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Click here to learn about the Chateaux that were included in the Medoc Classification of 1855

The Medoc is the area of Bordeaux that is located downstream (northwest) of the city of Bordeaux on the left bank of the Garonne River.  The Medoc is the home of most of the really famous wines of the Bordeaux region and the primary grape variety is Cabernet Sauvignon.  Because the water in the river moderates the early cold fronts, the growing season is about two weeks longer than on Saint Emilion on the right bank.  As a result, Cabernet Sauvignon usually reaches full maturity in the Medoc.  An axiom in the Medoc is that the best vineyards are those that have a view of the river.  The further you are from the water, the further you are from the protection it provides against frost.

The landscape of the Medoc region is slightly rolling hills that rise away from the river.  The composition of the soil in the Medoc is the result of spring floods on the river over hundreds of thousands of years.  The floods carried rocks, pebbles and sediment downstream in the rushing water.  The heavier items were the first to fall out and are found further upstream away from the coast.  In the Graves region and in the first parts of the Medoc, the soil tends to be very gravelly.  As you progress further downstream toward the ocean, the soils contain more and more sand and clay and fewer stones.

The change in the soil as you move down river also accounts for a change in the texture and taste of the wine.  In general, the further you move downstream in the Medoc, the coarser the texture and flavors in the wines.  Tasted side by side, the differences between the a wine from Saint Julien, Pauillac or Margaux versus a wine from Saint Estèphe are evident.  This is not a specific indicator of quality, just of difference.

Around the edges of the Medoc and between the specific communes, is a classification called the Haut Medoc (Upper Medoc).  These wines can be quite good but carry less pedigree and rarely age as long or reach the collector status as the wines from the individual communes in the Medoc.

In 1855, wine brokers were asked to create a classification of the wines of Bordeaux. They only included the wines of the Medoc (except for the inclusion of Chateau Haut Brion from the Graves region). The rating was based (mostly) on the price that the wines were bringing in the market and was divided into 5 classifications. The sole change in this classification was the elevation of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild in 1973.  Some Chateaux are now producing wines that deserve a higher classification and others deserve a lower rating.  These Chateaux are responsible for nearly 1/4 of of the wine production in the Medoc. 

Click here to learn about the Chateaux that were included in the Medoc Classification of 1855