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Whilst Bordeaux is lauded for its red wine producing communes or appellations, there are also a significant number of Chateaus that produce some outstanding sweet and dry white wines. These are found in the region known as Entre-Deux-Mers. Entre-Deux-Mers is actually Bordeaux’s largest wine producing region. Approximately 250 Chateau’s that have approximately 1,500 hectares under the vine. Regions in this area are heavily forested, so the total area under vine only accounts for 25% of the entire region.
This area is sandwiched between the Dordogne river to the north and the Garonne river to the south. With its northern-most point being just south of the Gironde estuary. Its geographical location actually gives rise to its name as Entre-Deux-Mers, which roughly translates to “between two tides” or “between two seas”.
Winemaking in this region dates back 2000 years to the Romans though the wines began to gain a reputation for quality from the 11th century onwards. St Gerard of Corbie and his Benedictine monks founded the Abbey of Grande-Sauvé in 1079AD and the abbey quickly gained prominence with winemaking having originally been for religious purposes.
What’s Happening Today
Today, the wine produced is predominantly white though you will find notable red wine here too. White wines will often be made from Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle with reds consisting of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The term “Entre-Deux-Mers” will often appear on the label of white wines produced from the region but it is not permitted for red. Red wines are usually labelled as “Bordeaux” or “Bordeaux Supérieur” instead.
Did you know that Entre-Deux-Mers has a Château that looks strikingly similar to the White House? Château de Rastignac was built between 1789-1817 and the south Portico added to the White House in 1824 is strikingly similar to the portico at the Château!
In order to give you a flavor of what to expect from an Entre-Deux-Mers, we will look at several of the most popular appellations or communes within this region and discuss their qualities and taste characteristics. We’ll also throw in a couple of recommendations for each to get you started and we’ll even throw in a food pairing too!
Cadillac is a small village south of Bordeaux and is known for producing sweet wines. Though it’s not as prestigious as its neighbor Sauternes, the wines from Cadillac are more reasonably priced and produce wines of very good quality.
Sweet wines are favored here largely because of its prime location coupled with its climate. As autumn approaches, cool mists rise up from the various streams in the region which creates ideal growing conditions for a fungus known as Noble Rot. This might sound like a bad thing but if grapes infected with noble rot are harvested at just the right time then they produce wines of a particular sweetness and character.
Typically, the wines will look pale to deep golden in the glass and will give you fruity aromas of apricots, pears and orange. On the palate you want to be tasting notes of honey and you may also get hints of vanilla. These wines age fairly well so look out for Cadillac wines that are 10 years or older to get the very best out of the style.
Cadillac is also known for its reasonably priced red wines which will typically offer notes of earth and leather mixed with blackcurrant and plum. Hints of chocolate and vanilla are common too. They’ll often be blended, can age reasonably well and be labelled as Cadillac – Côtes de Bordeaux.
Have a go at pairing your Cadillac sweet white with any combination of cheesecake!
Cadillac to Try:
Like Haut- Médoc on the left bank of the Gironde estuary, Entre-Deux-Mers is in itself an appellation and the vast majority of white wines from the region will either be labelled as “Entre-Deux-Mers”, “Bordeaux” or even “Vin de Table”.
Wines with any of these names on the label will be very fruit forward, offering aromas of citrus and grapefruit with plenty of tropical fruits on the palate. They’ll often be dry, fairly acidic and offer little ageing potential so can be drunk immediately. The best thing about Entre-Deux Mers wines is that they are very reasonably priced too!
Try pairing your young Entre-Deux-Mers with a good pesto pasta!
Entre-Deux-Mers to Try:
They’re not getting any easier to pronounce! Though Graves-de-Vayres lies within Entre-Deux-Mers, it stands out because of the gravelly soils found in the region. These soils are prized by growers of Cabernet Sauvignon as it grows well here which means Graves-de-Vayres produce great quality red and white wines.
The red wines must be a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc or Carménère though Merlot will often dominate the blend. Merlot wines from here will often be lighter than their counterparts in Graves or Saint-Émilion and will be more fruit flavored, offering aromas of raspberry and cherry with notes of earth, leather and tobacco on the palate. The wines offer decent ageing potential so you want to be consuming within ten years of the harvest too.
