The Bordeaux wine region: which is your bank?

Bordeaux has always been one of the most talked about wine regions in the world. Boasting 65 appellations, it is home to some incredible vineyard sites. But how does the Left Bank compare with the Right, and with Entre-Deux-Mers? (Re)discover this storied wine region.


  • An overview of present-day Bordeaux
  • Left Bank, Right Bank or Entre-deux-Mers ?
  • The outstanding terroirs along the Right Bank
  • The famous Chateaux along the Left Bank
  • Entre-deux-Mers: where white is the colour

An overview of present-day Bordeaux

The Bordeaux wine region covers 108,000 hectares of vines. These are farmed by 5,300 winegrowers, 29 co-operative wineries and 3 co-operative groups along with 300 trading companies. Its vineyards generate 60,000 jobs directly and indirectly related to the industry, most of which cannot be relocated to other areas.

Production in 2022 totalled 4.1 million hectolitres, equivalent to 548 million bottles. As Bordeaux industry members like to say, “18 bottles of Bordeaux are sold around the world every second”. The vast majority of the wines – 85% – are red, with a balance of white (7%), rosé (4%) and Crémant (2%).

Left Bank, Right Bank or Entre-Deux-Mers?

The Bordeaux wine region is all about geography. To understand its 65 appellations, accounting for one quarter of all French AOCs, you have to discover its three main areas.

It all starts with the Gironde estuary and further up-river with the Garonne and the Dordogne which flow into it. The vineyards of the Right Bank are located north of the Dordogne, whilst the Left Bank vineyards are situated south of the Garonne. With Entre-Deux-Mers the clue is in the name – it literally means between two waters and is located between both rivers.

The outstanding terroirs along the Right Bank

North-East of Bordeaux lies the birthplace of the prestigious Saint-Emilion Crus Classés, a star-studded crown with jewels like Château Ausone and Château Cheval Blanc, along with the storied Petrus in the Pomerol appellation area. Basking in a temperate climate, the soils are mainly clay, but also feature limestone, sand or gravel. Here, Merlot is king. In Saint-Emilion and Pomerol it is mostly vinted as a single varietal or occasionally blended with Cabernet Franc or Cabernet-Sauvignon. Wines from the Right Bank are viewed as being supple and balanced. They are usually easier to drink when young than their counterparts from the Left Bank.

The famous Chateaux along the Left Bank

To the North, not far from Bordeaux, the chateaux become the stars – names like Château Margaux, Château Cos d’Estournel, Château Haut-Brion, Château Lafite-Rothschild and Mouton Rothschild, to name a few. The global reputation of these prestigious properties is also due to their prominent classification systems – the 1855 official Médoc classification, the 1953 Graves Crus Classés classification and the official 1855 Sauternes classification system.

On this bank, the Cabernet-Sauvignon grape variety is king. It is blended with Merlot – which in this area is a minority varietal – and delivers powerful wines which are enhanced with age.

For the white wines of Sauternes, home to Château d’Yquem farther South, the main grape varieties used for these fine noble-rot wines are Sémillon and Sauvignon blanc. The micro-climate in the vineyard sites here is conducive to the onset of a fungus, botrytis, which produces the golden nectar.

Entre-Deux-Mers: where white is the colour

Located between the Garonne and the Dordogne, Entre-Deux-Mers is considered to be Bordeaux’s largest wine region. Its wines are predominantly white, and the star grape variety is Sauvignon. In this appellation area, it is blended with Sémillon and Muscadelle. Since the 2023 vintage, red wines have also become eligible for the appellation.

So what should you choose between the Left Bank, the Right Bank and Entre-Deux-Mers? One thing’s for sure, Bordeaux is reinventing itself and is focusing more on its consumers as evidenced by wines that are more accessible, both in terms of flavour profile and packaging, and winegrowers who have made a pledge to protect the environment. All of this and more can be (re)discovered along the Bordeaux wine routes.

Anne Schoendoerffer

Sources: , Anne Schoendoerffer  ©AdobeStock_Igor Normann