The Bordeaux wine region is undeniably defined by its tidal rivers. But to determine vineyards with some of the prettiest water views, and estates that produce the best value wines, it\u2019s wise to start at the source.\r\n\r\nBeginning in the snowy Pyrenees mountains around 5,500 feet above sea level, the Garonne river flows about 325 miles north and west, and passes the Cit\u00e9 du Vin dockside at Bordeaux city.\r\n\r\nMeanwhile, in central France, the Dordogne river crashes down more than 5,400 feet from the Massif Central. It flows west for 300 miles, meandering past the Saint-\u00c9milion plain and skirting vines to the north of Bordeaux on its journey.\r\n\r\nThese two great rivers merge just beyond the city of Bordeaux to form the majestic Gironde estuary, the largest of its kind in Western Europe. From there, it\u2019s a seriously tidal and cruise-ship worthy 45 or so miles to the Bay of Biscay and the Atlantic Ocean.\r\n\r\nRiverside south and west, the vineyard landscape is flat and gravelly in the M\u00e9doc and Graves regions.\r\n\r\nBut to the north and east, Bordeaux C\u00f4tes vineyards climb around 400 feet from the three waterways. Planted on limestone and clay soils, they benefit from the warmth of these waters and their sunny exposures.\r\n\r\nThese vineyards comprise six appellations from west to east: Blaye, Bourg, Cadillac, Castillon, Francs and Sainte-Foy. Five have joined together to form what\u2019s classified as the C\u00f4tes de Bordeaux.\r\n\r\nThe sixth, Bourg, voted to stay apart. Together, however, they represent a new level of quality definitely worth exploring.\r\n\r\nWines from these Bordeaux C\u00f4tes appellations represent some of the best values and most enjoyable selections in Bordeaux. Mainly red, they are ready to be enjoyed within three years after release, and many can hold for up to a decade.\r\n\r\nThey are pleasurable pours, always with ample structure. Yet, they\u2019re also full of fruit from Merlot, blended with the more tannic Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Increasingly, spicy Malbec has become a common part of the regional blends as well.\r\n\r\nReady to dive in? Here\u2019s your cheat sheet to the best that Bordeaux\u2019s C\u00f4tes have to offer.\r\n\r\n\r\nBlaye\r\nFortified and Ready\r\nA UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Citadel of Blaye is one of three massive forts designed in the 17th century to repel invaders who might sail upriver and attack Bordeaux. The others are Fort M\u00e9doc, which sits on the opposite side of the Gironde estuary in Cussac-Fort-M\u00e9doc, and Fort Pat\u00e9, located on an island in the Gironde estuary.\r\n\r\nToday, the Citadel of Blaye, with houses, shops and restaurants within its walls, still dominates this river town.\r\n\r\nBeyond this bustling tourist destination, growing along the estuary\u2019s slopes, across plains and atop a plateau, are the vineyards of Blaye C\u00f4tes de Bordeaux, a calm region where vines are interspersed with fields and grain crops. They\u2019re planted mainly to red varieties, covering more than 12,800 acres, though about 680 acres of white grapes are also grown.\r\n\r\nFifteen years ago, the region\u2019s reds were generally light and easy drinking. Now, thanks to an increased proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon used in the final blends, the style has deepened. It offers ripeness as well as structure and emphasizes black-fruit characteristics.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThe whites, too, have become richer, with many more now aged in wood.\r\n\r\nEric Bantegnies\u2019s family runs four chateaus in Blaye: Bertinerie, Haut Bertinerie, Manon des Brumes and La Baronnerie. He emphasizes the newfound importance of Cabernet Sauvignon to the region\u2019s reputation.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt makes a big difference to the structure of the wines,\u201d says Bantegnies. \u201cWe have always had a majority of Merlot, but now we aim to have up to 40% Cabernet in the blend, particularly for our top wines.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe Bantegnies family vineyards are in Cubnezais and C\u00e9zac, near Saint-Savin, at the eastern end of the appellation.\u00ad It\u2019s in one of three sections of the Blaye vineyard landscape. The others sections are around Blaye itself, and Saint-Ciers-sur-Gironde and Marcillac to the north, where the impressive Vignerons de Tutiac cooperative is headquartered and the last Bordeaux vineyards lie before you cross into the Cognac region.\r\n\r\nThis is a wine region with both history and potential. Most wines are widely available at prices around $15 to $20, although some top wines sell for more than $50. At their best, they burst with plum and blackberry fruits, are lightly wooded and ready to enjoy within three years of release.