The white wines must be made up of Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadelle and Semillon and winemakers are also allowed to use Merlot Blanc provided that they do not constitute more than 30% of the blend. Given the gravelly soil, expect the white wines to offer plenty of earthy notes with grapefruit, lemon, pear and apple also featuring prominently. With some you will get hints of vanilla and honeysuckle too. White wines from the region can be dry or sweet and should be consumed whilst young. All wines from Graves-de-Vayres are very reasonably priced.
Try your Graves-de-Vayres red with a nice juicy rump steak. You can also pair your white with a mildly spicy chicken curry.
Graves-de-Vayres to Try:
Loupiac is neighbors with the premium sweet wine appellation Barsac and sits across from Cadillac, on the opposite bank of the Garonne river. This is deep in sweet winemaking territory and Loupiac is prized as some of the finest examples of its type.
As with Cadillac, the morning mists help Noble Rot to set in. Grapes are then harvested at just the right moment to enhance its character. Sugar or concentrated grape juice can be added prior to fermentation. Which will enhance the alcohol content of the wine but this can only be done in years of poor harvest. Loupiac is often seen as a more reasonably priced alternative to Sauternes or Barsac.
Golden in the glass, Loupiac wines will offer plenty of tropical fruit aromas coupled with some orange and citrus fruits. The wines are full bodied, velvety smooth in the mouth, syrupy, and will offer notes of honey, beeswax, coconut and caramel. Loupiac isn’t known for ageing so drink within 5-10 years of harvest at most.
Break out the cheese board to make the most of your Loupiac with Stilton and Blue Cheese!
Loupiac to Try:
Sainte-Croix-du-Mont is a beautiful little town that lies approximately 30 miles south of Bordeaux. It is known for its 16th century castle that now houses the town hall. It’s also well known for its outstanding sweet wines and is one of the smallest appellations in Entre-Deux-Mers. It sits directly opposite the premium sweet wine appellation of Sauternes and, though much more reasonably priced than Sauternes, it can also produce wines of a similar quality. Semillon reigns supreme here and can make up to 85% of the blend though Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle will feature.
Deep gold in the glass, the wines are almost always full bodied and will offer aromas of acacia, peach, honeysuckle and there may be hints of minerals too. The wines have great ageing potential and will keep well for up to 30 years!
Given the richness of the wine, try pairing it with a triple chocolate cake for ultimate decadence.
Sainte-Croix-du-Mont to Try:
Last (and probably least!) is Sainte-Foy. It is the easternmost of the Entre-Deux-Mers appellations though there is a solid argument for Sainte-Foy to reside in the Bergerac region given its close proximity to the city. Both red and white table wines are common here (red wine is much more prominent) and though Saint-Foy is not known for wines of any distinction, they remain reasonably priced and are improving with each harvest.
Merlot will dominate the red blends with some Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc making up the rest. The wines will give off plenty of red fruit aromas with raspberry and cherry dominating. On the palate you’ll get hints of earth and tobacco and maybe even a touch of bell pepper if Cabernet Franc is abundant in the blend. The wines are medium bodied and age well so you can drink Sainte-Foy reds up to 10 years after bottling.
Sauvignon Blanc will dominate the white blends with the wine giving off strong floral aromas such as lilies with notes of citrus. On the palate you may get notes of peach, apricot and citrus with a touch of vanilla too. The wines will be medium bodied and be drunk immediately.
Your Sainte-Foy red will go great with fried chicken and try your Sainte-Foy white with American style calamari.
Sainte-Foy to Try:
So, there we go, a brief run down of the most prominent Appellations within the Entre-Deux-Mers region. It is the most diverse region in Bordeaux and boasts both red and white wines of exceptional quality. There are a few more communes in Entre-Deux-Mers to discover so definitely branch out and try to discover what else this region has to offer. If you’re a fan of sweet wines then you must also try Barsac and Sauternes for the ultimate sweet wine experience!
As always, tell us about some of the best Bordeaux wines you’ve tasted by leaving a comment below and be sure to drink your Entres-Deux-Mers responsibly.