Appellation D'Origine Controlée (AOC) is the name given in the French classification system to a designated area where, in order to be able to put the AOC Graves "label" on the bottle of wine (which distinguishes it from the mass of 'generic' Bordeaux), you need to meet a certain set of criteria, including limits on the cépages (the varietals used) to those permitted by the AOC rules, limits on yields per hectare when making wine and so forth. You are also required to send samples for an annual tasting for AOC status to be awarded.

The name Graves (which has an unfortunate connotation in English) comes from the white round gravel ("graves" in French) which came from the glaciers in prehistory that shaped the geology of the area. These can be seen by digging your heel into the dirt in the forested part of the back garden or in the drainage ditch that helps to remove excess water from the vineyard. Historically, the Graves is the oldest wine-producing region in Bordeaux, and although it lost some of its lustre when the Classed Growths (Haut Brion, Smith Haut Lafite and Domaine du Chevalier to name but a few) split off to form Pessac-Léognan, leaving the rump Graves somewhat in its shadow, the Graves remains famous for producing reds, dry and sweet white wines of high quality and drinkability, if not as long lived as some of their Classed Growth Pessac Leognan peers.

A red Graves typically will be a Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot blend, perhaps with a little Cabernet Franc thrown in. The most popular and ubiquitous of global varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon is the backbone in most reds in Bodeaux on the Left Bank, providing a tannic spine that is often astringent and harsh when underripe. When we did the soil analysis at Château Mitaud (which involved digging a number of sample boreholes to open up a subsection of the soil below), it turned out that the terroir is not suitable for Cabernet Sauvignon. So our reds are a mix of Cabernet Franc (which is actually one of the genetic parents of Cabernet Sauvignon) which gives colour and tannin, and Merlot which adds a great deal of roundness and softness (and no, we do not agree with the sentiments expressed in 'Sideways' even if we love a good Pinot Noir from Burgundy or the New World) to balance the more astringent Cabernet Franc. In short, a typical right bank blend in a left bank property. Off beat, maybe, but still permitted under AOC rules.

For the whites we have gone with a much more classic combination: a mixture of Sauvignon Blanc (which has that distinctive "cat's pee" aroma) and Semillon (which is less pungent but provides balance and roundness).

We are fortunate to be just down the round from the great sweet whites of Sauternes and Barsac. Angela is a huge fan of these wines, which are hugely costly to make and have fallen out of fashion, so are undervalued in the market, so if the conditions are right (and you will see the mist descend in the mornings and burn off later in the day) we intend to make our own sweet white wine (liquoreux) relying on botrytis cinerea, the so called 'noble rot' that removes the water and concentrates the sugars in the grapes, on which the mythical names like D'Yquem, Rieussec and Climens or even Tokaji in Hungary rely for their best vintages.