Haut Medoc Bordeaux Wine Guide with a history of the appellation, information on the style and character of the best wines, producer and chateaux listings with links to pages on every important property from the top chateaux in the Haut Medoc, Bordeaux wine region with wine tasting notes, top ten facts about the Haut Medoc, histories of the properties, tips for wine and food pairing with Haut Medoc wine, images, technical information and Bordeaux wine buying tips for the best wines and top chateau in the Haut Medoc appellation as well in the communes of Listrac, Moulis and the Medoc.
If you want to read about other Bordeaux wine producers in different Bordeaux appellations: Links to all Bordeaux Wine Producer Profiles If you are interested in learning more about Bordeaux wine, we offer numerous articles on everything about Bordeaux wine, from a history of the Bordeaux region and the famous 1855 Classification, the grapes used to produce Bordeaux wine and even vintage summaries covering Bordeaux wine from 1900 to today: All About Bordeaux Wine Guide
The best chateau, wines, vineyards and producers in the Haut Medoc: The links located to the left of the page lead to the best Haut Medoc wines and their producers. You can read wine tasting notes, detailed profiles and histories of the estates, details on the wines, wine making, soils and other important information, as well as view images of the following top Bordeaux value wine producers from the Left Bank in the Haut Medoc appellation:
- Cambon Le Pelouse
- Chasse Spleen
- Clement Pichon
- Fourcas Borie
- Haut Condissas
- La Lagune
- La Tour Carnet
- La Tour de By
- Les Grands Chenes
- Mauvesin Barton
- Rollan de By
- Saint Paul
- Sociando Mallet
Overview of the Haut Medoc: The Haut Medoc Bordeaux wine appellation is massive. In fact, the Haut Medoc appellation is the largest area under vine in the Medoc with a total of 4,198 hectares planted with vines. Almost 400 different chateau produce wine or operate vineyards in the Haut Medoc today. Out of that number, about 250 produce and sell their own wine. The remaining 150 growers sell their wine or grapes to local cooperatives or negociants. In an average year, 2,333,000 cases of wine are produced.
When you compare the Haut Medoc appellation with the other lesser communes, because there are so many different terroir and soils in Bordeaux, as well as diverse approaches to wine making, there is no particular style of Bordeaux wine produced here. It’s wide and varied. With hundreds of Chateaux, there are some that push the quality envelope as far as it can go, hoping to produce the best wines possible, while other chateaux are content to simply try selling what they make, simply because it says Bordeaux on the label. While only 5 chateau were included in the 1855 Classification from Haut Medoc, it is home to the majority of Cru Bourgeois classed chateaux.
Haut Medoc versus the Medoc: One important fact to keep in mind is, the Haut Medoc appellation is not the same as the Medoc, which includes not only the Haut Medoc appellation, but all the other important communes in the Left Bank as well, Pauillac, Margaux, St. Estephe and St. Julien. Adding more confusion than clarity, the Medoc is both a commune, with only a few wines of repute, located to the north of the St. Estephe appellation and the large area of the Left Bank we previously referenced. If that’s not enough, to make things even more difficult for the moment, the Medoc is completely different and not to be confused with the area located north of St. Estephe, known as the Bas Medoc.
Bas Medoc is a term that is seldom used these days. It ceased to exist at some point in the 1940’s, when the chateaux petitioned for change saying the term Bas Medoc placed them as a commercial disadvantage. Prior to being known as Bas Medoc, the area was called little Hollad, due to the fact that area was one of the most heavily dredged by the Dutch, when much of the marshland was drained in the 17th century. Prior to that, the area was not fit for agriculture. Today, the wines from Bas Medoc are listed simply as Medoc on the label. The term Medoc can be a little difficult to follow for some consumers as the Medoc is also the term for the majority of the Left Bank. Back to the Haut Medoc, the subject at hand.
The taste, character and style of wine from the Haut Medoc: For the top wines of the Haut Medoc region, the best producers are located closest to the area of the Medoc stretching to the north of Saint Estephe all the way south to below the Margaux appellation. Because of the massive, sprawling area, differences in terroir, financial capabilities of the chateaux and of course soils play a big part in setting the quality and style of the wines from the Haut Medoc. 2005 was an extraordinary vintage for the appellation. Several of the best producers from Haut Medoc made serious Bordeaux wines of classified growth quality. The wines of Haut Medoc can age and are interesting to add to blind tastings with better known 1855 classified wines from the Meodc.
Due to the massive size of the Haut Medoc, offering a single, general description can be difficult. Wines and the style of the wine vary from estate to estate. For example, Chateau La Lagune produces and elegant, floral wine. Chateau La Tour Carnet is modern in style and Chateau Sociando, along with Chateau Lanessan are both traditional producers that make wines many feel are rustic in personality. If you choose wisely, the Haut Medoc can provide very good Bordeaux wine, for fair prices.
History of the Haut Medoc appellation: The birth of the Haut Medoc appelltion coincides with the draining of the area by the Dutch. Much of what we know of as the Haut Medoc appellation today consisted of swamps and marshlands unti the area was drained in the 17th century. Once the Haut Medoc appellation was officially created, according to the order made November 14, 1936, to be an Haut Medoc, AOC Bordeaux wine, the wine must come from any of the communes from the Haut Medoc appellation which include: Blanquefort, Le Taillan, Parempuyre, Le Pian, Ludon, Macau, Arsac, Labarde, Avensan, Castelnau, Soussans, Arcins, Moulis, Listrac, Lamarque, Cussac, Saint-Laurent de Medoc, Saint-Sauveur, Cissac, Vertheuil or Saint-Seurin de Cadourne. On this page, you will also from some of the best chateaux located in the Medoc appellation as well.
