The three most significant appellation titles used for the district's wines are 'Blaye' (exclusively for red wines) and 'Cotes de Bordeaux Blaye' (red and white) and the regional 'Bordeaux' appellation (red, white and rosé). Also available is the little-used 'Cotes de Blaye' title, which is exclusively for white wines.
The landscape around Blaye is visibly different – higher and hillier – from that just across the Gironde on the flat Medoc peninsula, and the Blaye area lends a picturesque element to the landscape of Bordeaux. Although Blaye has been producing wines for far longer than the more prestigious villages across the estuary, it fell victim long ago to the harsh facts of commercial reality. The area's particular position on the Gironde Estuary leads its shores to silt up heavily, which made access difficult for trading ships. The glory of Bordeaux as a whole has risen and fallen on the health of its exports, which has been subject to both geographical and political factors. Today, the presence of a nuclear power plant just 10 miles north of Blaye town does little to improve the area's reputation.
Red wines made around Blaye are blended predominantly from Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon – the mainstays of modern Bordeaux wine – often with a splash of Cabernet Franc. The appellation laws also permit the use of small quantities of Malbec, Petit Verdot and even Carmenere (although this is rarely seen these days).
White wines from the Blaye district are based on an equally Bordelais selection of grape varieties: the internationally famous Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon and the less widely known Colombard and Ugni Blanc.
It may seem strange that Blaye has had so many appellation titles for its few wine styles, and it is certainly confusing to many. There are, however, subtle differences between them all. The white wines made under the Cotes de Blaye title, for example are produced to more exacting quality standards; the Cotes de Blaye appellation laws require the wines to have a higher final alcohol level (and to have been harvested with lower yields), than the district's other white wines, theoretically resulting in wines of superior quality. The grape varieties used also create a distinction between the styles. Whereas Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon dominate the Cotes de Bordeaux whites, the more-rustic Cotes de Blaye whites are made predominantly from Colombard and Ugni Blanc.
For more information on Blaye's confusion of appellation titles, and listings of Cotes de Bordeaux Blaye wines, see Cotes de Bordeaux Blaye.