For a region as traditional and steeped in history as Bordeaux, it’s refreshing to see new initiatives, and even whole new categories, emerge with the goal of bringing wider attention to its lesser-known wines. The Médoc has, of course, its famous and unlikely-ever-to- change 1855 classification ranking estates from first to fifth growth, as well as its newly relaunched (in 2020), three-tier Cru Bourgeois du Médoc classification for estates that weren’t listed in the former (249 in all in the 2020 list). And over on the Right Bank, St-Emilion has its hotly contested classification that is revised every 10 years, the latest of which is currently being updated and will be revealed in September.
But a spotlight is now shining on the Graves appellation with the unveiling of its 10 new ambassadors, or ‘Ambassadeur de Graves’ estates.
Scroll down to see tasting notes and scores for the current Ambassadeur de Graves wines
Setting the scene
Situated on the Left Bank of the Garonne river, in the upstream part of the region, Graves lies to the southeast of Bordeaux city, with vineyards covering an area stretching over 50km. It’s reported to be one of the oldest of Bordeaux’s vine-growing areas, where estates were already trading wines as early as 1152 following the marriage of Henry Plantagenet (soon to become King Henry II of England) and France’s Eleanor of Aquitaine. The region later flourished between the 16th and 18th centuries when, for 300 years, before the development of the Médoc, all of the area north and south of Bordeaux was known as Les Graves and the wines sold as Vin de Graves.
Jumping forward to the 20th century, the Graves region saw classifications introduced in 1953 for red wines and completed in 1959 for white wines. No rankings were applied as such, but the 16 estates chosen – including Château Haut-Brion, which was already part of the 1855 classification – were then able to use the term ‘cru classé de Graves’. In 1987, those 16 estates were absorbed into the newly established Pessac-Léognan appellation situated on a thin strip to the north, stealing a little of Graves’ lustre despite the continuation of the Graves name.