Wine Guide
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Bordeaux Fine Wine
There is no doubt that as fine wines go, Bordeaux is most definitely the world’s capital. Just saying the word Bordeaux will bring to mind one thing – and one thing only. Yes, that’s right, wine. Or rather, wines (plural); red wines, white wines, sweet wines, cheap wines, expensive wines, … you name it, Bordeaux produces it. And rightly so; with over 2,000 years of winemaking history, it is arguably still the best in the business. Spread over 112,000 hectares and housing 65 separate regions, the whole area has 7,000 winemakers which produce between 5-6 million hectolitres annually – that’s over 860 million bottles. Oh – and it’s been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2007, so we don’t expect the region to lose its crown any time soon.

Whole theses are written on this wonderfully complex region, and we’ll need more space than we have here to explain the plethora of differences between Left Bank, Right Bank, sub-region, appellation and classification (see our sub-region pages for that). In a nutshell, while all wines share common characteristics, it is these very characteristics that define whether a wine can be considered “fine”.

The region is separated in half by the Gironde estuary; meaning wines are either Left Bank or Right Bank. The Left Bank has a rockier terroir and in general, wines age better (a good thing to remember when making your wine investment choices). Right Bank wines are perhaps less complex and tend to be smoother candidates – better for immediate drinking. Ninety per cent of wines from Bordeaux are red, although there is no mistaking the part that white has to play, (we're looking at you Sauternes).

Then there are the grapes. Certain grapes perform better according to terroir (ergo bank). Left Bankers are mostly Cabernet Sauvignon based wines blended with a bit of Merlot, while Right-Bankers are the opposite – higher percentages of Merlot balanced by Cabernet Sauvignon. And just to confuse you a little more – the classic Bordeaux blend, so loved by American winemakers, is a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot AND Cabernet Franc (with Malbec and Petit Verdot and perhaps even some Carmenère thrown in for good measure). Thirteen grape varietals have been authorised to grow in the region, and you’ll find that all Bordeaux wines are a blend of these. But it doesn’t stop there. While the famous “Bordeaux Blend” is a combination of any or all 13 varieties, there are also Bordeaux varietal wines that are made from a singular varietal of grape. Petrus, made form only merlot, is the perfect example of this. Confused yet?

Left Bank vineyards tend to be bigger – think 50-80 hectares, contrary to the smaller Right Bank ones (which still average 30-hectares). If you really want to impress your dinner party guests, big hitters from the Left Bank are Château Margaux, Château Lafite, and Mouton Rothschild – all Premier Crus (First Growths). Right Bank biggies are fewer, but what they lack in quantity they make up for in quality; Petrus, along with being the most expensive wine in the region, is a Right Banker. However, the big names only make up for about five per cent of wine from Bordeaux, proving that if you’re thinking of drinking, you don’t need to break the bank.

All this may be well and good, but where does that leave investors? While wine is a liquid, it is not in fact a liquid asset. It can take months to find the right investor for your wine, yet when you do, if you have done your homework and bought savvily, you can be sure to hit payday. Investors beware though: contrary to popular belief, wine is not necessarily tax-exempt so always ask an expert prior to parting with any cash.

Bordeaux consistently comes out as the most steady long term investment, although Burgundy has shown signs of excellent short to mid-term returns. While they might not offer the same immediate gain, the aforementioned big hitters might be expensive upon outlay but are the highest searched for (Lafite is the world’s most searched for wine), although not necessarily the best selling. This is perhaps driven by the public interest surrounding the famous names, and the subsequent searching might not necessarily convert to sales. While the best-known regions tend to dominate the press (and the market), it would be remiss to dismiss the lesser-known regions such as Fronsac, Entre-Deux-Mers and Côtes de Castillon that offer superb opportunities for the creative investor.

Yet a bottle of Bordeaux remains a must in every serious collector's portfolio. As Lettie Teague of the Wall Street Journal put it so succinctly; “Bordeaux wines manage to transcend mere geography to achieve true iconography”. And who doesn’t want an icon in their cellar?

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