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Learn the Right Bank Bordeaux in 10 Bottles

Everything you need to know about this classic French region

Vicki Denig By March 22, 2022
Saint Emilion village in Bordeaux with glass of red wine in front
Saint Emilion village in the Bordeaux region in France. City photo by OceanProd/iStock. Wine photo by Casimiro/iStock.

Bordeaux has exerted a pull on the world’s wine collectors since people first began collecting. Known for its regional diversity and world-renowned châteaux, the best wines from Bordeaux continue to break auction prices, year after year.

To understand the great wines of Bordeaux is to understand the world of wine because so many other regions have been inspired by their grapes and styles.

However, its reputation and prices have caused many up-and-coming collectors to shy away from the region. Yet there’s still abundant value to be found in this French region — and looking to Bordeaux’s Right Bank is a great place to start.

Quick Facts

  • Location — Bordeaux, France.
  • Size — Over 64,000 acres of vineyards.
  • Main grape varieties — Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Although it’s the outrageously priced wines that burnish the region’s reputation, Bordeaux is home to plenty of producers — both longstanding and up-and-coming — that offer long-term ageability for a fraction of the superstars’ prices. To find them, understanding the region is key.

The most important thing to know about Bordeaux is that it’s broken down into two distinct regions: Left Bank and Right Bank; while there are also a handful of other important regions, such as Entre-Deux-Mers, the two banks are the most significant.

While the Left Bank is dominated by gravel-based soils, rendering it ideal for cultivating Cabernet Sauvignon, the Right Bank’s clay-focused soils make it the perfect match for world-class Merlot. Most red wines from Bordeaux are blends, with the grapes above playing the lead role of said assemblages on each bank. 

Subzones of Bordeaux’s Right Bank

Bordeaux’s Right Bank is home to a handful of subregions, including Blaye, Côtes de Bourg, Fronsac, Graves de Vayres, Pomerol, Lalande-de-Pomerol, Saint-Émilion, Francs Côtes de Bordeaux, Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux, and Sainte-Foy Bordeaux. Saint-Émilion and Pomerol are undoubtedly the two most popular subregions within the Right Bank. Because of the Right Bank’s vineyards’ proximity to the city of Libourne, the Right Bank is often referred to as the Libournais region of Bordeaux.

Subregion highlights

Fronsac

While Saint-Émilion and Pomerol lie to the east of Libourne, Fronsac is a red-wine producing appellation located just west of the city. Merlot is the dominant variety, though the region’s cooler soils are also ideal for cultivating Cabernet Franc. Cabernet Sauvignon struggles to ripen here. 

Pomerol

Pomerol is one of the Right Bank’s most prestigious appellations. It is best known as the home of Pétrus, though plenty of other wineries contribute to the area’s renown. Pomerol is small in size, comprising just about 2,000 acres of vines, though its reputation is extremely high. 

Saint-Émilion

In terms of quality and quantity, Saint-Émilion is one of the Right Bank’s most important appellations. It is home to a handful of big names, including Château Cheval Blanc, Château Angélus, Château Pavie, and more. Merlot dominates about two-thirds of the appellation’s plantings, and Cabernet Sauvignon is planted more generously here than in Pomerol.

Now taste Right Bank Bordeaux for yourself:

bottle of Chateau Coutet Saint-Emilion Grand Cru

Château Coutet Saint-Émilion Grand Cru 2017 (~$34)

Château Coutet’s vineyard is situated on the first hill of Saint-Émilion, located just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the region’s eponymous village. The estate has been certified organic since 2012, though beyond organic farming, Coutet has become a pioneer of vineyard biodiversity within the region. Oak trees, fig trees, and a variety of orchids thrive amongst the Coutet property, which uses zero weed killers or chemicals in its holdings. The vineyard is dedicated to 60% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc, with smatterings of Cabernet Sauvignon and Pressac, the local name for Malbec, peppered in. Contrary to their many neighbors who view natural predators as pests, Coutet finds that all components of an ecosystem — animals, insects, and fauna alike — contribute to limiting erosion and yield control. This wine is truly an example of age-worthy, affordable wine from a historic yet forward-thinking estate. 

bottle of Château Peybonhomme Les-Tours Côtes de Blaye Bordeaux Energies

Château Peybonhomme Les-Tours Côtes de Blaye Bordeaux Energies (~$27)

This certified biodynamic estate is managed by fifth-generation winemakers Catherine and Jean-Luc Hubert, who farm with a somewhat Burgundian mentality. All vineyards are plowed, yields are kept low, and vinification is done with native yeasts. The winery has long regarded praise from industry folk and collectors alike, both for its sheer quality and consistency, as well as its continued value. For a rare example of Bordelais wine that overperforms for the price, this is the answer. 

