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It was Bordeaux that invented the concept of the wine chateau. The word may conjure up images of a castle, with turrets and moats: some are like that, but only a few. No-one knows exactly how many 'chateaux" there are in Bordeaux - perhaps as many as 7,000, although perhaps only 1,000 actually deserve the term. Most of them are specialized farms of greater or lesser size or grandeur. Few aspire to the status of "chateau" as understood elsewhere in France.

The wine chateau in Bordeaux is a unit of land, often owned and farmed by one proprietor, where grapes are grown and wine is made. At the major chateaux, every process up to and including bottling is carried out at the chateau, very minor properties, on the other hand, will send their grapes or wine to the local coopera-tive to be turned into finished, bott-led wine. Chateaux have vineyards varying in size from a few hectares to 150ha (370 acres) or more. Properties selling wine under their own names range from 20ha (50 acres) upwards - less in Pomerol and St-Emilion. The land may be in one block or in scattered parcels across a commune. Underlying the chateau concept is the idea of terroir - the individuality of a particular patch of land. From the Bordeaux example has stemmed a worldwide movement towards "estate" wines.

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