Your Wine IQ

Entre-deux-Mers


Wine By Region Right Europe Right France Right Bordeaux Right Entre-deux-Mers


Ste-Croix-du-Mont vineyards

Vineyards in Sainte-Croix-du-Mont, the prominent botrytized sweet wine appellation in Entre-deux-Mers. Photo by Henry Salomé. License: Creative Commons SA 3.0 Unported.

While the Left Bank and the Right Bank, between the two of them, certainly take most of the national and international spotlight, a number of excellent wines are also to be found in the area that lies between the Dordogne and Garonne rivers in Bordeaux. Called Entre-Deux-Mers, this area produces a dazzling variety of all kinds of wines that, though not exceeding the best estates on the Left or Right Bank, provide good prices and steady quality.

Most famous are the sweet white wines of Cadillac, Loupiac, and Sainte-Croix-du-Mont, but the upfront, approachable red wines of Premières Côtes de Bordeaux, as well as dry whites, also offer good values. The region's AOC system is not extremely logical, but can be understood fairly easily.

History

The history of Entre-deux-Mers winegrowing began along with the rest of Bordeaux; it was greatly assisted by the marriage of Henry II to Eleanor of Aquitaine, but did not flourish until the entire Bordeaux industry began to flourish in the 1700s. Even then, it took a back burner to Graves, the rapidly growing Médoc, and to a lesser extent St-Émilion and Pomerol.

For whatever reason, Entre-deux-Mers does not have any villages that rival those on the Left and Right Banks, and so it never reached as high a status as any of the Left Bank areas. However, it has nonetheless been recognized by the French government and various AOCs have been set up to ensure the quality of its wine.

Climate and Viticulture

A church in Entre-deux-Mers

A church in Entre-deux-Mers.
This photo is in the public domain.

Entre-deux-Mers is nowhere near as famous or popular as the Médoc, Graves, or either of the Right Bank appellations. The reason lies in its inferior climate. A variety of soils and subsoils, ranging from gravel and clay to limestone and sand, span the Entre-deux-Mers appellation. At first this might seem to be a good thing, but one of the faults of the area could be that it doesn't have any concentrated deposits of any of those particular minerals. As a result, the fabulous concentration that distinguishes Left Bank and Right Bank wines simply can't be replicated in Entre-deux-Mers.

But the variety in soils means that a great number of wine styles exist, even if none of them are world-class. In fact, it can be something of a relief from the strict, terroir-dependent nature of Left Bank and Right Bank wines. Right next to a botrytis-filled sweet wine vineyard, one solely yielding fresh, approachable reds might be found. It is this that keeps Entre-deux-Mers a crucial part of the Bordeaux wine market.

Grape Varieties

Critics have suggested that reds and rosés from the Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and occasionally Malbec grapes are now the best buys in Entre-deux-Mers. Generally, the reds follow the typical style of a Bordeaux blend, although they of course lack the intensity of a Left Bank grand cru or the soft lusciousness and velvety texture of a St-Émilion or Pomerol. Rosés are less common but also good.

Although reds are becoming increasingly competitive, Entre-deux-Mers remains most famous for its Sauternes-style sweet white wines. As usual, these botrytized examples are made from Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle. As a matter of fact, Muscadelle is used more often in Entre-deux-Mers than it is in Sauternes across the Garonne. Dry whites use the same grapes, usually with a little less dependence on Sémillon.

Major Producers

Entre-deux-Mers accounts for most of Bordeaux AOC and Bordeaux Supérieur AOC wines. There is no way of knowing these wines are Entre-deux-Mers, but it can be safely assumed that they are. Only 25% of these lower-end wines come from the Left Bank or Right Bank, mostly because producers there generally file their wine under a more relevant appellation. Exceptions are largely constituted by the second wines of famous châteaux who sell their Bordeaux AOC based on their name rather than on a label of quality.

These wines are generally very obscure, and usually not too remarkable, although some exceptions can be found with a good bit of digging. Still, the more ambitious producers generally brand their wines under an Entre-deux-Mers subregion; these are covered below.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is crucial to most of
Entre-deux-Mers' dry white wines. Photo by
Nathan on Flickr. License:
Creative Commons SA 2.0 Generic.

Subregions

Entre-deux-Mers accounts for nine AOCs, listed below in order of importance.

Garonne river

Entre-deux-Mers is found northeast of the Garonne river, pictured here. Photo by Jack ma on Wikipedia. License: Creative Commons SA 3.0 Unported.