A Guide to Investing in Bordeaux

Lucy Shaw, Contributing Writer

1 September 2023

Home to the five First Growths, Bordeaux remains the bedrock of the fine wine market and the benchmark for fine wine around the world.

The powerhouse in south-west France has long been an investor favourite due to the consistent quality, ageworthiness and proven track record of its wines, which have appreciated in value over centuries of trade.

Since the new millennium Bordeaux has enjoyed a golden age of winemaking, with the 2000, 2005, 2009, 2010 and 2016 vintages lauded as among some of the greatest in the last century. Such a dynamic recent run has put the spotlight on the region and helped stoke demand both in established markets like the UK and emerging markets like Asia, where Bordeaux has become a firm favourite among wealthy drinkers and collectors. Helping to streamline the process of buying and selling Bordeaux on the secondary market has been the development of LiveTrade, which has grown to become the largest fine wine trading platform in the world.

A brief history…

The region’s winemaking roots snake back to 60BC, when the Romans first planted vines in Bordeaux, clocking on early to the area’s suitability for grape cultivation due to its Maritime climate, favourable terroir and useful trading links. The wines found favour in the court of King Edward I in the early 14th century, while the region was under English rule, helping to cement its status in Britain.

The release of the 1855 Classification – in which the best producers were labelled as ‘Cru Classe’ and put into one of five tiered groups – as a promotional tool and price guide secured Bordeaux’s reputation around the world and remains an important quality yardstick to this day, with only a single change – the promotion of Mouton Rothschild from a second to a first growth in 1973 – having been made to it.

Bordeaux Index Fine Wine Mouton Rothschild Vintage Bottles
Mouton Rothschild past vintages

The Five First Growths

The importance of the 1855 Classification can’t be understated when it comes to sealing the reputations of the five first growths: Lafite, Latour, Margaux, Haut-Brion and Mouton Rothschild, which remain in a league of their own when it comes to consumer perception and investment appeal, though over the last few decades, demand has been steadily growing among investors for ‘super’ second estates, such as Cos d’Estournel, Leoville Las Cases and Ducru-Beaucaillou.

Another key turning point in the history of the region came during the post-war years of the 1950s and ‘60s, with the emergence of a new generation of winemakers, who invested their time and money into restoring their vineyards and modernising their winemaking equipment and techniques in order to lead Bordeaux into a new, quality-obsessed era. The emergence of a gutsy American lawyer-turned-wine critic, Robert M. Parker Jr., onto the scene in the 1980s, who was early to spot the astounding quality of the 1982 vintage, was another marker in the sand for the region, and classed growth wines from the lauded vintage remain among the most sought after due to their rarity and longevity.

Left Bank vs Right Bank

Naturally divided by the Gironde estuary, Bordeaux is a region of two halves. On the Left Bank you’ll find big name châteaux dotted among its leading appellations, which include Margaux, St. Julien, Pauillac and St. Estèphe, while, with its abundance of clay and limestone soils, the Right Bank is Merlot territory, and home to big guns such as Petrus and Le Pin. Thriving it its free-draining gravel soils, Cabernet is the king of the Left Bank, and is treated with suitable reverence, though it relies on Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc to play important supporting roles within its blends.

Left Bank appellations


Saint-Estèphe is Bordeaux’s northernmost commune, and the wines from the appellation are known for their distinct tannic profile, a result of a slightly cooler microclimate and a gravel and clay mixture in the soil. Home to Montrose, Cos d’Estournel and Calon-Ségur, the wines are savoury and earthy in their youth.


Hallowed ground in Bordeaux, Pauillac is home to three of the five first growths: Lafite, Latour and Mouton Rothschild, alongside fellow big guns Pichon Lalande, Pichon Baron and Lynch-Bages, and has the revered reputation to boot. The terroir is lauded due to the natural drainage provided by its gravel, and its wines display an enviable balance of power, finesse, concentration and vivacity.

Bordeaux Index Fine Wine Pichon Baron Château
Château Pichon Baron


Saint-Julien has a fairly uniform gravel surface including a complex clay and limestone soil layer that makes its wine production quite diverse. Home to Léoville Las Cases, Ducru Beaucaillou and Léoville Barton, the wines offer an appealing midpoint between the power of Pauillac and the elegance of Margaux.


It’s all about texture in Margaux, and the wines from this appellation are celebrated for their silkiness, floral perfume and unrivalled elegance. Home to first growth Château Margaux, Palmer and Rauzan-Ségla, the area benefits from mild winters and summers, while its gravel- and pebble-rich soils encourage deep root growth, which results in high-quality grapes.

Bordeaux Index Fine Wine Château Margaux
Château Margaux


Located just south of the city of Bordeaux, Pessac-Léognan is home to La Mission Haut Brion and first growth Château Haut-Brion, which, alongside its grand vin, produces arguably the best white in Bordeaux. The wines from the appellation have a mineral character due to their mineral-rich gravel soils, where Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon shine.


Located southeast of the city of Bordeaux, Graves takes its name from the deep, gravel-rich soil of the region, which is most renowned for its dry whites made from Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon, and its sweet wines hailing from the commune of Sauternes, among the most lusted after of which is Château d’Yquem.

Bordeaux Index Fine Wine Château d'Yquem
Château d'Yquem

Right Bank appellations


Nestled on a limestone plateau on Bordeaux’s Right Bank, Saint-Emilion’s chalky-clay soils make it the perfect breeding ground for Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Home to Cheval Blanc, Ausone, Angélus and Figeac, its wines are adored for their finesse, fruit-forward character, supple body and velvety tannins.


