Our top picks among Bordeaux’s “smaller” appellations

Map of the Bordeaux appellation

We spill the beans in all honesty about our top picks from lesser-known Bordeaux appellations that often fly under the radar. Trust us to introduce you to exciting finds at affordable prices; these are real hidden gems that we enjoy ourselves on a regular basis.

Pomerol, Saint-Émilion, Pauillac, Margaux… All well-known and acclaimed appellations, home to some of Bordeaux’s finest wines, including several with the famed 1855 classification, but whose reputation and success often come with a hefty price tag, deterring more than a few. And yet, alongside these prestigious names, you’ll find some lesser-known but no less interesting appellations. These wines often tend to be softer and more approachable than typical Bordeaux styles, delighting palates even in their youth with their fresh fruit-forward flavours. Even Bordeaux sceptics might find themselves won over by some of these estates – we can’t wait to hear what you think!

Left Bank: a few Médoc and Haut-Médoc wines really stand out from the crowd

On the Left Bank, the ‘Médoc’ and ‘Haut-Médoc’ appellations (sub-regional appellations) showcase fairly varied profiles, with properties offering different levels of quality. However, with a bit of exploration, one can unearth true gems at prices that are more than affordable. The Médoc appellation covers the northern part of the Gironde Peninsula (although Médoc is commonly used to refer to all the appellations in the region). This is the largest appellation in the Médoc, extending over 80 km in length and 10 km in width, and has been a historic vineyard since Gallo-Roman times. This growing region consists of several types of soil: Garonne gravel, Pyrenean gravel and clayey, chalky subsoil filled with marine sediments. The influence of the Gironde estuary brings about a mild, temperate climate. In this appellation, at iDealwine, we have a soft spot for Château Greysac, known for producing elegant, charming wines with excellent ageing potential.

As for the Haut-Médoc AOC, it lies to the south of the former, stretching down to the southern reaches of the Médoc region. Stretching over 60 km, it includes the smaller appellations of Saint-Estèphe, Pauillac, Saint-Julien, Listrac-Médoc, Moulis, and Margaux. The terroir here is also incredibly diverse, combining limestone, clay, and sandy soils. Here, we fell for Château du Taillan, which we were introduced to by our head of sales Raphaël de Fonscolombe –  not a tough find considering the property belongs to his family. This estate has caught the attention of both enthusiasts and critics alike: the 2016 vintage was awarded a score of 16.5/20 by the French wine magazine Bettane & Desseauve. We love its balance of body and freshness, its well-melted tannins and its superb length. And of course, we frequently mention Château Belle-Vue, a long-standing favourite of ours. It offers truly exceptional value for money, possessing all the qualities of a fine wine except its hefty price tag (€17)! Generally speaking, the Médoc’s crus bourgeois present wonderful opportunities with the outstanding crus bourgeois standing out at their peak and proving serious rivals to the crus classés.

And if you want to discover the latest Bordeaux 2021 vintage, check out the bottles available from this fresh, classic vintage.

Right Bank, Côtes de Bordeaux, Côtes de Bourg, Fronsac, and  satellite appellations of Saint-Émilion all warrant the attention of wine lovers

On the Right Bank, we’re currently taking a keen interest in the Castillon-Côtes-de-Bordeaux. To put it simply, there are some real stars here. Just think, you have a choice between Clos Puy Arnaud,  a biodynamic estate in Belvès-de-Castillon, run by Thierry Valette, Stéphane Derenoncourt’s Domaine de l’A, in Sainte-Colombe, south of the appellation, and Château d’Aiguilhe. This estate, which belongs to Stephan von Neipperg (who also owns Canon La Gaffelière and La Mondotte in Saint-Émilion), is one of the properties in Saint-Philippe-d’Aiguille, situated on the highest slopes along the right bank of the Dordogne, on the border with Saint-Émilion. This appellation, located 45 km east of Bordeaux, borders Saint-Émilion and spans 2,300 hectares. The terroirs are fairly similar to those of Saint-Émilion: to the north of the appellation, the soil consists of recent sandy-gravelly or sandy-clay alluvium deposits, whereas they become clayey limestone or marly on the hillsides. The grape varieties grown here are much the same as in Saint-Émilion. We appreciate the concentration, finesse and great drinkability of the above-mentioned estates, especially their ability to be enjoyed in their youth coupled with their excellent ageing potential.

Nestled between the Castillon AOC and the Montagne-Saint-Émilion, the Puisseguin-Saint-Émilion appellation also seems full of promise. Spanning 760 hectares, this Saint-Émilion satellite AOC flourishes on a terroir of clay-limestone soils and limestone, set upon a bedrock of stone. The grape varieties grown here are mostly Merlot (80%), with some Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. It is renowned for producing wines akin to those from Saint-Émilion, perhaps with a touch less depth and power, yet notably more approachable than their neighbours, particularly delightful in their youth.

The Francs-Côtes-de-Bordeaux appellation, which lies to the north-east of the Castillon AOC, is the smallest appellation in Bordeaux (510 hectares of vines) and also the one the furthest east. Its clay-limestone and marl slopes are among the highest in the region, and the grape varieties grown are of the same as in Castillon. In this area, Château de Francs (with its Les Cerisiers cuvée) and Château Puygueraud stand out.

Further to the north, we have previously mentioned Château de Carles and its exceptional Haut-Carles cuvée in Fronsac. And it’s a firm favourite among the entire iDealwine team! This AOC lies to the west of Pomerol and covers 850 hectares. The clay-limestone soils consist of Fronsadais molasses (a mixture of clay and sandstone), and Merlot dominates the grape varieties, even more so than in Saint-Émilion. While most of the wines are full-bodied and rich, Haut-Carles stands out for the finesse of its tannins and its wonderfully digestible character.

See our Bordeaux wines currently for sale