Bordeaux is a beautiful city and also a land of great wines !
This is a short overview of this vineyard's particularities
Why blending is so common?
Bordeaux is most often a blended product. Whites are predominantly comprised of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. Reds incorporate large percentages of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and significant amount of Cabernet Franc.
But Blending is not mandatory by law, it’s a direct consequence of the soils diversity. Indeed each terroirs dictate which grape variety should be grown.
In the simplest sense, there are in Bordeaux both « warm » soils (gravel and sand) and « cold » soils (clay and limestone) and proportion of each type eventually prescribes the blend for each château.
Gravels and sands that compose the « warm » soils are crucial for grape variety such as Cabernet Sauvignon that needs a lot of heat to achieve ripeness. They become sun-warmed and radiate heat back up into vine canopy.
On the contrary clay and limestone from the « cold » soils are moisture retaining which does not hasten the ripeness process that is better for Merlot and Cabernet Franc
In the left bank region, stretching from the Médoc Peninsula to Graves, soils are largely comprised of gravels (in fact the name Graves translates as « gravel »), that’s why red blends from this region are based on Cabernet Sauvignon.
In the other hand, soils of the right bank, stretching from Castillon to Blaye, are largely comprised of clay and limestone and therefore red blends are based on Merlot and Cabernet Franc
Why vintage effect is strong for Bordeaux wine ?
Although in the southwest portion of France, Bordeaux does not possess a hot Mediterranean climate. The Atlantic’s Gulf Stream and a large network of rivers help to keep temperature both constant and moderate. Its climate is more maritime.
This middle-of-the-road climat present some advantages, allowing to craft reds that are not rustic or alcoholic but still achieve a deep saturated color and chewy tannins and whites that do not deliver the acid levels of more northerly region but still possess crisps acids and a palate refreshing minerality. But this also comes with a strong vintage effect. Indeed oceanic influences bring cloud cover which level during summer will significantly impact grappe’s ripeness ; and frequent rains that will dilute flavor if they occur at harvest, resulting in less-intensely flavored and less structured wine.
These climatic variables that change from year to year have a significant impact on wine style
What are the main regions?
Stretching 100km from north to south and 125 km from east to west, Bordeaux is a large wine producing region, nearly four times the size of the vineyard landscape of Burgundy.
It can be divided into 3 sections which include around sixty different AOCs ! (appellation of controlled origin) but 2 AOCs represent over half of the production bottled (Bordeaux AOC and Bordeaux Supérieur AOC)
The left bank : those lands west of the gironde Estuary (Médoc) and Garonne River (Graves).
Cabernet Sauvignon is predominant in this area. Wine tend to be firmly structured with significant amount of tannin and hallmarked by cassis, graphite, tobacco, cedar and sweet herbs.
The region encompasses famous lands as Medoc, Graves and Sauternais.
In Medoc only red wines can be crafted under the 8 AOCs, including the prestigious Saint Estèphe, Pauillac, Saint Julien and Margaux AOCs
In Graves 2/3 of production is red, 1/3 is white (both sweet and dry). This region encompasses 6 AOCs including the well known Sauternes AOC that crafts sweet wines affected by Botrytis Cinerea (noble rot)
The right bank : those lands east of the gironde Estuary and Dordogne River.
This is a region where Merlot and Cabernet Franc are predominant. Wine tend to be more supple with soft plummy fruit and silky tannins.
The famous Saint Emilion and Pomerol AOCs are in this area
Entre-Deux-Mers : the island of vines sandwiched between the Garonne and the Dordogne Rivers.
The rivers are tidal up to 120 km inland. The name Entre-Deux-Mers (Between the Two Seas) flanked by the Dordogne and Garonne Rivers, is more than poetic license.
This area possesses all of Bordeaux’s soils type, and produce red and white (both dry and sweet). Red blends can be Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon based. White blends are Sauvignon Blanc based.
The region encompasses many different AOCs (11) including the best known Entre-deux-mers AOC, named after the region, that only crafts white wine; but in the region red wine production far outpaces white wine production and is mostly bottled as Bordeaux or Bordeaux Supérieur AOCs