Graves & Pessac-Leognan
Now south of the Haut-Médoc we have Graves, and its enclave Pessac-Léognan. This region is famed for its gravelly soil, hence the name Graves. A gravelly soil minimises nutrition for the vines, and improves drainage – a recipe for good wines. In fact, much of the left bank has gravelly soil, particularly at the top appellations of Pauillac and St-Julien. The other appellations, such as St-Estèphe, have heavier, clay soils.
The essential difference between Graves and the Haut-Médoc is that many of the top châteaux of Graves produce both red and white wines, whereas those in the Haut-Médoc are only permitted produce red wines. The 1959 Graves Classification takes account of this, with some properties classified for only red wine, some only for whites, and others for both.
Pessac-Léognan was only created in the late 1980s. This is the most gravelly area, and therefore should produce the better wines. It is home to the only first growth outside the Haut-Médoc. Our recommendations: Haut-Brion (the first growth), Domaine de Chevalierla Louvière, Malartic-Lagravière, Mission-Haut-Brion, la Tour-Haut-Brion, de Fieuzal, Haut-Bailly, Olivier.
To the south is the larger region of Graves. The wines here have a lesser reputation than those of Pessac-Léognan, although the style is essentially the same. Our recommendations: Carbonnieux.