Bordeaux is arguably the greatest wine region in the world with a long and rich history over thousands of years. Located in southwestern France, Bordeaux is the name of a city and the wine growing region around it. It is one of the most recognized and prestigious wine regions in the world well known for long-lived and high-quality expensive red wines.
While Bordeaux produces both red and white wines, it is more famously associated with red wine blend with more than 80% of Bordeaux production being red.
The wines of Bordeaux are varied in style and are produced from a divergent range of terroirs and soils. To simply things, Bordeaux is categorised into 3 main regions; the left bank, the right bank and Entre-Deux-Mers.
The “Left Bank” of Bordeaux contains two main regions, Médoc and Graves, each with several smaller appellations and Cabernet Sauvignon is the most planted grape variety. This is also the bank that made the region famous being the home to well-known First Growths Lafite, Latour, Margaux, Haut Brion and Mouton.
The Right Bank appellations are Saint-Emilion, Pomerol, Fronsac, Bourg and Blaye. Although the right bank were not included in the 1855 classification, it is home to the top flight wines of Petrus and Le Pin in Pomerol and Ausone and Cheval Blanc in Saint Emilion. Merlot is the primary blending grape in the right bank followed by Cabernet Franc.
Entre-Deux-Mers, literally means “between two sea” is the largest appellation within Bordeaux however considered less important and a fraction as expensive than the right and left bank. It is better known for its white with Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle as its main grape varietals.
Bordeaux Wine Style
In Bordeaux, wines tend to be more about elegance and complexity over power. Both red and white Bordeaux are always blends of two or more varietals to achieve more complex flavours.
The Left Bank wines are mostly Cabernet Sauvignon dominated blending with Merlot while Right Bank wines are more Merlot balanced by a smaller proportion of Cabernet. The left bank blends tend to be higher in tannin which makes it a good candidate for aging. The Merlot-driven Right Bank wines however are generally smoother, with softer fruit flavours. Today, Bordeaux wines repeated advances has led to wines that are less harshly tannic; easier to drink at young age yet still capable of aging.
Behind The Famous Bordeaux
Bordeaux is blessed with an ideal environment for wine making. It was gifted with a perfect maritime climate, a variety of water sources from the river and sea and unique gravel soils in the Left bank and clay and limestone in the Right bank respectively. It is no doubt that Bordeaux makes some of the best and most complex wines in the world, creating iconic wines over the centuries.
An old Bordeaux saying has it that “the best vineyards are those you can see the river”
Good things come in Small Quantities
Generally speaking, the smaller the appellation, the finer the wine. A wine labelled simply as “Bordeaux”, can be made from grapes grown anywhere in Bordeaux, almost be a basic wine.
A better wine might come out from a smaller appellation Haut-Medoc and a finer wine will be wines from smaller prestigious appellation from Haut-Medoc such as Pauillac and Margaux.
Example: Chateau Mouton-Rothschild
- Is a Bordeaux
- More specifically, a Haut Medoc
- Even more specifically, A Pauillac (which appears on the wine label)
A bottle of Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1945 was sold at the price of $114,614.
NOT all Bordeaux wines are expensive
Bordeaux wines may have come to us as intimidating in terms of its price and sophisticated background. Although the top renowned wines do carry a heavy price tag, it constitutes but a small region’s total output. Many Bordeaux are neither famous or expensive but are of great quality too.
If you are looking for some of the best sweet white wines, the Bordeaux appellation known will be Sauternes and Barsac. For dry white Bordeaux, the most important region is Pessac Leognan. However, much more white Bordeaux is produced in Entre Deux Mers.