Haut Medoc wine and food pairings: The wine of the Haut Medoc appellation can be more stern and tannic than you might find in the other appellations in the Left Bank. But the wines are still just as versatile. Haut Medoc Bordeaux makes excellent wine and food pairing with most game, beef, veal, pork, lamb or duck dishes. Haut Medoc wines also pair well with roast chicken dishes and a wide variety of cheese.
The Top Ten Facts You Need to Know about Haut Medoc
#1 Haut Medoc is the largest appellation in the Left Bank with 4,198 hectares planted with vines.
#2 Haut Medoc is not the same as the Medoc.
#3 Haut Medoc has only 5 chateaux in the 1855 Classification.
#4 Haut Medoc was created due to the draining of the swamps in Bordeaux by the Dutch.
#5 Haut Medoc estates produce 28.5% of all Bordeaux wine. This comes out to almost 33 million bottles each year!
#6 Haut Medoc is the home to one of the oldest properties in Bordeaux. Chateau La Tour Carnet. The estate, with its moat and drawbridge dates back to the 12h century.
#7 Haut Medoc has the highest concentration of Cru Bourgeois classed estates of any Bordeaux appellation.
#8 Numerous Haut Medoc chateau classed as Cru Bourgeois are only a stones throw, or single vine away from the major appellations with their 1855 Classified chateau.
#9 Chateau Cantemerle was originally left off the 1855 Classification by accident. It took almost 2 years to rectify that mistake.
#10 Haut Medoc chateau are the first estates visitors see when driving on the famous D2 highway from the city in Bordeaux traveling north as well as the first when entering Bordeaux heading north to south.
Grapes of the Haut Medoc The five main Bordeaux varietals for red wine are grown in the region; Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. White Bordeaux wine is also produced in the Haut Medoc from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, although other grape varieties are also allowed by law. However, white Bordeaux wine produced in the Haut Medoc must be sold and labeled as generic AOC Bordeaux wine.
The terroir and soil of Haut Medoc: The soil of wines from Haut Medoc must feature deposits of Garonne gravel along with some limestone, sand and clay. However, the best vineyards have deep gravel. The gravel helps with natural drainage, which helps much of the flat, or slightly sloped elevations in the appellation. The gravel also allows the vines to dig deep into the soil, while retaining warmth and reflecting sunshine to the vines. Interestingly, a few of the appellations vineyards are located close to the city. Because the Haut Medoc covers so much ground, there is a wide diversity of terroir’s, micro climates and soils. Those differences are why we experience such a wide display of styles in the wines. To get an idea on how the soil and terroir of the Haut Medoc compares to the other important appellations in Bordeaux; The terroir and soil of Bordeaux
While there are 21 different communes that make up the Haut Medoc appellation, perhaps the two that stand out above the others for their terroir are, Moulis and Listrac.
Moulis, granted appellation status in 1938 is the smallest appellation in the Medoc, with only 633 hectares of vines. 53 different Bordeaux chateau make wine in Moulis. On average, close to 315,000 cases of wine are produced each year in Moulis. Moulis is packed with Cru Bourgeois classified chateaux. 14 are located in the commune, taking up slightly more than 60% of the entire 633 hectares of vines. The terroir of Moulis is mostly gravel with some clay and limestone in the soil. Chateau Poujeaux and Chateau Chasse Spleen are probably the two finest producers in Moulis.
Listrac has 668 hectares planted with vines. While 74 growers have vineyards in the commune, only 40 chateau are producers. The remainder of the estates sell their harvest to cooperatives. On average, close to 325,000 cases are produced each year in Listrac. While there were vines planted in Listrac in the 12th century, in the modern era, Listrac is a later bloomer. The area only became an appellation in 1957. The terroir is mostly gravel with clay, limestone and sand. Interestingly, Listrac has some of the highest elevations in the Medoc at a whopping 141 feet. Listrac has a slightly cooler terroir than its neighboring appellations. Chateau Fourcas Borie is the leading producing in Listrac.
The best vintages for Haut Medoc Wines. The top years for the wines of Haut Medoc are: 1982, 1989, 1990, 1996, 2000, 2005, 2009 and 2010. Generally speaking, the wines of the Haut Medoc will be strong in the same vintages as most of the northern Medoc. Older vintages are not listed here because for most estates in the Haut Medoc, they did not have the terroir or the necessary funds to be able to produce great wine in most vintages prior to 1982 for the top chateaux, and probably 2000 for most of the properties active in the appellation. That is not the case today as many estates are making top wine in the Haut Medoc appellation. If you are interested in reading more detailed information on other vintages for the Haut Meodc, along with all the top Bordeaux appellations, please read: Bordeaux Year to Year Detailed Vintage Reports 1900 to Today
AOC rules and law for Haut Medoc: The current boundaries of the Haut Medoc AOC date from 1935. However, the area was seen as a source for fine Bordeaux wine as far back as 1815. Haut Medoc covers a massive area from the stream at Blanquefort to Saint-Seurin de Cadourne. This is to the exclusion of all plots situated on modern alluvial soils and sand over impermeable sub-soils. The wines from Haut Medoc must be made from specific grape varieties, have minimum sugar content, alcoholic strength of at least 10% and yields must be limited. The appellation is 60 kilometers of land that traverses different village appellations and crosses over twenty communes. This diversity leads to a wine range of Bordeaux wines and styles that are only found in the Haut Medoc appellation. Plus, because the Haut Medoc does not have the same level of cachet as the Medoc, this means that consumers can often get a lot more bang for the buck!