Pauillac, a village located between Saint-Estephe and Saint-Julien on Bordeaux's Medoc peninsula, is home to some of the world's most famous and expensive wines (most obviously those of the first growths Chateaux Latour, Lafite Rothschild and Mouton Rothschild). The village has its own appellation specifically for red wines made predominantly from Cabernet Sauvignon – a variety well suited to the free-draining gravel soils found all around Pauillac.
The stellar reputation of Pauillac wines is founded not only on their quality, but on their success in international fine wine markets. Three of the top five chateaux in the 1855 Medoc Classification (a ranking of Bordeaux's best wine-producing properties) are located here. (© Wine-Searcher)
The vineyard-lined road to Pauillac
Just as Mouton and Lafite are both owned by branches of the Rothschild family, so Pauillac's two second-growth producers were also once a single entity: Chateau Pichon-Longueville. At some point before 1855, this property was divided by the intricacies of France's Napoleonic inheritance laws, giving rise to the Chateau Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande and Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron.
Overall, the terroir of Pauillac varies more than might be expected in an area of only nine square miles (23 square km), where the land rises and falls by a maximum of 100ft (30m). Over hundreds of vintages, the chateaux and their winemakers have become very skilled at emphasizing the individuality of their vineyards, and there is general agreement that the styles of the top three chateaux are discernibly different. Overall, however, there is still an identifiable Pauillac wine style: full, rich and characterized by the classic cassis and cedarwood aromas of oak-aged Cabernet Sauvignon.
The appellation laws for Pauillac specify that all land within the Pauillac commune boundaries qualifies for the title, unless composed of sandy, alluvial or impermeable soils. Certain plots in neighboring Saint-Julien and Saint-Estephe also qualify for the title, as do a handful in Cissac and Saint-Saveur. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon, which is dominant grape variety in the vineyards here, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Carmenere, Petit Verdot and Malbec are also permitted for use under the Pauillac appellation laws.