bottle of La Fleur Garderose, Saint-Emilion

La Fleur Garderose Saint-Émilion Grand Cru 2016 (~$52)

Few Saint-Émilion estates are moving toward a natural approach to viticulture and vinification, though La Fleur Garderose continues to be the exception. Despite the consistent regional style of excessively oaked and over-extracted wines, La Fleur Garderose has replaced many of their small barriques with neutral oak vessels over the past 10 years, allowing fruit and the land — rather than wood — to speak through the wines. The wine represents the energetic and dynamic side to what’s happening among the new generation of Bordelais winemakers. 

bottle of Chateau La Vieille Cure

Château La Vieille Cure Fronsac 2017 (~$31)

Based in the heart of Fronsac, Château La Vieille Cure is bringing a fresh approach to classic Bordelais viticulture. The estate owns 50 acres of vines, which are all located in one single plot within the appellation. Here, the soils are quite heavy in limestone, which brings a signature freshness to the wine. La Vieille Cure also exclusively uses native yeasts and a restrained amount of new oak, 30%, in the cellar — we like to think of the domaine’s signature style as traditional meets modern in the best possible way. 

bottle of Chateau Bernateau Saint Emilion 2016

Château Bernateau Saint-Émilion Grand Cru 2016 (~$27)

Château Bernateau is a Right Bank estate that farms all organically and is based in the heart of Saint-Émilion. Our insider source, Adeline Laugraud, notes that the family is incredibly welcoming to visitors and makes impeccably great wine. “You can’t go wrong with their Grand Cru for a reasonable price,” she says. Additionally, Laugraud notes that the estate also makes a varietal Cabernet Franc, which is quite rare for Bordeaux.

bottle of La Petite Eglise

Château L’Eglise-Clinet La Petite Eglise Pomerol 2017 (~$44)

While many local estates have sold to larger companies, Château L’Eglise is one of the still family-owned and operated wineries in Pomerol. As the appellation continues to grow both in price and prestige, this moderately-priced second cuvée from the estate makes a worthy addition to any reputable cellar.

bottle of Château Bellefont-Belcier

Château Bellefont-Belcier Saint Émilion Grand Cru Classé 2020 (~$48)

Located on the southernmost slopes of Saint-Émilion, Château Bellefont-Belcier has situated just a hop, skip, and jump away from the fetishized estates of Pavie and Larcis Ducasse, yet the wines run a fraction of the price. “At around $45 a bottle, Château Bellefont-Belcier is a fabulous buy,” says Ivonne Nill, Master of Wine candidate. Nill describes the wine as “utterly elegant and balanced, but also a joy to drink now or in 10 years.” 

Note: this wine is only available for pre-order

bottle of Chateau Grand Launay

Château Grand Launay Côtes de Bourg 2018 (~$11)

Although the Côtes de Bourg may receive less fame and renown than Pomerol and Saint-Émilion, this family-owned property is one worth seeking out. Grand Launay has been in the Cosyns family since 1968, and today, is operated by second-generation Pierre Henri Cosyns. Under Pierre Henri’s reign, all farming was converted to organic in 2012, followed by biodynamics in 2018. The family owns 60 acres of vines rooted in two distinct soil types: clay-silt and clay-limestone, which bring uniquely different characteristics to the final assemblage of wine. Additionally, five small acres of the unique Sauvignon Gris variety are also farmed, so as to produce miniscule amounts of white wine. 

bottle of Château Fonplegade Grand Cru Classe

Château Fonplégade Saint-Émilion Grand Cru 2020 (~$43)

Lewis Kopman, former wine buyer and co-founder of Grossberg/Kopman Selections, describes Fonplégade as the up and comer that everyone should be talking about. He notes that the wine’s freshness is what makes it so special, as the effects of global warming have hit many Right Bank producers quite hard. The estate also converted to organic farming back in 2013, and biodynamics back in 2020. 

Note: this wine is only available for pre-order

bottle of Château le Puy Emilien

Château Le Puy Cuvée Emilien Côtes de Francs 2017 (~$47)

Sibéal Keogh, food and beverage portfolio manager at Adya Global LLC, explains that Château Le Puy’s entry-level wine is affordable, yet still shows the complexity and character of the region. “The estate has also been practicing biodynamics forever, [which shows] dedication to the land,” she says, describing the wine as affordable and delicious. Keogh equally notes that even in its youth, the wine is brilliantly expressive, and can provide any wine drinker with “an idea of what top Right Bank Bordeaux should taste like.”