The name Bordeaux originates from the French “au bord de l’eau” meaning at the water’s edge, referring to the two rivers Garonne and Dordogne, which play an important role in the history and the success of the region and its winemaking.

First vineyards in Bordeaux were planted in the Roman times nearly 2000 years ago, when during the occupation Romans brought plants to cultivate in their settlements. Winemaking remained a small domestic activity until the 12th century when the marriage of Henry Plantagenet of England and Aliénor d’Aquitaine made Aquitaine English territory. This opened Bordeaux to the English market and later to world exports. During the 13th century Graves was the principal wine region in Bordeaux but there was wine growing in Entre-Deux-Mers, Saint-Émilion, Bourg and Blaye.

Picture of the vineyard from Chateau Puybarbe

« First vineyards were planted in the Roman times »

Nearly 2000 years of history

Only in the 17th century Dutch traders began to drain the marshlands in Medoc in order to plant vineyards. First classification system for Bordeaux dates from 1855 when top chateaux in Medoc were ranked.

During 1875-1892 almost all Bordeaux vineyards were destroyed by Phylloxera. To rescue the wine industry native wines were grafted to pest-resistant American rootstock. The wines that responded best to grafting, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Semillion, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle, became the leading grapes in Bordeaux.

Picture of a wine grape

Due to the success of the wine business, other areas in France started to grow wines and label them as Bordeaux products. This led to the government imposing a law to make sure that only wine coming from Bordeaux could be labelled with the name. In 1935 Institute National des Appellatons d’Origine was created to oversee the law. Bordeaux had its initial set of AOC regulations in 1937.

Picture of sunset in the vineyard from Chateau Puybarbe