Bordeaux’s smallest appellation has no formal classification but is home to some of the most sought-after wines on the planet, including Petrus, Le Pin and La Conseillante. Merlot rules the roost here, and is grown extensively across the plateau, whose iron-rich clay soils show off the grape at its best via powerful wines of extraordinary depth.

Bordeaux Index Fine Wine Petrus
Petrus 2000

Notable Châteaux

Château Lafite

This iconic First Growth estate in the northern tip of Pauillac has been in the Rothschild family since 1868 and is currently headed up by Saskia de Rothschild, daughter of long-time steward Baron Eric de Rothschild. The grand vin is mostly made from the estate’s gravel plateau, which is planted predominantly to Cabernet Sauvignon, while its second wine hails from the Plateau de Carruades. Lafite has been perhaps the greatest beneficiary of fine wine’s growing popularity in Asias over the last two decades.

Château Latour

Located at the southern edge of Pauillac, First Growth Château Latour first established vines in the 17th century and is currently owned by French entrepreneur François Pinault. Run by Frédéric Engerer, Latour made the bold decision to leave the en primeur system in 2012 and instead release its wines when they’re ready to drink. Latour’s grand vin is produced from its prized L’Enclos vineyard.

Bordeaux Index Fine Wine Château Latour
Château Latour

Château Margaux

This revered First Growth has been owned by the Mentzelopoulos family since 1978 and consistently produces some of the finest wines in the Médoc, which are praised for their perfume, pose and elegance. The estate’s 82ha are largely planted to Cabernet Sauvignon (75%), along with 20% Merlot and a touch of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Margaux produces around 30,000 cases of red wine annually, including its Grand Vin and second wine, Pavillon Rouge.

Château Mouton Rothschild

A latecomer to the First Growth club, joining the group in 1973, the 83ha Mouton has been in the Rothschild family since 1853 and is currently overseen by Baroness Philippine’s three children: Philippe and Camille Sereys de Rothschild and Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild. Its wines are celebrated for their power, opulence and exotic aromas of cassis, minerals, tobacco leaf and graphite. Each year a leading artist is chosen to design the label of its Grand Vin including luminaries such as Picasso, Warhol and Hockney.

Château Haut-Brion

Haut-Brion in Pessac-Léognan has a long and illustrious history. Snapped up by American financier Clarence Dillon in 1935, it is now run by his great-grandson, Prince Robert of Luxembourg, with consultancy from the Delmas family. The vineyard is planted to 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot and 18% Cabernet Franc. The high Merlot content in the grand vin gives it an appealing voluptuousness. Vintages such as 1989 and 2005 are considered icons of contemporary Bordeaux and have proven to be highly profitable for long-term holders.

Bordeaux Index Fine Wine Château Haut-Brion
Château Haut-Brion


Owned and run by the Moueix family with winemaking by Jean Claude Berrouet, this leading light of the Right Bank is a masterclass in Merlot and shows off the grape to the best of its abilities. The 11.4ha vineyard is located on a plateau on the highest part of Pomerol in the far east of the appellation, which stands out for its clay soils that are planted to 95% Merlot. Petrus is known for its power, concentration and rich, dark fruit character. Collectors have enjoyed strong price appreciation in recent years as demand has far outstripped its limited supply.

Cheval Blanc

The star of Saint-Emilion, this 1er Grand Cru Classé A estate lies in the northwest of the appellation. Run by Pierre Lurton and Pierre Olivier Clouet, the wines celebrate Cabernet Franc, which accounts for the majority of its plantings, alongside around 40% Merlot and tiny amounts of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, which grow in a mixture of gravel, clay and sandy soils underpinned by sedimentary rock. The wine is a strong performer, with multiple vintages doubling in price over the last decade.

Bordeaux Index Fine Wine Château Cheval Blanc
Château Cheval Blanc


This up-and-coming Saint-Emilion estate is on the rise, having been promoted to 1er Grand Cru Classé A status in 2022. Its 54ha of vines are planted in deep gravel topsoils over an iron-rich subsoil, making the wines, with their high Cabernet content, the most Médoc-like in St-Emilion.

Factors affecting Bordeaux wine investment

While winemaking is so advanced in Bordeaux the leading châteaux are able to produce elegant, ageworthy wines every year, each vintage is different and the price the wines can command – both on release and on the secondary market – fluctuate depending on the quality of the vintage and the subsequent scores from respected critics such as Neal Martin, Antonio Galloni and Jancis Robinson MW.

High scores can impact the pricing of the wines, as the châteaux tend to wait for the scores of the leading critics to come out before they release their wines en primeur, pricing them according to the anticipated global demand. If EP release prices are too high, however, then the market won’t bite and merchants end up sitting on unsold stock. It’s a delicate balance that needs to be successfully navigated each year in order for Bordeaux enthusiasts to feel like there is a valid reason (and price incentive) to hold the wines through their infancy.

Bordeaux no longer dominates trade in the fine wine market as it did 10-15 years ago at the height of the Asia-led bull market but it remains by some distance the most important region with a unique combination of international status, cellaring potential and consistent quality.

As with all wines, another key factor when considering investing in Bordeaux is where the wines have come from and how they have been stored. Seek out cases with impeccable provenance and a traceable storage history if you’re looking maximize your returns and sell them on down the line.

Bordeaux Index Fine Wine Lynch-Bages
Château Lynch Bages

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