The Left Bank may now have to watch the urban sprawl nibble away at its vineyards, but it was Bordeaux that ensured its initial and enduring fame. It was the port from which exports thrived, notably to Britain, and the district has never looked back.
Each appellation has its own style but the best red wines, with the exception of Listrac-Médoc, have Cabernet Sauvignon at their core. The soils of the Left Bank are predominantly gravelly and perfectly suit this noble grape. Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot make up the rest. Firm, well structured and complex wines are the intended and usual outcome.
Gravelly soils, an altitude of below 100m above sea level and the influence of the Atlantic Ocean unify the vineyards of the Left Bank, but localised conditions can vary enormously. The importance of terroir, that magical mixture of all the natural conditions, can hardly be more worshipped than in the region of Bordeaux. Individual appellations need to be investigated for more detail, but it is true to say of them all that climate has an enormously influential effect on the quality of each vintage.
For red wines, 2000, 1996, 1995 and 1990 were all outstanding vintages and 2002 and 2003 have been very good. 1982, 2005, 2009 and 2010 were quite exceptional. The sweet whites of Sauternes and Barsac have not disappointed for over a decade and 2003 and 2001 were both excellent. Examples from 2010, 2009, 2005 1990, 1989 and 1983 are all exemplary.
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