For many wine drinkers, the Bordeaux region is the most prominent and popular of all regions. Located in France, the Bordeaux wine region makes some of the world's finest wines, and many winemakers around the world use the Bordeaux standards when growing and blending their wines.
Fine French Wine
The Bordeaux wine region in France produces both red and white wines.
The region is most famous for its powerful and flavorful red blends that feature Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Carménère, and Malbec. Depending on the area of Bordeaux in which the wine is produced, the red blends will feature either Merlot as the primary grape or Cabernet Sauvignon. The Merlot-forward blends offer soft flavors of cherries, plums, and tobacco with an underlying structure imparted by the Cabernet Sauvignon, while the Cabernet Sauvignon blends offer powerfully tannic wines that age beautifully. Flavors in Cabernet Sauvignon-forward wines may include dark fruits like black cherries or blackberries along with woody flavors.
White wines from the Bordeaux region blend Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc, and are typically late harvest, sweet versions for which the region is well-known. Flavors of the sweet white Bordeaux wines include caramel, apricot, pineapple, and vanilla.
Bordeaux further divides into the Left Bank and Right Bank, which are geographical designations surrounding the Garonne and the Dordogne rivers. The Right Bank sits on the right bank of the Dordogne, while the Left Bank sits on the left bank of the Garonne.
Left Bank red wines tend to utilize higher concentrations of Cabernet Sauvignon. Many of the Left Bank sub-regions also classify wines into four growth classifications that roughly align with the quality and cost of the wine. First growth wines from the Left Bank are some of the most well-known wines in the world, and include Château Lafite Rosthchilde, Château Latour, Château Margaux, Château Haut-Brion, and Château Mouton-Rothschild. Graves maintains its own classification system separate from the other Left Bank reds. Red wine producing regions on the Left Bank include:
- St. Estephe
- St. Julian
Sweet white wine producing regions also utilize a classification system, dividing first growths into Premier Cru Supérieur and Premier Cru. Only the sweet Château d'Yquem maintains the Premier Cru Supérieur designation. Premier Cru sweet wines include Château Suduiraut, Château Climens and Château Guiraud, among others. Two main Left Bank regions produce the sweet, white wines:
Right Bank wines utilize higher concentrations of Merlot. The Right Bank has stringently avoided a classification system; however, the Right Bank of the Bordeaux region produces some of the world's most expensive wine, including Château Petrus, which in a good year can cost thousands of dollars for a 750 mL bottle, as well as Château Le Pin, which produces high quality wines that are slightly less expensive than Château Petrus, but can still bring in more than $1,000 per bottle in a good vintage. Both Château Petrus and Château Le Pin can be found in the smallest grape growing region of Bordeaux, Pomerol. Other wine Right Bank regions include:
- St. Emilion
- Cotes de Castillon
- Entre Deux Mers
Storing and Serving
Serving and storing Bordeaux wines depends on whether it is a red or a white wine.
Many wines from Bordeaux require careful aging. Depending on the vintage, both Left Bank and Right Bank wines may age up to 20 years or longer. This is especially true of the classified growths from the Left Bank, as well as the wines from Pomerol. Recommendations for when to drink wines from the region depend on the vintage and the tannins in the wine. If you do purchase age-worthy Bordeaux wines, you will gain the most enjoyment from them if you allow them to age to meet their potential. Store the wines in a temperature and humidity controlled environment away from vibration and light. Store them on their side so that the cork remains moist. Storage temperature for these wines is between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
To serve the wines, decant them to remove sediment, or open the bottle and allow it to breathe for about 30 minutes before serving. The ideal serving temperature is slightly below room temperature, at about 45 to 55 degrees. Serve in a glass designed for Bordeaux blends and varietals in order to maximize your enjoyment of the bouquet and flavors of the wine.
The bold flavors in Left Bank Bordeaux work well with marbled red meat like Porterhouse steak or lamb. They also work well with fatty cheeses such as Gruyere. Right Bank Bordeaux pair well with game meats such as venison, and are sublime with duck or foie gras.
The sweet whites from Barsac and Sauternes have a high sugar content, which makes them age well. Store at about 55 degrees in a humidity controlled environment that is free of vibration, and lie the bottles on their sides to keep the cork moist. Serve the wine at 50 degrees. Sauternes and Barsac wines pair particularly well with two foods especially crème brlûée and foie gras. They also work well on their own as a dessert.
Are you ready to try some Bordeaux? Here are a few recommendations.
- Château Latour Martillac: This second wine from the great Left Bank first growth winemaker offers consistent quality and a fraction of the price of the first growth.
- Château La Fleur de Gay: This Right Bank wine from Pomerol is consistently good and less expensive than some of the superstars in the region.
- Château Rieussec: One of the stars of the Sauternes region, this sweet white is consistently high in quality and relatively affordable.
France's Bordeaux region makes some of the most sought-after wines in the world. Many wine shops stock examples of these wines. Second, third, and fourth growth wines typically offer significant quality and a much lower price than the First Growth wines, so don't be afraid to try some. Once you've tasted the delicious offerings from Bordeaux, you'll want to return again and again.