You might have heard of Bordeaux wine, but are they really any better than wines from other regions? If you want to learn the sordid history and what makes these wines stand out, keep reading.
Step back in time
Originally marshlands, the Bordeaux region of France covers approximately 300,000 acres. Since Situated on the Rhone River, the region provides a strategic port area. While first inhabited by the Celts in the 6th century, the area soon became a coveted position for the Vikings, the French, and British.
During the 1700s, inhabitants brought in Danish engineers to dry out the land and build estates. The location near the water created a temperate climate perfect for grape growing. The maritime climate allows for a long growing season, where the grapes can ripen fully. Hence the Bordeaux wine regions were born.
The region is further divided into the Left Bank, Right bank, and Entre deux mer (meaning between 2 waters.
But first, how do I read a Bordeaux wine label?
Look for these points on your wine label. If you find that you like a particular wine, try others from the same chateau, vintage, appellation, or classification.
What about Bordeaux wine from the Left Bank
The soil of the Left Bank contains a lot of pebbles. Therefore this gravel like soil provides proper drainage necessary for growing Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Consequently, blends from this area contain primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, followed by Merlot, and Cabernet Franc grapes.
Likewise these blends tend to be mostly dry, full bodied reds. These grapes also age well so you can drink these wines years after they are bottled.
What makes Left Bank wines so popular?
In 1855, Napoleon sent noblemen to rank the wines of the Bordeaux region. This became known as the Universal Exposition of Paris. The ratings were based on a rank of 1-5. Subsequently all of the highest ratings belonging to the left bank.
Oddly, the nobles based their rankings on the prior reputation of the wines as well as the most expensive price points. No actual tasting took place to award these rankings. Because wine masters often age these wines, they have a higher price point.
What to eat with Left Bank wines?
High levels of tannins present in these wines helps break down proteins and fats. Therefore you should pair these blends with lamb, steaks, beef roasts, veal, or venison.
How does Bordeaux wine differ on the Right Bank
On the other hand, the soil of the right bank contains more clay. The limestone clay provides good growing conditions for Merlot grapes. Blends will mainly be comprised of Merlot, followed by Cabernet Franc, and then Cabernet Sauvignon. Enjoy these wines young.
The Cabernet Franc grapes have a thinner skin which makes growing them more difficult. Therefore wine masters must use extensive trestling techniques to cover this variety from the sun. They must do this to protect the juices from drying out.
As a result, many vineyard owners are removing Cabernet Franc vines from their vineyards because of the extensive care they need. They are replacing them with more cost effective varieties.
What to eat with Right Bank wines?
Red wines from this region pair nicely with richer poultry such as duck and turkey. Right Bank wines also compliment roast pork.
What does Entre Deux Mer mean?
This area, located between the Dordogne and the Garone produces white wines. Wine masters create blends from a combination of Muscadelle, Sauvignon Blanc, and Semillion grapes. The Semillion grapes balance the blends with their full bodied, fruit, and acidity.
Pair these with lighter foods such as fish, chicken, or vegetable dishes.
That sums up our intro to Bordeaux wines. Join us next to learn the difference between sparkling wines and Champagne.
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Donna Emperador is a creative blogger and copywriter. Donna believes in learning about different cultures while sharing good food and wine. She has lived in South Florida for over 20 years and enjoys spending time traveling and making wine culture easier to understand for readers.