French Wine 101: Bordeaux

by tarynlachter

Bordeaux, France is one of the most famous wine producing regions on the face of this planet. 

The region is, of course, centered around the city of Bordeaux.

It is split by the Gironde River, which has two smaller rivers called Dordogne and Garonne.

Bordeaux, France is one of the most famous wine producing regions on the face of this planet. 

The region is, of course, centered around the city of Bordeaux, and is split by the Gironde River, which has two smaller rivers called Dordogne and Garonne. They create an upside-down Y shape, and the two branches of the Y have been named the Left Bank and Right Bank. These two sides of the waterway determine different flavor profiles and attributes of the blends produced in Bordeaux.

Each bank has its own appellations that determine the grapes used in the blends, particularly because of the terroir (soil and climate) of the banks. For example, a Left Bank Bordeaux blend from Medoc and Graves might contain the following: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. 

Whereas a Right Bank blend from Libournais might only be Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The way the grapes are listed on a blend is an essential detail because it gives them in order of importance, dictating how much of each is in the bottle. Left Bank blends tend to be higher in tannins, alcohol, and acidity, while Right Bank blends are juicier and less severe in tannins and acid because of their higher merlot content.  

Although certain characteristics might deviate based on appellation, red Bordeaux wines have some dominant flavors. Because of the concentration of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, you can expect a deep ruby color with flavors like plum and currant, and notes of cedar.

While red Bordeaux blends do tend to take the spotlight on a global scale, white blends from this famous region should not be overlooked. Like the reds, there is a very small list of grapes that can be selected for these regal blends. These are produced almost exclusively in Entre Deux Mers (“between two seas”), the area of land between the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers.

White Bordeaux blends must be made of Sauvignon Blanc with Semillon and Muscadelle. Those that are primarily Sauvignon Blanc will be light, crisp, and refreshing, with notes of citrus and flowers. Those that are made with more Semillon will be creamy and rich, with flavors like caramelized fruits and ginger. 

Bordeaux are often known for being ultra-fancy and expensive but they don’t have to be. White Bordeaux are especially affordable but there are plenty of red producers that don’t break the bank. The region is at the top of the list for a reason, so you can bet that any bottle you get will be great! Just make sure it’s actually made in Bordeaux, and is not a Bordeaux-style blend! 



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