In France, wines are labeled by their location. Bordeaux is the wine that comes from Bordeaux, France.
Most of the wine produced in Bordeaux is red and is dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blends. However, there is also a significant amount of white wine produced in this region that also bears the name.
The weather in Bordeaux can be quite unpredictable and differ annually. This means that some grapes grow more successfully than others each year, making it hard to produce the same exact wine over a long period of time. To combat this climatic variance, Bordeaux producers blend several grapes together to make a more consistent style of wine they can rely on. For example, if Merlot has a bad weather year, producers can increase another grape’s contribution to the blend without the entire vintage taking a hit.
Even though Bordeaux allows for a total of thirteen grapes to be grown and included in their blends, there are 8 major grapes (5 red and 3 white) that dominate the pack. Let’s explore the Red, White, and Sweet wines of Bordeaux!
The 5 major grapes in red blends are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, and Malbec. However, most red blends are either dominated by Cabernet (from the left Bank of the rivers) and Merlot (right bank). But ultimately, each grape brings something unique to the marvelous blend!
Cabernet Sauvignon: deep color black fruit and tannin
Merlot: structure, roundness and finesse
Cabernet Franc: fruity and floral notes
Petite Verdot: deep color, tannin and spice
Malbec: black fruit and spice
White Bordeaux (Bordeaux Blanc)
The 3 grapes in white Bordeaux are Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and Muscadelle. Most styles of Bordeaux Blanc are dry, and each grape contributes its own characteristics. While most blends are typically unoaked, there are some producers that prefer to add an element of oak-aging to the wine.
Sauvignon Blanc: aromatic notes and acidity
Sémillon: structure and body
Muscadelle: grapey and floral notes
Sauternes is a sweet wine made from moldy grapes. In wet, humid vineyards, grape-growers allow a fungus known as Botrytis to infect the ripe grapes, causing a condition called “Noble Rot.” The rot causes the grape pulp water to drip away, thereby leaving a very sweet, concentrated grape to hang on the vine. When these grapes are fermented into wine, the sugar levels are so high that the yeast cannot complete the job and the final wine is sweet.
Some may cringe at the thought of drinking wine from rotted grapes, but it’s actually a decadent Bordeaux delicacy!
If you haven’t already tried a Red, White, or Sweet Bordeaux, give it a swirl!
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