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Bordeaux

Pronunciation: [bohr-DOH]

An area in southwest France considered by most wine enthusiasts to be the world's greatest wine-producing region, not only because of the superiority of the wines, but also because of the large annual production (500 to 750 million bottles). The wide popularity of Bordeaux wines in the United Kingdom (where they're called clarets) can be traced back to the period from 1152 to 1453 when the English owned this region—acquired through a royal marriage then lost in the 100 Years' War. The most celebrated of the Bordeaux wines are the reds, which make up more than 75 percent of the production. Nevertheless, the region's rich, sweet white wines from sauternes are world-renowned, and its dry white wines from Graves have a serious following. The five main Bordeaux districts with individual appellations are Pomerol, Saint-Emilion, Graves, Sauternes and the Médoc (which has many individual appellations including Margaux, Pauillac, Saint-Estephe and Saint-Julien). The primary red grape varieties used in Bordeaux are cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot (with almost twice as much acreage as Cabernet Sauvignon), and occasionally Malbec and Petit Verdot. The primary white grapes are sauvignon blanc, sémillon and Muscadelle. Bordeaux winemakers typically blend grape varieties for their wines, as opposed to the prevailing practice in the United States of producing varietal wines. It should be noted, however, that American vintners are now making more blended wines, which are called meritage wines when approved Bordeaux grape varieties are used. In general, the vineyards of Saint-Emilion and Pomerol are planted more heavily in Merlot and thus produce softer, more supple wines. On the other hand, the vineyards of Medoc and Graves favor Cabernet varieties, which create more intense, tannic (see tannin) and long-lived wines. Some of the more famous châteaux in Bordeaux are Haut-Brion, Lafite-Rothschild, Latour, Margaux, Mouton Rothschild and Petrus.