Graves de Vayres is a small district in the Entre-Deux-Mers sub-region of Bordeaux. It also provides the name of the AOC Graves de Vayres appellation, which is applied to both red and white wines made in the area. It includes the communes of Arveyres and Vayres – an historic town located on a meandering section of the Dordogne river which is famous for its medieval castle.
Graves de Vayres is not directly related to either the Graves region to the south of Bordeaux city or the 'Graves de Saint-Emilion' area to the west of Saint-Emilion, but they do all share one key characteristic: the gravel (graves) soils which give them their names. The gravels of Vayres are an unusual find in the widespread clay soils of the Entre-Deux-Mers region.
The reason for the regular occurrence of Graves in Bordeaux place names is the importance placed on soil types here. Gravel, sand and clay are the three dominant soil types across the region (in contrast to granite in northern Beaujolais or limestone in Champagne), with each creating distinctive characteristics in the grapes. In Bordeaux's climate, Cabernet Sauvignon grows much better on free-draining gravel and sand, while Merlot performs well on on the heavier, moisture-retaining clay soils.
The appellation AOC Graves de Vayres applies to both red and white wines made from grapes grown within the Vayres and Arveyres communes. Reds made under the appellation may be produced only from Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Carmenere, Malbec or Petit Verdot. The whites may use only Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle and Merlot Blanc. Merlot Blanc is an 'accessory' variety and must not make up more than 30% of the total blend.
Both red and white wines are also produced in Graves de Vayres under the simple AOCBordeaux title. The reds are made predominantly from Merlot and are generally lighter than the Merlot-based wines made across the Dordogne in Saint-Emilion. It is unusual for a wine district blessed with gravel soils to focus so strongly on Merlot, when Cabernet Sauvignon is much more successful on these free-draining soil types.
As with other areas of Bordeaux, such as Cotes de Bordeaux-Saint-Macaire, sweet wines were once important in Graves de Vayres. However, they have given way to the drier, fresher styles demanded by modern consumers. Some producers here also put their white wines through barrel maturation to add complexity.