The Real Bordeaux
Whether you fancy yourself a French wine expert, or just a wine enthusiast looking to soak up all that these famous wines have to offer, we are getting to the bottom of Bordeaux wines and, uncovering a few facts, you certainly Don’t Know About Bordeaux. For starters, the main grape variety in Bordeaux is Merlot not Cabernet Sauvignon. OK, maybe you already knew that one. But did you know that you can get an excellent bottle of Bordeaux for less than 15 bucks? Most people associate Bordeaux wine with a high price tag, but the truth is the majority of wines produced in Bordeaux are not First Growths or Grand Crus. They are from small producers making affordable and accessible wines that pair with every occasion from a typical Tuesday night to Thanksgiving dinner.
The real Bordeaux is not hidden behind an iron gate. The real Bordeaux is made up of real people. They are families excited to share their stories and their wines with visitors from around the world. This is the first of a series of videos I’m producing covering my trip to Bordeaux in October 2013. When you watch this video, you will meet the amazing men and women behind the bottle and see that the wines they make vary as much as the producers themselves. You will meet the fresh faces of Bordeaux and get up close and personal with the next generation making their new mark on the these old world wines. You will discover that the real Bordeaux is classic but not old fashion. You will start to rethink the way you drink once you open up the fun, fresh, and affordable wines of Bordeaux.
Last month, I traveled to the southwest of France as an invited guest of Planet Bordeaux. I had the great pleasure of visiting the most famous wine region in the world and tasting the wines of Bordeaux AOC & Bordeaux Supérieur AOC. The regional Bordeaux appellation or AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée) covers the entire Bordeaux wine region. It is the largest AOC in France, as well as the most exported. The Bordeaux wine region is home to more than 10,000 châteaux and produces 700 million bottles of wine each year. The regional wines of Bordeaux AOC & Bordeaux Supérieur AOC include: Bordeaux Dry White AOC, Bordeaux Supérieur Sweet White AOC, Bordeaux Rosé AOC & Bordeaux Clairet AOC , Bordeaux Red AOC, Bordeaux Supérieur Red AOC, and Crémant de Bordeaux AOC (Sparkling Wines).
Below is more specific information on the types of wine grapes grown in Bordeaux from the Planet Bordeaux Website:
The classic red “Bordeaux Blend” is a skillful mix of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and/or the four other grape varietals allowed by the AOC rules.The six red Bordeaux grape varietals include:
Merlot: Thanks to its love of cool, clay soils, Merlot reigns on the Right Bank, and so is typically the dominant – or sometimes unique – grape varietal in wines on this side of the Garonne River. Merlot adds aromas of red and black fruit like cherries, blackberries and raspberries, as well as volume and color. Thanks to supple tannins and roundness, Merlot is accessible earlier – a great counterbalance when brought together with Cabernet Sauvignon’s tight tannins that need more time to unwind. Merlot is the most planted grape varietal in Bordeaux, despite Cabernet Sauvignon’s renown.
Cabernet Sauvignon: Lord of the Left Bank, where it digs deep into warm, gravelly soils, Cabernet Sauvignon holds a major share in the blends on this side of the river. Aromas of black currant and black & red cherry, green pepper, tar, tobacco, and licorice. Cabernet Sauvignon adds richness, complexity, deep color and structure thanks to chewy tannins (the drying sensation in your mouth, like when you drink tea) that come from the skin and pips.
Cabernet Franc: Found on both the Right & Left Banks, Cabernet Franc thrives in particular on the limestone of the Right Bank. Aromas of fresh raspberry and strawberry, violets and a vegetal note of pepper or mint. Lean tannins and freshness thanks to good acidity.
Carmenère: Plantings have declined since the 18th century, but it’s still grown by some producers. Carmenère adds deep color, spicy aromas and body to the wine.
Petit Verdot: Bringing deep color and structured tannins, Petit Verdot is more often found in Left Bank blends, and never represents more than a small percentage of the blend. Aromas of violet, raspberry mint and licorice.
Malbec: Historically a major varietal in Bordeaux, there’s less grown now but it’s still very present. Jancis Robinson describes the French style of Malbec found on the Right Bank as a “rustic” version of Merlot, softer in tannins and lower in acidity, with rich, fresh, blackberry aromas.
White grape – credit Olivier BoisseauFor white wines, there are two main grape varietals used: Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. Like with the reds, the white “Bordeaux Blend” is built around these two varietals that complement each other divinely, both in dry and sweet white wines. The Ugni Blanc, Colombard and a couple other varietals may be added to the blend, and Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon both are sometimes produced as single-varietal wines.
Sauvignon Blanc: Dry, crisp, with zesty citrus, grassy and mineral flavors, it brings fresh, fruity aromas and racy acidity.
Sémillon: With its low acidity and a high level of alcohol, Sémillon is naturally softer and “fat.” It takes very well to barrel aging, and blended with Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon brings body, balance and roundness.
Muscadelle: Most often used to blend with Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon for its sweet grape perfume.