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nVignobles Gabriel and Co. 2016 Ch\u00e2teau Le Grand Moulin (Blaye C\u00f4tes de Bordeaux); $24, 92 points. Though he'd rather be a musical genius, Jean-Fran\u00e7ois Reaud did wonders with this estate, in the family since 1904. Dense and full of tannins, it also offers ripe fruits. Its structure and density match the intensity of the fruit, meaning the wine has a great future. With a dense aftertaste, the wine will age, so drink from 2022. Mr. Wine. Editors\u2019 Choice.\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau Magdeleine Bouhou 2016 Boha (Blaye C\u00f4tes de Bordeaux); $18, 90 points. This dark, structured wine with firm tannins has the potential for richness. That comes from the blackberry flavors that pop through the dry structure. The fruit hints at juiciness and shows bright acidity. Drink this ageworthy wine from 2022. Sierra Nevada Imports. Editors\u2019 Choice.\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau Monconseil-Gazin 2016 Blaye C\u00f4tes de Bordeaux; $30, 90 points. This wine from Jean-Fran\u00e7ois Baudet is rich with fine tannins and ripe black fruits. Its structure and concentration are generous, while with 12 months in oak, the smoky black-currant fruit still gives freshness. The wine is now well integrated and will be ready from 2021. Continent Wines Inc.\r\n\r\n\r\nBourg\r\nDynamism and Optimism\r\nSurrounded by rolling hills with great views of the Dordogne river just before it joins the Garonne to form the Gironde estuary, it\u2019s no surprise that the vineyards in the C\u00f4tes de Bourg are dubbed \u201cLittle Switzerland\u201d by locals.\r\n\r\nAt around 280 feet above sea level at their peak, however, these slopes are hardly Swiss, but their proximity to the water allows the vineyards to take advantage of the extra warmth that it provides.\r\n\r\nThey form a compact region about 22 miles north of Bordeaux that\u2019s defined by steep drops down toward the river, valleys and small patches of woodland.\r\n\r\nThe majority of the production is focused on red wine. There are more than 9,700 acres devoted to red-grape vines compared to less than 100 acres of white varieties.\r\n\r\nBourg\u2019s wines are not shy, with rich fruit tones, bold tannins and moderate alcohol levels typically around 14%.\r\n\r\nThere\u2019s a sense of dynamism and cohesion throughout the region, best witnessed by the Maison du Vin. Paid for by the growers, it\u2019s an excellent shop and conference center with a splendid wine bar and a planned restaurant with river views. It\u2019s close to the ancient Bourg citadel, whose terrace, about 100 feet up from the river, forms a tree-shaded square where gossip reigns on sunny afternoons.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\u201cWe have a really good group of younger growers who have taken over from their parents, more than many other areas of Bordeaux\u2014they travel together, they taste together,\u201d says St\u00e9phane Donze, president of the wine growers association of C\u00f4tes de Bourg and co-owner of Ch\u00e2teau Martinat along with his wife, Lucie.\r\n\r\nThen there\u2019s Malbec. Long forgotten in Bordeaux, climate change as well as Argentine and native clonal selection have made it possible to replant the variety here and in neighboring Blaye. Malbec now makes up about 10% of Bourg\u2019s vineyards, and it\u2019s changed both the regional landscape and resulting wine profiles.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt brings spice to our wines,\u201d says Donze.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau Brules\u00e9caille 2016 Grande R\u00e9serve (C\u00f4tes de Bourg); $20, 91 points. The wine has fine fruitiness and warm tannins that give it a juicy character. With its structure still in place, it will need some time. As it develops, it will become a dense, fruity and rich wine. Drink from 2021. Kysela P\u00e8re et Fils.\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau Mercier 2016 Cuv\u00e9e Prestige (C\u00f4tes de Bourg); $22, 91 points. The structure of Isabelle & Christophe Chety\u2019s wine is still firm and young. The same goes for the full-bodied, black-currant fruits that are nowhere near ready to enjoy. Drink from 2021. Republic National Distributing Co.\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau Tayac 2016 Prestige (C\u00f4tes de Bourg); $28, 91 points. Full of new wood aromas and flavors, this is a tough blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot at this stage. Its firm texture and dry core are balanced by the juicy acidity and the fine black currant fruitiness. The wine\u2019s licorice flavors from extraction should go as it develops. Drink from 2022. Direct Wine Inc.\r\n\r\n\r\nCadillac\r\nWines and Cars\r\nCadillac is a true slope, a true c\u00f4te. Alongside the Garonne river, the thin appellation runs 37 miles southeast, starting on the outskirts of Bordeaux.\r\n\r\nThe vineyards, around 2,700 acres in total, form a narrow strip, never more than three miles wide. They climb steep south-facing slopes and look across the Garonne to Sauternes, the Graves and the dense pine forests of the Landes.