There were vineyards in Bordeaux
during the Roman Empire, and they may have been established even earlier, but it was in the Middle Ages that the region really developed production and earned a reputation for its wines. In the 13th century the industry exploded: previously serving only a modest domestic market, Bordeaux became an English territory in 1152 and began exporting to England and the Netherlands, gaining wide renown and increased demand that spurred a significant expansion of the vineyards.
Slowly but steadily the wines of Bordeaux made inroads in the French royal court, gaining the admiration of the great kings. Their reputation developed considerably under the Second French Empire, most notably with the famous official classification of the crus in 1855.
With about 115,000 hectares (284,171 acres) currently planted to vines, Bordeaux is the biggest wine region in the world. Strictly limited to the Gironde department, it covers much of the area around the Gironde estuary and the banks of the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers. The entire region enjoys a moderate oceanic climate, with mild winters and hot summers. Droughts are rare. The great variation in soil types justifies the diverse appellations that are so well known around the world: in Saint-Emilion: Château Ausone and Château Cheval Blanc; in Margaux: Château Margaux; in Pessac-Léognan: Château Haut-Brion; in Sauternes: Château Yquem; in Pomerol: Pétrus, to name just a few.
The red wines of Bordeaux are made from a blend dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, or Merlot; the whites are made from Sémillon and/or Sauvignon Blanc.