Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Bordeaux is the classic blend for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grown in Bordeaux. The climate there is moderate, maritime climate with long warm autumn: ideal for these two grapes. There are hundreds of bordeaux producers, dozens of premium appellations, and there are very fine and significant differences between each.

Here is a quick and easy dirty guide to understand some major appellation.

The Left Bank: River Garonne cuts through Bordeaux creating very different climate on two sides. The left bank, closer to the ocean to the West and more South then the right bank, has warmer climate. Here, Cabernet Sauvignon, a variety that needs a lot of sun and warmth, is the dominant variety. In other words, the wine produced here contains more cabernet sauvignon than Merlot. The wines are medium or full-bodied with high levels of tannin and acidity, and long length. These wines are tough to drink when young, but with age the tannin softens, and flavours of black fruit and toasty fragrant of oak develop into vegetal, tobacco, and cedar complexity. The very best wines of this region come from the Cru Classé châteaux, where the gravel mounds drain water away and retain more heat to help the grape ripen.

The left bank can be subdivided into two parts. Médoc and Haut-Médoc are north of the city of Bordeaux, while Graves are south of the city.

In the Haut-Médoc, there are four amazing appellation: St. Esteph, Pauillac, St. Julien, Margaux. There is an easy way to remember these. St. Esteph is the most north offering very full bodied and high alcohol wine, while Margaux offers light-medium bodied wine that are very delicate. Pauillac and St. Julien are the best of these four, offering medium bodied wine that are elegant and complex. These wines from these four communes are very expensive and highly demanded.

Graves is much simpler. North region in Graves has a sub-region called Pessac-Léognan which produces finest in Graves.

The Right Bank, lies north east of the river. There merlot is the dominate variety. The wines are typically softer and more approachable in style than those from the left bank. They have medium tannin, medium acidity, a red fruit character. While these can be drank relatively younger, they develop phenomenal cedar and tobacco complexity with age. The best sites have clay soil which retains heat.

Now, top tier wines from these regions can costs up to 4 digit per bottle: Saint-Emilion, Pomerol, Petruvs, and Opus One. These have incredible and intense flavour profile that are out of this world. They will all be on my wedding registry.

If the bottles simply label Bordeaux AC or Bordeaux Supériur, these are not bad. Some individual producers in this region still producers age worthy bottles, but in most cases, they are best consumed young.

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