Top 5 Red Wines from Bordeaux to Buy Now

As highly regulated French wine regions, Bourgogne might challenge Bordeaux for being the king of classifications. Certainly, Bourgogne has more distinct appellations—hundreds of them—but Bordeaux has lots of quality classifications across its many appellations. 

What do you they mean and what are five recommended wines from Bordeaux’s top classified growths to order when you buy red wine online?

The Meaning of “Growth” in French Wine Classification

In Bordeaux, the term "growth" (French: cru) refers to a specific vineyard or wine estate. The concept of "growth" is deeply rooted in Bordeaux's history and classification systems, particularly the 1855 Bordeaux Classification. It ranked the top châteaux (wine estates) into five tiers or "growths" based on their reputation and price, but by 1855 the concept of cru was already well established. 

A Bordeaux "first growth" refers to one of the five historically significant wine estates in Bordeaux, specifically in the Médoc area (but also Graves). These estates, or châteaux, were classified as "first growths" in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855, which was commissioned by Emperor Napoleon III for the Universal Exposition in Paris.

The first growths were considered the best of the best and have remained so. They are:

  • Château Haut-Brion (located in the Graves region, not Médoc)
  • Château Mouton Rothschild (promoted to first growth status in 1973)
  • Château Lafite Rothschild
  • Château Latour
  • Château Margaux

These estates produce some of the most sought-after and expensive French wine in the world. These estates produce wines known for their complexity, aging potential, and ability to express the unique flavors of Bordeaux. 

So what is a “grand cru”?

"Grand Cru" is used in various French wine regions, including Bordeaux, Bourgogne, Alsace, and Champagne, to denote a vineyard or wine estate that is recognized for producing high-quality wines. However, the criteria and usage of "Grand Cru" can vary between regions.

In Bordeaux, the term "Grand Cru" has a slightly different twist, not the same as in Bourgogne. The focus is on classifying the wine estates (almost always called “châteaux”) rather than individual vineyards. The 1855 Bordeaux classification is the best example of estate classification. It’s all about the wine the chateau produces from its vineyard in a specific appellation—the vineyards belong to the chateau. 

In Bourgogne, by contrast, "Grand Cru" is used to designate the highest quality vineyards in the region. These vineyards are considered by locals to have the best terroir and consistently produce wines of exceptional quality. In Bourgogne, the classification is based on the vineyard, not the estate; different producers can even make wine from the same Grand Cru vineyard.

In the final analysis, while both "first growth" and "Grand Cru" denote exceptional quality in wine, the terms are used differently in Bordeaux and Bourgogne. In Bordeaux, "first growth" refers to a specific classification of estates, while in Bourgogne, "Grand Cru" refers to the highest quality vineyards.

Five Recommended Bordeaux Red Wines

Of course, these day, many experts consider a lot of the Bordeaux “second growths” to be equal in quality to the “first growths”; that is, they are certainly all “grands crus.” Some people don’t like the classification system, while others believe it should be updated. 1855 was a long time ago. 

Nothing impresses more and lasts longer in the world of wine, however, than top Bordeaux growths. So, here are five suggested Bordeaux wines for your collection. Remember these crus the next time you order wine online from the best wine store in California! They are expensive wines but worth it!

What are the five top recommended grands crus of Bordeaux red wine?

  1. 2009 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande (a second growth) 
  2. 2016 Cos d'Estournel Saint-Estephe (Deuxième Cru too)
  3. 2017 Chateau Margaux Premier Grand Cru Classe (that means “first growth)
  4. 2017 Chateau Palmer Margaux (everyone says it should be a premier cru)
  5. 2007 Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion (among the grand crus of Graves)

These Wines Represent the Best of Bordeaux

Once you order Bordeaux wine online, you will appreciate the region’s prowess. The 2007 Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion presents a distinct and captivating expression of the Pessac-Leognan appellation with its complex array of dark fruits, tobacco, and earthy nuances, underscored by a robust structure and long-lasting finish. It scored 95 points from Wine Advocate, 93 from Jeb Bunnuck and Wine Enthusias, and 91 from Wine Spectator. Wine Advocate said it has “an ebullient bouquet with vivid dark berry, cold, warm gravel and undergrowth scents that are very complex and beautifully defined. . . . If you are seeking a 2007 Bordeaux, then this would undoubtedly be one of my picks." 

The 2009 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande and the 2016 Cos d'Estournel Saint-Estephe stand out as remarkable examples of modern Bordeaux winemaking. The Pichon Longueville comes from a fantastic vintage, 2009, when growing conditions excelled. Wine Advocate called it a classic: “Medium to full-bodied, the palate is packed with tightly wound black fruit and earthy layers, framed by ripe, fine-grained tannins and lovely freshness making for a long, lively finish.” Its striking and refined profile intertwines those dark fruits, cedar, and tobacco with subtle spice and floral notes. 

The Cos d'Estournel Saint-Estephe contrasts a bit with the Comtesse, exuding boldness and intensity, revealing deep layers of black fruits, graphite, and spice, supported by firm tannins and a structured finish. It wall age for years to come. Wine Advocate gave it 100 points (!!!) while using one of the longest sentences ever in a wine review: “The palate is simply electric, charged with an energy and depth of flavors that seem to defy the elegance and ethereal nature of its medium-bodied weight, featuring super ripe, densely pixelated tannins that firmly frame the myriad of fruit and floral sparks, finishing with epic length. Just. Magic.”

Despite their differing styles, both wines exemplify superb expressions of the excellence and diversity of Bordeaux's specific terroirs.

Moving up the ladder, the 2017 Chateau Margaux and the 2017 Chateau Palmer (also from Margaux) represent the epitome of First Growth and, let’s say, “potential” Premier Cru status. They are neighbors. 

As always, Chateau Margaux radiates elegance and sophistication, showcasing a refined bouquet of red fruits, violets, and subtle earthy undertones, coupled with a velvety texture and enduring finish. Meanwhile, Chateau Palmer captivates with its opulence and depth, offering a symphony of ripe fruits, spices, and floral notes, supported by silky tannins and a lingering finish. Being both from the same vintage and both from Margaux, they would be interesting to taste side-by-side. 

Together, these five Bordeaux red wines—the crème-de-la-crème— exemplify the best of Bordeaux winegrowing from you wine store California.

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