Pauillac, a commune located between Saint-Estèphe and Saint-Julien on Bordeaux's Médoc peninsula, is home to some of the world's most famous and expensive red wines , made predominantly from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape variety, which is well suited to the free-draining gravel soils found in Pauillac's vineyards. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Carmenère, Petit Verdot and Malbec are also permitted for use under the Pauillac appellation laws.
The stellar reputation of Pauillac wines is based not only on their quality, but on their success in international fine wine markets. Three of the top five châteaux in the 1855 Médoc Classification (a ranking of Bordeaux's best wine-producing properties) are located here; Mouton Rothschild, Lafite Rothschild and Château Latour.
Overall, the terroir of Pauillac varies more than might be expected in an area of only 23 square kilometres (9 square miles), where the land near the banks of the Gironde estuary with the best vineyard sites rises and falls by a maximum of 30 meters (100ft). Over hundreds of vintages, the châteaux and their winemakers have become very skilled at emphasising the individuality of their vineyards, and there is general agreement that the styles of the top three châteaux are discernibly different. Overall, however, there is still an identifiable Pauillac wine style: full, rich, and characterised by the classic cassis-and-cedarwood aromas of oak-aged Cabernet Sauvignon.
The appellation laws for Pauillac specify that all land within the Pauillac commune boundaries qualifies for the title, unless composed of sandy, alluvial or impermeable soils. Certain plots in neighbouring Saint-Julien and Saint-Estèphe also qualify for the title, as do a handful in Cissac and Saint-Saveur.