Simply put the Bordeaux region of southwestern France is the world's largest source of fine wine. But, quality varies. Over 20 thousand vineyard owners operate some 280 thousand acres (120 thousand hectares) and produce more than 70 million cases annually. About 85 percent is red and 12 percent is white, with varying degrees of sweetness. Bordeaux wines are almost always blends.The most important reds are Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. Petit Verdot and Malbec are also used, but in small quantities. The most important whites are Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. Muscadelle is also encountered. Some of the wines use other grapes.
Bordeaux classifications are complicated. The 1855 classification of the white wines of the Gironde defines the Premier Cru Superieur - Superior First Growth includes a single wine, Yquem Sauternes and several First and Second Growths. The 1855 classification of the red wines of the Gironde defines five levels. With the exception of a single wine (produced by a Rothschild) it remains unchanged since inception. The Graves area on the left bank of the Garonne River defines sixteen Cru Classés. The Saint-Emilion area on the right bank of the Dordogne River defines eleven Premier Grands Cru Classés and fifty three Grand Cru Classés. These classifications are subject to revision. But one of Bordeaux's greatest and priciest wines, Chateau Petrus belongs to no classification.