\r\n\r\nIt\u2019s this proximity to the Garonne that defines Cadillac. The extra warmth from the river brings density to the red wines and also creates ideal conditions for botrytis to infect white grapes, a key element in the production of the unctuous, sweet wines of Cadillac.\r\n\r\nIn the village of Capian, Monique Bonnet is the owner of Ch\u00e2teau Suau. At 328 feet in elevation, it\u2019s one of the highest vineyards in the appellation.\r\n\r\n\u201cI could see the Garonne if the oak trees weren\u2019t there,\u201d says Bonnet. The close proximity to the river, she says, \u201cgives our red wines the extra depth and concentration, [with] structure, accessibility and ageability.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nCadillac, the walled town on the banks of the Garonne, is situated deferentially around a massive castle built in the 17th century by a duke of \u00c9pernon. One of the subsequent lords of Cadillac, the\r\n\r\nChevalier Antoine Laumet de La Mothe Cadillac, was governor of Louisiana in the 18th century when it was still French territory.\r\n\r\nThe story goes that his name was attached to the iconic car brand 150 years later. The locals are proud of the connection, as evidenced by the annual rally held with vintage Cadillacs.\r\n\r\nThere is also a second red wine appellation within the Cadillac C\u00f4tes de Bordeaux region, called just C\u00f4tes de Bordeaux. The wines are simpler than the Cadillac offerings, typically from high-yield vineyards and aged in tanks rather than wood.\r\n\r\nMany estates make both styles, although the superior Cadillac C\u00f4tes de Bordeaux are more likely to be seen in the U.S.\r\n\r\nOver the years, the wines of Cadillac have shown reliability, as a number of major estates has earned 90-plus scores. Like all the wines from the C\u00f4tes, most bottlings represent amazing values at reasonable prices, often around $20 for the impressive 2016 vintage.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau de Marsan 2016 Cadillac C\u00f4tes de Bordeaux; $18, 91 points. Rich, smoky and with ripe fruits, this is a powerful wine from vines bordering the Garonne river. Its tannins, swathes of blackberry and black-plum flavors and concentration all point to the need for aging. Drink from 2022. Wineberry America LLC. Cellar Selection.\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau Reynon 2016 Cadillac C\u00f4tes de Bordeaux; $14, 91 points. Harvested under the direction of the Dubourdieu sons, this smoky wine is ripe, full of rich juicy fruit as well as firm tannins. A layer of strong black fruits is balanced by acidity. This rich, deliciously fruity wine has a fine future. Drink from 2022. AP Wine Imports. Best Buy.\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau Tanesse 2016 Cadillac C\u00f4tes de Bordeaux; $45, 90 points. This smoky, ripe and structured Gonfrier wine shows good potential, offering fine tannins and rich black fruits. Its structure, concentration and balance already show a wine that will have an excellent future. Drink from 2021. Serge Dor\u00e9 Selections.\r\n\r\n\r\nCastillon\r\nThe Saint-\u00c9milion Effect\r\nCastillon has a place in history. Its full name is Castillon-la-Bataille, which means \u201cCastillon the Battle.\u201d In 1453, this is where the French threw the English out of the country after the Hundred Years War. Each year, citizens celebrate the victory with a spectacular pageant in the vineyards.\r\n\r\nCastillon is also next to Saint-\u00c9milion. Apart from an administrative boundary, this is the same slope with the same soil and exposure as its more famous neighbor. In fact, many Saint-\u00c9milion chateau owners have bought the much less expensive vineyard land throughout the area. Plots here cost an average of $11,000 per acre, compared to $114,000 in Saint-\u00c9milion.\r\n\r\nSome of these chateau owners are quite pedigreed. The B\u00e9cot family of Ch\u00e2teau Beaus\u00e9jour-B\u00e9cot produces Ch\u00e2teau Joanin-B\u00e9cot; the Perse family of Ch\u00e2teau Pavie produces Clos les Lunelles; and the von Neipperg family of Ch\u00e2teau Canon la Gaffeli\u00e8re owns Ch\u00e2teau d\u2019Aiguilhe. These producers make some of the best Castillon wines.\r\n\r\nAs a result, the appellation has become the go-to for many who can\u2019t afford Saint-\u00c9milion.\r\n\r\n\u201cCastillon is good quality without the price,\u201d says Jonathan Ducourt, whose family owns Ch\u00e2teau des Demoiselles in Castillon and Ch\u00e2teau Jacques Noir in Saint-\u00c9milion. He describes his wine as \u201cbright fruits with a good density, a little bit of spice and a touch of tannin.\u201d\r\n\r\nFrom Castillon and the Dordogne Valley, vines rise up the steep south-facing slope to the plateau above, at heights between 250 and 350 feet. Small villages\u2014Saint-Magne, Sainte-Colombe, Saint Gen\u00e8s-de-Castillon, Belves-de-Castillon\u2014form enclaves in the landscape of around 7,000 acres of vines, leaving patches of land in the small valleys for woodland, with small vineyard holding and major estates alike.