Question from Siew: Now that you’ve explained what Burgundy wine is can you please explain Bordeaux? I find it just as confusing!
In a nut shell: Bordeaux is a bloody great wine region in southwest France that is famous for blending Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wines together.
In a clam shell: But there is a lot more to Bordeaux than just those juicey red grapes! The region produces white wines too, referred to as white Bordeaux, which are usually some combination of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and/or Muscadelle.
But let’s get back to the trademark wine of Bordeaux – the red Bordeaux! The regions success to due to its location where the climate and soil is absolutely perfect for growing Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes.
The quantities of Cab Sauv and Merlot blended in a red Bordeaux changes depending on where the winery is located. Bordeaux is divided into two banks by the Garonne River. The left side (west) of the river, referred to as the Left Bank, blends a higher proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon than Merlot. If the wine is from the right side (east) of the river, referred to as the Right Bank, it will have a higher proportion of Merlot in it. Therefore, as a general rule, wines from the Left Bank will be rich, higher in tannins, alcohol and acid and will age better than wines from the Right Bank.
Winemakers can and will also blend Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc to their red Bordeaux blends but to classify the wine as Bordeaux it need only contain Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes.
When picking Bordeaux the label isn’t going to say ‘from the Left Bank’ or ‘from the Right Bank’ nor will it say if there is more Cab Sauv or Merlot in it. But the label will tell you where in Bordeaux the wine has come from which will help you work out what you’re drinking. This is where your mate Google comes in handy. Locate on the bottle where the wine has come from, for example it might say ‘Margaux’. Pop ‘Margaux, France’ into Google Maps and you’ll see which side of the river it’s located. In this case Google Maps tells me that Margaux is located on the left side of the river, the Left Bank, therefore it’s going to contain more Cabernet Sauvignon than Merlot.