The Medoc is what people really mean when they talk about the Left Bank of Bordeaux (although in reality Graves and Pessac Leognan are also found on the Left Bank of the Garonne river, just south instead of north of Bordeaux city). According to traditional also, this is cabernet sauvignon territory (although in practise there is plenty of merlot even in the Medoc), and you should expect to drink wines that are less approachable young, and that have plenty of tannins, and plenty of depth of flavour. There are seven appellations in the Medoc - Listrac, Moulis, Margaux, Pauillac, Saint Estephe, Saint Julien and the two generic appellations of Medoc and Haut Medoc.    

Fee-aux-Roses, Saint Estephe 2007  
Thierry Gardinier, the president of the Alliance des Crus Bourgeois and owner of Chateau Phelan Segur in Saint Estephe, is launching a new wine that is due to go on sale next year, in 2009. Made with oenologist Michel Rolland, and vinified in 100% new oak (integral vinification also, so in the barrel right from the moment that the - uncrushed - grapes are brought into the winery). Taken from grapes over four hectares of Phelan Segur (but not entire parcels), this is a selection of some of the oldest vines on the estate, that have been given careful attention through the year. Gardinier says, 'only the bunches that are best protected, best selected and give the smallest grapes of the vine are selected for this wine.' The wine is vinified in new oak barrels of 500 litres, with a maceration of 5 or 6 days before vinification, and a natural rise in temperature then starts the fermentation (which lasts a reasonably short 10 days). Grapes are 2/3 cabernet sauvignon and 1/3 merlot. Rich and intense with some chewy tannins, but far from over-powering, and had a wonderfully silky texture and a real elegance. We were tasting the 2007, so I am looking forward to seeing how it turns out in 'easier' years. It is not being sold en primeur and will be ready, in bottle, in 2009. There is a question, however, over why this wine is being made - why take out your very best grapes into a wine that isn't Phelan Segur, when you are the owner of Phelan Segur?

Chateau du Moulin Rouge, Haut Medoc Cru Bourgeois 2005 (approx €11)
Described by many sources as one of the best value-for-quality 2005s on the market, this small, understated property is located in the middle of many more prestigious names in the Medoc region of Bordeaux. It is family-run, unpretentious and uses many traditional winemaking methods, from barrel ageing to natural egg-white fining. The 2005 wine contains 50% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc, giving it a softer taste profile than many wines from this region, and ensuring that the ripe red fruits take precedence. At this price, you can afford to enjoy the best qualities of this vintage again and again – definitely one to buy by the case.

Chateau Brane Cantenac, Margaux 2005 (approx €77.00)
This is owned by Henri Lurton, patriarch of one of the great clans of the region – if you start to get interested in Bordeaux wines, it won’t be very long before you come face to face with the Lurton name. Henri is one of the most reclusive, publicity-shy of the bunch, but that doesn’t stop him from expressing his pedigree through his wine, and this is already tasting delicious, but no doubt can keep going for decades. This is a chateau that I often think is overlooked among the glittering Margaux hierarchy, and the 2005 shows just why we should sit up and take notice, with its heaps of burnt herbs, liquorice, and a sweetness to the black fruits that comes entirely from perfectly ripe picking. Elegant but unmistakably flamboyant, like Oleg Cassini in a glass.

Chateau Rauzan Segla, Margaux 2005 (approx £80)
Not only is this one of the prettiest chateaux in Margaux, but it is also one of the real stars of recent years. In 1994, the second classified growth estate was bought by the Wertheimer family of Chanel, who installed a winemaking team led by David Orr (from Chateau Latour) and American John Kolasa. The quality just keeps getting better under this team, and although it is not a cheap wine, it is very definitely worth it. The 2005 was one of my personal favourites of the appellation, taut and muscular and still barely at the beginning of an enormously long life. Rich blackcherries remind me of overindulging on pick-your-own farms in the 1970s, while the gorgeously perfumed nose just goes on and on.

Chateau Serilhan, Saint Estephe 2007
A real surprise in what was a difficult year for many wineries. Very flattering, fresh and easy to drink, highlighting many of the early-drinking qualities of 2007.
(tasted during the en primeurs)

Chateau Giscours, Margaux 2007
In an underperforming appellation for the vintage, the quality for price is excellent. Elegant but powerful.
(tasted during the en primeurs)

Chateau Pontet Canet, Pauillac 2007
As always, this is a reliable bet for excellent quality. Smoky and complex, with deep rich flavours that roll around the mouth.
(tasted during the en primeurs)

Chateau Pontet Canet Pauillac 2003
Rich, deep swirls of black cherry, woodsmoke and cedar wood, ready to drink from 2010-2020. (tasted at L'Intendant Wine Shop, November 2007)

Chateau Leoville Las Cases, Saint Julien
Over-performing super second. intense, yet very fragrant with clean dark fruits on the nose, this belies the general truth that 2007 is not a year for laying down.
(tasted during the en primeurs)

Chateau Le Petit Bocq, Saint Estephe 2004 (approx £20)
Owned by a former doctor, Gaetan Lagneaux, this lovely estate is often considered as the sleeper of the vintage by Robert Parker. Ten years ago the vines covered just two hectares, but have now grown to 15 hectares, almost entirely gravel soils. The grapes are classic Bordeaux, but with a higher percentage of Merlot (65%) than is usual for the appellation, with the remaining given over to Cabernet Sauvignon and a sprinkling of Cabernet Franc. The vines are planted to a density of 8,000 to 10,000 per hectare, all hand-picked and bottled without filtration. And it really offers excellent value. Very dark in colour, with elegance and good acidity, this has plum fruits and chocolate flavourings that need some time to fully open up.

Chateau Clauzet, Saint Estephe 2004 (approx £15)
Owned by the improbably named Baron Velge, the technical director at Chateau Clauzet, José Bueno comes from Mouton Rothschild, which has got to be a fast way to inspire confidence in your wine. Velge is a Belgian businessman who bought the property in 1997, making him fit neatly into the new-wave of Saint Estephe owners, trying to inject a new sense of dynamism into the region. Covering 20 hectares, this time with a majority of Cabernet Sauvignon, and a dash of Petit Verdot that gives it a rich, deep colour. This is a wine that makes its presence felt, with an imposing structure, and tightly controlled black fruits.