\r\n\r\nCastillon has risen fast, as producers snap up inexpensive land and invest in winemaking. Prices range from as little as $12 to $50, with plenty of 90-point wines to be found, especially from the 2015 and \u201916 vintages currently on the market.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau d\u2019Aiguilhe 2016 Seigneurs d\u2019Aiguilhe (Castillon C\u00f4tes de Bordeaux); $20, 91 points. Part of the von Neipperg holdings, this ripe, perfumed wine is rich with tannins and and spice. Black fruits and acidity balance all this firmness to give a wine with delicious potential. Drink this generous blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc from 2021. K&L Wine Merchants. Editors\u2019 Choice.\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau de Pitray 2016 Premier Vin (Castillon C\u00f4tes de Bordeaux); $15, 91 points. A concentrated wine from the Pitray family, who fought in the American Revolution, this has bold tannins and the potential for rich fruit. A powerful wine, it shows plenty of spice as well as ripe black-currant flavors and acidity. Drink from 2022. Monsieur Touton Selection Ltd. Best Buy.\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau C\u00f4te Montpezat 2016 Castillon C\u00f4tes de Bordeaux; $20, 90 points. Big tannins don\u2019t hide the fruitiness of this ripe Merlot-dominated wine. It has concentration, and a dark core of powerful tannins that brings out an accent of coffee. At the same time, a rich blackberry flavor shines through. Drink from 2022. Saranty Imports.\r\n\r\n\r\nFrancs and Sainte-Foy\r\nThe Eastern Hills\r\nAs Blaye is at the northwestern border of Bordeaux, so Francs and Sainte-Foy are at the eastern boundary. They are the smallest of the C\u00f4tes de Bordeaux vineyards, with Francs planted to about 1,000 acres of vines and Sainte-Foy at around 860 acres. Still, both have great history.\r\n\r\nFrancs dates to at least the sixth century, when the region received its name from an army of Franks who won a battle at a place called Ad Francos, later changed to Francs. The little river, the Lidoire, which flows into the Dordogne, acted as the early World War II border between German-occupied Bordeaux and Free France.\r\n\r\nSainte-Foy\u2019s vines can be traced back to the 13th century. The founding of the town of Sainte-Foy-la-Grande in 1255 led to the growth of local vineyards. Early accounts note the town\u2019s duty was to hinder wines of the Haut-Pays from reaching Bordeaux before local vignerons had sold and shipped their own crop each harvest.\r\n\r\nFrancs, which produces red, white and sweet white wines under the Francs C\u00f4tes de Bordeaux appellation, has a number of major estates. With vineyards that climb up to 400 feet in elevation, it\u2019s the highest point in Bordeaux, with sites that sprawl from north of Castillon down into the Castillon C\u00f4tes de Bordeaux region.\r\n\r\nIt\u2019s the only slope without a view over a major river. Only a handful of estates have wines available in the U.S., but their value and quality are worthy of seeking out. Expect serious reds for long term aging, especially from chateaus owned by the Thienpont family, which owns and runs vineyards in Saint-\u00c9milion and Pomerol.\r\n\r\nSainte-Foy\u2019s average vineyard size is 22 just acres. The vineyards climb from the Dordogne up to around 325 feet and look over the medieval town of Sainte-Foy-la-Grande, with its grid plan and wooden houses. They\u2019re on slopes that face north and northwest, and they benefit from the warming influence of the river. In terms of quality, the area is still some way behind the rest of the C\u00f4tes, and therefore there are hardly any wines on American shores.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nLes Charmes Godard 2016 Ch\u00e2teau La Prade (Francs C\u00f4tes de Bordeaux); $14, 91 points. Bold tannins and ripe fruit are the hallmarks of this rich wine from the Nicolas Thienpont range. A solid structure backs up the ripe black-currant flavors. The wine will certainly age well, so wait until 2021. Monsieur Touton Selection Ltd. Best Buy.\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau Pr\u00e9 La Lande 2016 Terra Cotta (Sainte-Foy C\u00f4tes de Bordeaux); $23, 90 points. Structured, firm and with the potential of ripe fruits, this wine from Sainte-Foy's first vintage as a C\u00f4tes de Bordeaux is ready for aging. Aged in amphorae, it has weight, concentration and dark tannins. The black fruits from biodynamic vines are still waiting to come through what will be a rich wine. Drink from 2020. Vigneron Imports.\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau Puygueraud 2017 Blanc (Francs C\u00f4tes de Bordeaux); $12, 90 points. Ripe tropical flavors dominate this rich Nicolas Thienpont wine, a full and fruity Sauvignon Blanc/Sauvignon Gris blend. Sure to develop impressively, it will be better from 2019. It's available in limited quantities only due to spring frost. Monsieur Touton Selection Ltd. Best Buy.