20 December 2021
Estimated reading time: 4 min.

Côtes de Bordeaux represents 13% of the Bordeaux vineyard area, with an annual production of 80 million bottles. Côtes de Bordeaux exports 21% of production, with the U.S. ranked #3 by volume of exports. Senior EDV Lecturer Wendy Narby, who lives in Bordeaux, shares her perspective on why Côtes de Bordeaux is an appellation well worth seeking out. Here are 5 things to know about Côtes de Bordeaux:


Côtes de Bordeaux may be “new” to many, but the area has been integral to Bordeaux for centuries. Wine has been produced in the Côtes de Bordeaux region since Roman times and people have been living here since prehistory. Central to the history of the region, in 1453, the battle ending the Hundred Years’ War took place in Castillon, and in the 17th century, Vauban, a French military engineer under Louis XIV, built the impressive Citadelle at Blaye (UNESCO World Heritage site) to protect Bordeaux from foreign invaders. Recent history is just as lively; the Côtes de Bordeaux appellation was only recently created in 2008, pooling together four existing appellations each with a unique regional identity: Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux, Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux, Francs Côtes de Bordeaux, and Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux. In 2016, Sainte-Foy Côtes de Bordeaux was added, followed by the all-encompassing Côtes de Bordeaux, making for six appellations in this dynamic area.

Citadelle at Blaye


Many family estates in Côtes de Bordeaux date back generations, and each has made a profound commitment to the land. Highly adaptable, the people of Côtes de Bordeaux are at the forefront of addressing sustainability and climate change. Many estates carry an environmental certification (such as organic, biodynamic and HVE-sustainable), and work together to increase biodiversity through local initiatives such as planting hedgerows and keeping beehives. Family properties are a hotbed of innovation, with producers and owners instituting new methods along every step of the journey from grape to bottle. Current initiatives include whimsical labels made from recycled paper and natural inks, amphorae in the cellars and innovative viticultural methods. To cite one example, Château La Bertinerie in Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux has the largest Lyre-trellised estate in France for their Sauvignon Blanc vines.


There are over 950 producers covering more than 12,000 hectares of vineyard in Côtes de Bordeaux, of which 97% are red. That’s about 1 in every 10 bottles of Bordeaux, making the region the 4th largest AOC in France! With many different producers at work, you get great geographical diversity and choice. Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux is the largest appellation, comprising some 41 villages and covering 6,000 hectares, spread out behind the market town of Blaye on the right bank of the Gironde Estuary. Further east lies the smallest appellation – Francs Côtes de Bordeaux. Divided between three villages and 41 vineyards, the appellation covers just 435 hectares of fossil-rich limestone high above the Dordogne River. Francs Côtes de Bordeaux, together with Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux and Sainte Foy Côtes de Bordeaux also offer appellation-specific white wines, supplemented by Bordeaux Blanc. Although white wine accounts for only 3% of production, in a good year it approaches the production of white Pessac-Léognan. Overall, Côtes de Bordeaux reds and whites have enjoyed a renaissance in quality since the 1990s and are well worth looking out for.


Producers across the appellations in the Côtes de Bordeaux region share a common topography, terroir, and proximity to water. The rolling hills of vines blanket the slopes above the Gironde, Garonne, and Dordogne Rivers, planted principally in cooler clay and limestone to favor Merlot, the leading red. Other red varieties grown in the region include Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. The soils also favor spectacular white wines. Sauvignon Blanc is the primary white variety, followed by Sauvignon Gris, Sémillon, and Muscadelle. Fun fact: Côtes de Bordeaux boasts the highest percentages of Colombard and Ugni Blanc in all of Bordeaux.

Côtes de Bordeaux_deux


Most châteaux in Côtes de Bordeaux are family-owned and deeply invested in their region. “Côte” means slope or hillside, and visitors quickly ascertain why this region of rolling hills and beautiful vines is called Côtes de Bordeaux! A commitment to managing biodiversity and preserving the patrimoine naturel is as important to the people of the region as their delightful wines. Many châteaux are open to visitors, and if you’re planning to visit, be sure of a warm welcome, and interesting conversation to pair with your discovery of Côtes de Bordeaux.


Discover more regions in the Wines Behind Bordeaux’s Region series – explore Entre-Deux-Mers, the birthplace of Sauvignon Blanc or get the latest news on Cru Bourgeois.


To learn more about Bordeaux, watch the virtual learning series,
How the Experts Tackle Bordeaux.


By: Wendy Narby, Senior Lecturer, École du Vin de Bordeaux

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