Bordeaux: Elegant, delicious, confusing
The Wine Guy
Considered by a lot of wine enthusiasts as the world’s greatest wine-producing region, Bordeaux has a reputation for producing beautiful whites and amazing reds. Although most people know the name, few know exactly what comprises the contents of the bottle.
Just mentioning the word sets the mind adrift with thoughts of greatness and the anticipation of a huge, bold wine. The region is the largest fine-wine vineyard on the globe, producing some of the most complex, age worthy and deep-flavored wines, but the challenge is how to comprehend it all. Here is a crash course on Bordeaux, hopefully it will get you started on understanding this mysterious region.
Located halfway between the North Pole and the equator in southwest France, Bordeaux is split down the middle by the Gironde River. Its name is actually derived from its landscape, meaning along the water. It is a prefect setting for growing grapes and producing world-class wine.
Although red is usually the primary focus of the region, the whites they produce are also exceptional. White wine from Bordeaux is primary sauvignon blanc blended with semillon. They are lively, crisp, minerally, have an herb nose and characteristics that all their own. Not exactly what Bordeaux is know for, but well worth the drink.
Bordeaux is primary a red wine producing region with it comprising more than 80 percent of it production. Just like most wine that comes from the region, it is a blend of different grapes. The Bordeaux blend is a mix of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, malbec, merlot and petit verdot. It is not a specific amount of each or necessarily all five. Ever vineyard has their own blends that are specific to them, but with a little research it not to hard to find out.
With the river running down the middle the region it is separated into the right and left banks. The right is primarily known for merlot-based wine as the left is known for cabernet sauvignon. Most of your everyday drinking wines come from the right and the more expensive selections come the left. If you take a look at a map of the region it is pretty easy to distinguish.
The wine classification system in Bordeaux is probably the most complex in the wine world. In 1885, a system was designed to classify France’s best Bordeaux wines. At the time quality was denoted by the chateau’s reputation and trading price, so that is how brokers ranked the wine. They were ranked from first to fifth growths, with the first being the best and most sought after. Of course it has changed since then, but not by much. Currently, there are five first growth chateau’s, which are rarely seen in the United States. We tend to see more of the later growths.
It a wonderful region with amazing wine. Yes, it is confusing to get all the ins and outs of the regions styles, production, classifications and labeling, but with a little research it all starts to make sense … kind of. I have only scratched the surface and I really encourage you to dig deeper. I know once you take the time you will fall in love with Bordeaux’s history, legacy and its wine.
Until next time, Cent’Anni.
Check out a video featuring Jeanelle Etzler at D’Vine Winery in Silverthorne as she talks about the basics of wine and wine tasting, click the link under “web extras”.
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