Médoc derives from medio acquae, Latin for ‘between waters’ and is a term specific to the Bordeaux region’s left bank. In its widest sense the Médoc (or Médoc-Maritime) refers to the triangle of land stretching from the broad outskirts of the city of Bordeaux, with the Gironde estuary to the east and the Atlantic Ocean to the west (the two waters), and as far as the narrow Pointe de Grave, the apex some 54 miles (90 km) to the north where the Gironde and Atlantic finally meet.
Médoc appellations: Administratively the Médoc as a whole is divided into two appellations (AOCs)–Médoc AOC and Haut-Médoc AOC. Wines from the higher-lying, more gravelly, better-drained southern Haut-Médoc from Bordeaux city northwards to Saint-Estèphe qualify for the high Médoc or Haut-Médoc AOC. Wines from the lower-lying, heavier soiled low Médoc or Bas-Médoc further north from Saint-Yzans-de-Médoc and Saint-Germain-d’Estains to Soulac at the northern tip of the promontory qualify for the Médoc AOC. Estates in the Haut-Médoc have the option of the Médoc AOC too, but rarely use it as bulk-wine prices for Médoc AOC are lower than for Haut-Médoc AOC. The Haut-Médoc also includes the following five appellations named for single communes–Saint-Estèphe, Pauillac, Moulis, Listrac, Saint-Julien, and Margaux.
Soils: In general the Médoc’s soils have been formed on gravel which originated in the Pyrénees and the Massif Central. This gravel was deposited by glaciers moving north along the Atlantic coast and melting over a period lasting more than two million years, ending one million years ago.
Climate: The pine forests of the Landes to the west of the Médoc were planted in the 19th-century and have a moderating influence on Atlantic winds.