The Soil in Bordeaux
The soil in the Bordeaux plays a strong role in the vinous success of the region. Each area within the region has a unique soil that contributes to the creation of these wonderful wines.
The geographical location of the region, as a peninsula set between two large bodies of water, helps to create a micro climate extremely favourable to the growing quality wines.
The Médoc vineyards consist of small, low-lying gravelly hills. The soil is a blend of sand, gravel and round, flat pebbles, alternating with clay-limestone soil in certain parts of the appellation.
The clay-rich soils influence the decision on what varieties to plant and the Merlot grape - which handles such soils better than Cabernet Sauvignon - is more predominant here than it is further south. As a result of the Merlot-dominated blends, and of course the change in terroir, the wines have a different character to their more southerly neighbours.
The Soil in St Emilion
In all appellations it is often the terroir that is described as the definitive factor that makes each wine distinctive.
‘It is the gravel croupes, close to the Gironde, which host all the most reputable Grand Cru Classe estates, and it is notable that estates in possession of a lower ranking, but a gravelly terroir, are often properties that punch well above their weight when the wines come up for tasting.' Wine Doctor
Closest to the town of Saint Emilion is an area of deep limestone which is covered by a fine layer of clay and limestone soil (referred to as Cotes) on fairly steep slopes. This area is the stereotypical Saint Emilion area. These conditions are perfect for the growing of Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
Second largest in size is a large flat along the Dordogne Rover, made of alluvial sand which has been deposited by water over thousands of years. The third is a sandy plateau to the west of the St Emilion town the soil here is mostly aeolian sand (which is very fine sand brought by wind).
Finally on the far west side of the commune ‘Graves St Emilion' (just on the border of Pomerol) is made of gravel. This is where the two of the highest rated chateaux of St Emilion (Cheval Blanc and Chateau Figeac) are located. This gravely soil is ideal for Cabernet Sauvignon which enjoys the drainage that gravel provides. Cabernet Sauvignon is used less in the St Emilion than on the left bank.