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Wine By Region Right Europe Right France Right Bordeaux Right Left Bank Right Médoc Right  Pauillac   Margaux   St-Julien   St-Estèphe   Haut-Médoc

Medoc vineyard

A vineyard in the Médoc. Photo by Berndt Fernow. License: Creative Commons SA 3.0 Unported.

Margaux label

A Château Margaux label. Photo by Gilbert Le Moigne.
License: Creative Commons SA 3.0 Unported.

The Médoc has had a long history of making very full-bodied red wines with high tannins, low acidity, and medium to high alcohol levels: in other words, the classic Bordeaux blend. While red Bordeaux can be thought of as wine from St-Émilion, Pomerol, or Graves, the Médoc is still considered the quintessential Bordeaux.

Located directly to the west and southwest of the Gironde river, the Médoc has optimal climate and soil for the planting and growing of the dean of red grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon. Although machine harvesting has its place, Médoc wineries usually opt to keep quality high and pick manually. Yields are kept low by government limits. Some white wine is produced, but it is considered second wine and registered under Bordeaux AOC or some other generic appellation--as opposed to Graves, where white wine is a significant part of production.

These and other rigorous standards, slightly different for each village in which wine is produced, keep quality high. Médoc AOC itself, although this appellation is not often used, has various rules of its own. Although yields are kept low, vine density is generally high, and quite a bit of wine is produced here. The best châteaux, although they undoubtedly put extraordinary effort into their wines, make excellent profits.

A great deal of flavors can be found in the Médoc, and even among the small villages subtle differences abound. In later years, when they are peaking, many of these wines have notes of chocolate and violet, as well as the flavors spurred by the oak aging. Villages such as Margaux, make wines that are less overpoweringly strong than, say, the famously tannic Pauillac. St-Julien is famous for its woody flavor, which is often compared to cedar.


France marsh

Up until the 1700s, the Médoc was swampy and wet,
like the marsh pictured here. This photo is in the public domain.

Up until the 1700s the primary place for Bordeaux red wine was Graves. Graves made full-bodied red wines, and wealthy people all over the world constituted the market. Anything outside of this style was produced in, for example, St-Émilion, and those wines were nowhere near as prestigious as they are now.

A changing wine world meant more demand for French wine, and at some point various growers had the bright idea of reconstituting the Médoc land for wine growing. At this point, Médoc was little more than swampy marshland, but authorities saw the potential, and the land was excavated.

At the end of a long process, the wines of Médoc became famous and, in time for the classification of 1855, were well-known and well-respected in the wine world, even more than Graves. Only a wine region as suitable for production as the Médoc could have undertaken such a speedy coup d'etat. A century and a half later, the Médoc has changed little, and it remains the top place in Bordeaux, if not in the world, for the style it produces.

Climate and Viticulture

The climate of the Médoc, like all Bordeaux regions', is oceanic. Médoc's, though, is more so than other regions, and sometimes this can make the wine unpleasant. In fact, disturbances from the ocean such as excessive rain are the main problem for Bordeaux growers.

Despite Médoc's relatively small size, there is great variation in soil. The best regions have gravel and sand in the soil, making Cabernet Sauvignon the top grape. Certain large deposits of clay, however, do exist. In those places, Cabernet Sauvignon is better off as a small part of the blend, or not being planted at all. All four prestigious villages, and the better areas of the Haut-Médoc, have a more gravelly type of soil. The gravel banks that lead down to the Gironde river are particularly good places to grow the grapes.

Grape Varieties

Any white wine produced in the Médoc has to be grouped under a generic appellation such as Bordeaux AOC, and no wines bearing the Médoc classification are white. As a result, only highly established châteaux whose names will be recognized can afford to produce white wine in these areas. Probably well over 99% percent of produced wines are red.

Regulations vary, but generally the same six grapes are allowed to be used. Click on any of these grape varieties to be taken to a page describing them.

Major Producers

We provide the full Médoc classification below; it includes 1ers crus all the way through 5ers crus, their locations, and a brief summary of the wine produced there. Not all these châteaux' wines are regularly available outside of France, but in most cases their distribution is wide enough to guarantee availability in most competitive wine stores or online.

The five 1ers crus are as follows:

There are 14 2ers crus, listed here:

There are 14 3ers crus as well, listed here. Less information is available for the lower crus, so less is provided. For some odd reason, most of these 14 are Margaux.

No less than 10 more wines have the distinction of 4er cru, all but one of which comes from the villages.


Château Beychevelle. This photo is in the public domain.

A number of the 18 5ers crus, for example Lynch-Bages, are highly underrated. Most of the 18 are in Pauillac.


A number of AOCs are contained within the Médoc, including Médoc AOC itself. Here is a list of the significant ones.

A vineyard owned by Château Latour of Pauillac.
Photo by Benjamin Zingg.
License: Creative Commons SA 2.5 Generic.

Which of the villages a person likes is up to them and them alone, but it cannot be doubted that these Big Four dominate wine production in the Médoc and create most of the business in that region. While the best ones are a luxury only available to the wealthy, they provide fabulous expressions of red wine that has been honed as close to perfection as it may ever come.

Cos d'Estournel

Château Cos d'Estournel not only makes some of the best wine in the Médoc, but the château itself also displays impressive architectural mastery.
Photo by Thomas Pusch. License: Creative Commons SA 3.0 Unported.