The history of Bordeaux wine spans almost 2000 years to Roman times when the first vineyards were planted. In the Middle Ages, the marriage of Henry Plantagenet and Eleanor of Aquitaine opened the Bordeaux region to the English market and eventually to the world's stage. The name Bordeaux derives from the French au bord de l'eau which means "along the waters" and makes reference to the Gironde estuary and its tributaries, the Garonne and the Dordogne rivers which play a pivotal role in the history and success of this region.
During the 13th century, the Graves was the principal wine region of Bordeaux. While there were some vines growing in the Entre-deux-mers, Saint-Émilionand Blaye, the Médoc during this period was virtually a barren marshland. In the seventeenth century, Dutch traders began to drain the marshland around the Médoc and encouraged the planting of vineyards.
From 1875-1892 almost all Bordeaux vineyards were ruined by Phylloxera infestations. The region's wine industry was rescued by grafting native vines on to pest-resistant American rootstock.
All Bordeaux vines that survive to this day are a product of this action. Some grape varieties responded better to the grafting then others and these varieties - Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Semillon, Sauvignon blanc and Muscadelle-became Bordeaux leading grapes.
Due to the lucrative nature of this business, other areas in France began growing their own wines and labeling them as Bordeaux products. As profits in the Aquitaine region declined, the vignerons demanded that the government impose a law declaring that only produce from Bordeaux could be labeled with that name.
The INAO or Institut National des Appellations d'Origine was created for this purpose. In 1936, the government responded to the appeals from the winemakers and stated that all regions in France had to name their wines by the place in which they had been produced. Labelled with the AOC approved stamp, products were officially confirmed to be from the region that it stated.