The Finest Wines from Bordeaux, Pt. 2 – Left Bank, Bordeaux 1855 Classified Chateaux

by Mar 26, 2020News0 comments

Julien Miquel

Chief Wine Officer, Alti Wine Exchange

Today we’re exploring what you need to know about the wines from the Bordeaux left bank, the famous chateaus of the 1855 Classification, the Château Margaux, Mouton-Rothschild, Lafite and many more.

This is a 4-part series to give you all of the essential facts and keys to understand where are the best and most expensive wines around the Bordeaux region, and more importantly why some wines are better than others, what are the key differences in style, age-worthiness and ultimately, price.

After we looked at the right bank with the wines from Saint-Émilion & Pomerol, let’s explore the great estates from the left bank, the Médoc in particular.

Learn about the Best Left Bank Wines in Video

What makes the Left Bank special?

When we talk about the left bank, we talk about two areas mainly that are on the Southern side of the Garonne River, its left bank indeed considering it flows North-eastern ward towards the Atlantic.

These two areas are the Médoc to the North West of Bordeaux city, and the Graves to the South.

At some point during geological times, there was a tectonic movement that made the right bank higher than the left bank, which in turn made that the clay subsoil was covered with gravels and sand on the left bank – but not on the right bank.

That’s why Pomerol and Saint Emilion have clay and limestone soils, while on the left bank’s terroir is about gravels and sand mainly, a big difference in terroir – despite both being close by around Bordeaux city.

left bank bordeaux chateau margaux.jpg

This soil difference in turn causes the grape-focus to be different.

Merlot is the predominant grape variety on the right bank because it works better on clay and cooler soils. The left bank however is mainly about Cabernet Sauvignon that needs the heat reflection from the warm gravels and sandy soil to ripen fully and make great wines.

Yet, Bordeaux, as a region, is not nearly as warm as most parts of California, Australia, Chile or Argentina, other countries that produce a lot of very good Cabernet Sauvignon also. On the left bank of Bordeaux, Cabernet gets just ripe enough to be good, but it doesn’t get cooked or get very rich.

This is precisely what makes the unique finesse of the wines from the Left bank, and what has made the great Chateaus of Medoc and Graves so special, what’s made their winemaking success through History.

Explore More from Our Blog

Ever heard of a wine cocktail?

DEAR READER, I hope some of you learned from the reader letter last week [hyperlink to Week Ten post] and checked your attics! You never know how much wine sits above you, waiting to be uncorked and decanted—on someone else’s dime! Dear Sommelier Ferdinand, I have a...

What on earth is a ‘Wine Decanter’?

DEAR READER, It’s come to my attention that many of you are ill-informed, misinformed, and frankly, uninformed about how wine is to be consumed. Were I only a wine enthusiast, it would be wholly dispiriting. But—wine is my profession, and I’m obligated to recognize...

“What’s My Next Question?” – Benjamin Kaplan

What’s My Next Question? On a random day like today 11 years ago, a legendary Harvard Law professor and lawyer, Benjamin Kaplan, died at 99 years of age. A rich, marked life that left an impact long after his last breathe. Apart from influencing the likes of Ruth...

Wine that Makes You Look Up

Wines that Make You Look Up Can you imagine having a device that magnifies your view and never thinking to look up, never pointing it toward the sky? Until August 25, 1609, nobody had. Enter Galileo Galilee, the man who changed the way we see and interpret all that is...

Should you be swirling your wine before consumption?

DEAR READER, Through all the melodrama of the past few weeks, I’ve neglected to educate the newcomers about the art of winetasting. So, I dug deep into my inbox for this query: Sommelier Ferdinand, I went to a ball last night and wasn’t aware of the proper pre-drink...

Sommelier Ferdinand answers “What’s the point of drinking wine from a hundred years ago?”.

DEAR READER, I’ve heard what you’ve all had to say, and I’ve decided to reach out to Jerry, once again, to bury the hatchet. Who’s to say if he would be open to making amends… but I made the effort, on behalf of all you insightful readers! I’ll keep you all updated on...


DEAR READER, Something unprecedented has happened. My assistant has received an additional letter from Jerry. Remember him—from last week [READ HERE] Well, our beloved wine purist wrote back after reading yesterweek’s column: Sommelier Ferdinand, I don’t care about...

Transcending Time through Wine

On August 11, 1888, The Scientific American published its 658th issue, replete with exciting findings. From “A Study on Whirlwinds,” to “The Distillation of Peppermint" and thoughts on the human conscious, this popular science magazine had already been around since...

Boxed Wine and an angry recipient.

What an experience, to receive all your criticisms. That would shake any normal individual. But I’ve spent years having my judgments under a microscope, so I’ve learned to shut my doors to it. You are all welcome to try—but I won’t be changing any time soon! Speaking...

Sommelier Ferdinand answers “What it takes to become a Sommelier”.

DEAR READER, As the grapes grow richer, so do the bottler and buyer! Wine is an investment, my dear readers. Never forget the long game! Now, for some advice you folks have solicited: Sommelier Ferdinand, I want to be a sommelier, like yourself. I have the respect for...

Harry Potter and the Magical Creation of Seña 2007

On July 21, 2007, J.K. Rowling released her seventh and final book of a most memorable series. In just 24 hours, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows sold more than 11 million copies! On that same day, in a land more fascinating than Hogwarts, Seña 2007 was getting...

This week Sommelier Ferdinand answers the difficult question “Which do you prefer: Red or White?

DEAR READER, Some wrote in after last week, wishing me happiness…? Sending me love…? What do you all think, I’m still in love with Matilde? Save your pity for someone who needs it, I beg you! Anyway: Sommelier Ferdinand, Which do you prefer: Red, or white? -Clarise...