Côtes de Bourg AOCalso known as Bourg and Bourgeais–is a mainly red wine appellation from the town of Bourg and 14 surrounding communes (listed below), on the right bank of the Bordeaux region of France. Bourg lies north of the Dordogne river where it joins the Garonne to form the Gironde estuary, 22 miles (35km) north of Bordeaux.  Rosé and white wines are also made. The Côtes de Bourg, Bourg, and Bourgeais appellations were created in 1920. The official government decrees confirming the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) were signed on 11th September 1936 for red wines and 19th May 1945 for the whites.

History: Winegrowing here pre-dates that of the Médoc region, the first vines (Vitis biturca, ancestors of today’s Cabernet) having been planted here in the 2nd-century AD by the Romans. Bourg harbour was used to ship the local wine in the Middle Ages, and vineyards along the estuary grew to keep pace with increasing demand and trade along the river. The port of Bourg later became important for the shipment of tin. In the 18th-century stone from the Bourg region’s quarries was used to create the quayside buildings of Bordeaux itself (the Chartronnais).

Terroir: The most westerly part of the Bourg region overlooks the Dordogne river where this merges with the Garonne to form the Gironde estuary (on the other side of which is the Margaux region). The vineyards occupy rolling hilly terrain which rises steeply from the water, across three valleys running parallel to the watercourses mentioned above. Bourg is referred to locally as ‘La Swisse Girondine’ (‘Switzerland of the Gironde’). Neighbouring regions are Côtes de Blaye to the north, and the Fronsadais to the south-east.

Soil: Limestone bedrock in the Côtes de Bourg can be as much as 20 metres thick. This is covered with a thick layer of clay that becomes thinner as one goes eastward. Red gravel from the Massif Central carried along by the river was deposited on rises during the Pliocene Epoch. There are 3 major soil types:

1) Soil on quaternary silt: Very specific to the Côtes de Bourg, this soil type is found on rises due to its origin: hydro-eolian silt from the Würm glaciation. It is easily recognisable due to its red colour. Merlot and Malbec are most often planted here. Deep rooting makes up for a certain lack of organic matter and low water retention potential.

2) Soil on sand and clay: The predominant soil in the Côtes de Bourg. Some scientists explain their presence as “the remains of a sublacustrian delta”. Both Merlot and Cabernet are planted here according to the natural richness and rooting depth of specific plots, which can vary a great deal.

3) Clay-limestone soil: This type of soil is fairly widespread due to the parent rock called Molasse du Fronsadais, recognisable thanks to asteriated limestone from the Stampian Age. Merlot is mostly planted on these soils with more shallow rooting and greater water retention.

Climate: Côtes de Bourg has approximately 10% more sunshine compared to the overall Bordeaux climate, temperature extremes are 1-2°C lower (a higher sum of temperatures equivalent to Sauternes, Pessac Léognan, Margaux, and Saint-Emilion), and from 10 to 25% less rain depending on the year. The Gironde Estuary acts as a thermal buffer (protecting the vines from frost in 1991, for instance).

Communes (15)Bayon-sur-Gironde. | Bourg-sur-Gironde. | Comps. | Gauriac. | Lansac. | Mombrier. | Prignac-et-Marcamps. | Pugnac. | Saint-Ciers-de-Canesse. | Saint-Seurin-de-Bourg. | Saint-Trojan. | Samonac. | Tauriac. | Teuillac. | Villeneuve de Blaye.

Vineyard area & wine production: Around 3,900 hectares (9,633 acres). 97% red, 3% white. Red grapes 65% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Malbec (highest regional percentage of this grape variety in Bordeaux, 5% Cabernet Franc. | 2002 3,973ha of vines producing 183,582hl of red and 960hl of (mainly dry) white wine (Guide Hachette 2004, p.231).

Malbec biotypeMalbec is one of the appellation’s historically-important varieties, the highest percentage of Malbec of in any Bordeaux appellation. This variety has been closely studied in the Côtes de Bourg (thanks to the Association de Développement Agricole et Rural and the Mercier vine nursery). A local biotype of Malbec (Côt) has been selected and was made commercially available in 2007. Its name ‘Côt de Bourg’ was deliberately chosen, being a homophone of Côtes de Bourg. Planting of an experimental plot with 20 different clones took place in July 2009. Grapes were first harvested here in 2014.

Yields: Maximum authorised yield = 54 hl/ha.

Côtes de Bourg Blanc AOC: Around 25ha.  41% Sauvignon blanc, 2% Colombard, 23% Sémillon, 8% Muscadelle, 5% Sauvignon gris. ‘Dry, dull, little [of it made],’ (Oz Clarke: 2015, p.101).

Côtes de Bourg Rouge AOC: Around 4,000ha. Merlot 65%, Cabernet Sauvignon 20%, Malbec 10%, Cabernet franc 5%. Deepish colours, fairly tannic. ‘Earthy, blackcurranty, can age 6-10 years,’ (Oz Clarke: 2015, p.101).

Wineries

Certified Biodynamic: Château Falfas. | Château Fougas. | Château La Grolet. | Château Les Graves de Viaud

Certified organic: Château Grand-Launay. | Château Monichot

Other: Château Brûlescaille. | Château Bouet–see Château les Gravettes Samonac. | Château Haut-Macô. | Château les Gravettes Samonac. | Château Moulin des Graves. | Château Tuillac–see Château les Gravettes Samonac.