine enthusiasts. Whether through traditional barrel ageing or innovative new methods, the interplay between wine and oak will continue to captivate and delight palates worldwide.


Explore & travel

A Journey of Purpose: The Tuscany Trek for Millimetres 2 Mountains

Written by - Cult Wines News

In a heartwarming collaboration, the Millimetres 2 Mountains Foundation (M2M) and CHX Challenge in the Alps recently completed a memorable fundraising trek through the scenic landscapes of Tuscany. This inspiring event, supported by Cult Wines, raised an impressive £21,000 to support the foundation's future beneficiaries.

The Origin of an Inspiring Trek

The idea for this extraordinary journey began when Damien and Alison, founders of CHX Challenge, were on vacation in Italy. While exploring the vineyards, they stumbled upon the Via Francigena, an ancient pilgrimage route from Canterbury to Rome. This serendipitous discovery led to conversations with Lois Jackson, Co-Founder of M2M, and the team at Cult Wines. The concept of a fundraising trek was born, blending the passions for walking, wine, and charitable giving.

Lois Jackson elaborated, “When Damien and Alison shared their experience of discovering the Via Francigena, we immediately saw the potential for a unique fundraising event. It combined our love for adventure, nature, and philanthropy, creating a perfect synergy.”

A Journey of Purpose: The Tuscany Trek for Millimetres 2 Mountains

Walking for a Cause

Over three days, participants covered more than 75 kilometres through the picturesque Tuscan countryside. The trek was not just about the distance but about the camaraderie and the cause. Each step taken was a step closer to supporting individuals facing mental health challenges, as M2M is dedicated to helping those affected by mental health issues and physical disabilities through adventure and nature.

Among the highlights was the presence of Cult Wines clients, including Gary and his son Olly, who together raised over £11,000. Another father-son duo, Jacopo Andreose and his son Sebastian, also joined the trek, showcasing the strong support from the Cult Wines community.

Additionally, the group enjoyed organized tastings at Palagetto in San Gimignano and the spectacular Antinori Chianti Classico wineries, adding a delightful culinary experience to their journey.

Voices from the Journey

James Fisher, one of the participants, reflected on the experience: “The opportunity to hike through the beautiful landscape of Tuscany while raising money for the M2M Foundation was an opportunity not to be missed. The support of Cult Wines and the finish line at Villa Antinori made this even more special.”

Lois Jackson expressed her gratitude: “It was a real treat to combine three of my favourite things – walking, wine, and fundraising. The best part of this trip was the incredible people who came along. Walking and talking through beautiful countryside while raising money for M2M, even with a few blisters, was amazing. Thank you to Cult Wines for their support; the £21,000 raised by participants will significantly impact our future beneficiaries.”

Gary, one of the top fundraisers, shared his thoughts: “Participating in the Tuscany trek was a profound experience. Not only did we enjoy the stunning landscapes and exquisite wines, but knowing that our efforts are contributing to such a worthy cause made every step worthwhile.”

The Impact of the Funds Raised

The £21,000 raised from this event will go a long way in supporting the initiatives of the Millimetres 2 Mountains Foundation. These funds will help organize more adventure therapy programs, provide resources for mental health support, and enable more individuals to participate in transformative outdoor experiences.

Lois Jackson highlighted, "The funds raised will support our upcoming programs designed to help individuals rebuild their lives through the power of nature and adventure. From climbing expeditions to wilderness therapy sessions, every penny will make a difference."

Looking Ahead

The success of this trek has set the stage for future events. M2M is gearing up for a golf day at The Manor House, Castle Combe, on Friday, September 6th, and a gala dinner in London on Saturday, November 9th.

These events are crucial for raising further funds and awareness for their cause. Interested parties can contact Rosie at [email protected] for more information.

A Shared Vision

The Tuscany trek is a testament to what can be achieved when passionate individuals and supportive organizations unite for a common cause. With the continued support of Cult Wines and the dedication of M2M and CHX Challenge, future Millimetres 2 Mountains Foundation beneficiaries can look forward to even more opportunities and support.

For information on upcoming events and to support the Millimetres 2 Mountains Foundation, visit For more information on the CHX Challenge, visit CHX website.

Join the Movement

The Tuscany Trek was not just a fundraising event but a movement that inspired others to combine their passions with philanthropy.

Lois Jackson encourages everyone to get involved: "Whether you're an avid hiker, a wine enthusiast, or someone who cares deeply about mental health and wellness, there's a place for you in our community. Join us in making a difference, one step at a time."

Stay tuned for future M2M x CHX trips with Cult Wines.


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