Les Graves

Les Graves is an appellation found on the left bank of the Garonne, mainly south of Bordeaux. Enclosed in the Graves, we find the Sauternes, but also Pessac-Léognan, an appellation where we can produce wine of Graves. However, Sauternes remains a very distinct appellation. Do you find that complicated? Let’s see together how to easily understand this great name. Welcome to Les Graves, the oldest vineyard in Bordeaux.


Les Graves is a vineyard of 3,400 hectares producing 21 million bottles per year. The productions are fairly well distributed, according to the appellations, according to the color of the wine. For example, I’m not surprised by anyone saying that in Pessac-Léognan, we mostly find red wines. The Graves is the cradle of the Bordeaux vineyards, and offered to Bordeaux, in the 13th century, an international success thanks to the “French Clarets” (nothing to do with the clairet reassure you) that the English and the Dutch mattered. So thank you Les Graves.

Also note that the forest of the Landes (west, between the low and the ocean) protect the vineyards of many disasters, so thank you the forest of the Landes.

The Graves is named after his soil, simply. Pebbles and gravels of various sizes, as well as sand form the soil of Graves. And you wonder how vines can grow on small pebbles? Indeed the roots can go further and the soils are hot and draining, which allows a good maturation of the grapes.

Les graves


In the field of Graves, we find the following appellations:

Subregional Appellations: Graves, Graves Superior
Town Appellations: Pessac-Léognan, Cérons

The only two communal appellations are so particular that they are the reason for the complexity of the Graves. We will see this further down.

The most popular castles are all in Pessac-Léognan:

  • Haut Brion, Pessac-Léognan
  • Pape Clement, Pessac-Léognan
  • Carbonieux, Pessac-Léognan
  • Château de Cérons, Cérons

Price range :

Due to the prestigious rankings obtained by certain castles on the AOC Pessac-Léognan, prices climb as fast as in Médoc. However, on the appellation Graves, we find white wines as red wines with excellent value for money between 8 and 15 € on average. Similarly, for the Pessac-Léognan appellation, apart from the “exceptional” castles, there are wines that deserve mention.

Particularity of Graves:

As said before, the peculiarity of Graves is in particular by the appellations:

The case of Pessac-Léognan:

This name is very recent since it dates from 1987 only, due to the combativity (or especially the insistence) of the union and the vine growers of Pessac-Léognan. A Graves wines classification in 1953 exclusively includes wines from Pessac-Leognant, which nevertheless testifies to the quality of the wine (and certainly their desire to have their own appellation). What is even more surprising is that the greatest castles of this appellation are the closest to the city center of Bordeaux. For example, there is the Château Pape Clément, surrounded by houses and roads with lots of cars, which obviously raises questions about wine ethics. The Château Haut Brion is also the only castle to be listed in the 1855 ranking excluding Médoc.

The case of Cérons:

This one is also really particular. The town of Cérons is located between the Graves and Sauternes, which makes it the only city in which winegrowers can claim a name Cérons (theirs), Graves, or even Sauterne. Obviously, for questions of sale, one suspects that they will turn more towards the Sauterne as this appellation is appreciated.

Anecdotes for the meals:

It is in Pessac-Léognan that the first rackings and ouillages are made, technical terms, just to say that they are the first to know how to age a wine. After, nothing to be too proud either because the idea comes from the Dutch.

There is no cooperative in Pessac-Léognan, surely since they have no problem selling their wines.

The vineyard of Graves is the only vineyard in France to bear the name of its soil: “las grabas de Bourdeus” literally the Graves de Bordeaux. Afterwards, good luck to remember this sentence but I found the anecdote interesting.

What you must remember :

The red wines of Graves are of great finesse and long aging. They are generally balanced and fruity but no comparison with the wines of Pessac-Léognan. They are kept on average from 3 to 10 years.

We will therefore generally find in the Graves structured red wines,  round (impression of sweetness in the mouth). Regarding white wines, they will be very aromatic, full-bodied and fresh.

The wines of Graves blend perfectly with dishes such as grilled red meat, game birds, but also cheese of course.

The surface of this appellation being very broad, you will find there your happiness, as much with a wine of simple structure, as with a more complex wine. Enjoy the fact that these wines are among the most accessible at the price, because in my opinion, it is where we find the most beautiful surprises.

Now a bit more technical part:

Grapes varieties:

Cabernet Sauvignon: adapted to gravelly soil, this grape brings structure and fruit to the wine. It also gives a great aptitude for aging.
Merlot: adapted to the clay-limestone soil, it will bring the softness and the fruitiness to the assembly.
Cabernet Franc: also adapted to the clay-limestone soil, it gives the wine a rich bouquet and structure. It will be used in addition to other small-dose varieties.
Petit Verdot: adapted to gravelly soils, it gives body wine (tannins) and color. It will also be used in addition to bring a finish to the wine.

Les graves

Let us now focus more specifically on the two sub-regional appellations:

Appellation Graves

Some numbers :

2476 hectares in red, 741 hectares in white
20 million bottles
16 classified growths (all in the AOC Pessac-Léognan) including 1 ranked 1855.

Area of ​​the appellation: according to the texts in force, all the delimited communes of the region of Graves, between the Brède and Langon, can produce wines of AOC Graves. Only the AOC Sauternes and Barsac areas can not produce one. Dry red and white wines are the only ones that can claim this name.

Terroir: In the north, there are terraces eroded and transformed into a relief of gravelly ridges. To the south, the terraces are gently sloping towards the river.

Aroma of wines on the nose: For the reds: red and black fruits, empyreumatic notes. For whites: citrus fruits, yellow fruits, acacia, vanilla or smoked.

In the mouth: for the reds: balanced mouth between power and roundness. For the whites: dense fruity and fresh wines.

Appellation Graves Superior

Some numbers :

130 hectares
3% of the total wines produced in the Graves

Area of ​​the appellation: The appellation area is the same as the Graves, the difference being that only fluffy white wines can claim this designation.

Terroir: In the north, there are terraces eroded and transformed into a relief of gravelly ridges. To the south, the terraces are gently sloping towards the river.

Aroma of wines on the nose: Honey, candied fruits, spices ..

In the mouth: sweet wines very aromatic and fresh.

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