By Lisa Rowlands

Sandwiched between the Gironde estuary and the Atlantic Ocean, Bordeaux’s Médoc peninsula is an area of breathtaking natural beauty and established wine-making excellence. The landscape of this relatively small area north of the city of Bordeaux, ranges from sandy beaches to pine forests and lush green countryside punctuated by row after row of vines in regimental order. A modest strip of land skirting the left bank of the river, the Médoc is home to some of the world’s most revered and expensive red wines. Labels such as Margaux, Pauillac and Saint-Julien are synonymous with luxury and opulence. But what of the district’s more basic label?

Established in 1936, Médoc AOC is a red wine appellation that permits blends in any proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Carménère. Its vineyards are characterised by sandy gravel with chalky clay sub-soils and the maritime influence of the nearby water sources. Notably, the clay content of the soil here is higher than in the Haut-Médoc and subsequently, many of the appellation’s wines contain a greater proportion of the Merlot grape. Vine parcels are spread out and scattered amongst cereal crop fields and green pastures, forming a patchwork fabric of agricultural land quite in contrast to the densely packed vines further south. This perhaps suggests that the cultivation of wine here is viewed as less important.

Nevertheless, the appellation boasts almost six-hundred vineyards sharing five-thousand-five-hundred hectares and subsequently producing in excess of thirty million bottles each year. Of the sixteen wine-producing villages that exclusively use the Médoc label, Saint-Germain-d’Esteuil, Saint-Yzans and Bégadan are perhaps those with the best reputation historically. A number of the appellation’s estates are classified Cru Bourgeois; they produce good quality wines that are often characterised by an approachable elegance.