Despite being as visually unprepossessing as the rest of the Médoc (despite
its grandiose châteaux) this large red-wine appellation of Haut-Médoc is home
to some of the worlds greatest wines. Its 4,500ha of vineyards form a largely
continuous strip that follows the Gironde from St Seurin-de-Cadourne, just
north of St Estèphe, to Blanquefort in the northern suburbs of
All the great communes of the Left Bank fall within its boundaries: Margaux,
St Julien, Pauillac and St Estèphe, as well as the up and coming Moulis and
Listrac. These are labeled under their own more illustrious and expensive
appellation names. Châteaux labeled simply as Haut-Médoc rarely reach such
heights but nevertheless offer consistently good quality and offer some of the
best value in Bordeaux.
Haut-Médoc wines tend to be firm and fine with generous fruit and a nice
minerality; what many would consider classic Claret. They come from loftier
vineyards and offer higher quality and more complexity than those labeled
simply as Médoc. Almost all wines are a blend of the principal varieties -
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc - which helps producers hedge
their bets if the slightly capricious climate causes one variety to fail. Small
amounts of Petit Verdot, Malbec and even Carmenère are also used.
The higher proportion of sand and gravel to the south tends to produce finer
wines while the heavier clay and gravel north of Margaux yields sturdier
examples. The best Haut-Médocs are found north of Ludon, a village just below
Margaux. These include 5 classified growths - 3rd Growth Ch. la
Lagune, underperforming 4th Growth Ch. la Tour Carnet and
5th Growths Ch. Cantemerle, Ch. Camensac and Ch. Belgrave as well
as a number of fine Cru Bourgeois. Ageing ability varies but the lesser
wines are usually delicious after 3-4 years, lasting around a decade, while the
Cru Classés have a drinkability window of around 6 to 15 years.
Recommended producers (labeled as Haut-Médoc): Ch. Beaumont, Ch.
Belgrave, Ch. Cantemerle, Ch. Peyrabon.