What is Bordeaux Wine? Bordeaux is a wine type from Bordeaux, France. About 86% of Bordeaux wines are categorized as red wines made with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. Both the grape types are originated from Bordeaux. However, bear in mind that the whites are made out of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion for both dry and sweet wines.
In this article, you will be introduced to Bordeaux wine, including tasting notes, food pairing suggestions, and key details you need to know. So, let us get started.
One of the most important aspects to understand about Bordeaux wines is that these are made from a blend of grape varieties. The red Bordeaux Blend is one of the most copied varieties around the world, and it comprises Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec, with a small amount of Carménère. This is much like the alchemy; we believe that 1 + 1 = 3. The resulting product is far more sophisticated from adding two different grape varieties. However, the proportion of the grapes used in the blend usually makes a lot of difference to the resulting flavor.
Bordeaux Wine Varietals
Let us take a look at some of the main Bordeaux wine varieties:
1. Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon is the largest percentage of Left Bank Bordeaux blends. This is a complex and strong wine with fine notes of dark fruit, cherry, and tobacco. The Cabernet Sauvignon is well-known for being both commercially and critically successful worldwide. Some of the more popular Cabernet Sauvignon-focused wines originate from the Médoc appellations of Pauillac, Margaux, and St.-Estèphe. This is because of the bold, rich Flavors of the grape; the Cabernet Sauvignon is well-suited for a blend and a stand-alone wine.
In Bordeaux, France, Merlot is one of the most popularly grown grapes on the right bank. More of the high-end Merlot is grown there than anywhere else in the world. Nevertheless, it is also found in the local California wine country, Washington, Italy, and Australia.
3. Cabernet Franc
This wine variety has higher acidity and fewer tannins than the others on this list. Most importantly, the Cabernet Franc is one of the parent grapes of about ten other production grapes. Some popular examples of the varieties it gave rise to are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Carménère.
4. Petit Verdot
This is an unpredictable, tannic variety and is used to add beautiful color to the various Bordeaux blends. It is most unlikely to categorize this as a stand-alone wine due to the often overpowering nature of the tannins.
This is a dark-colored wine, well-known for its robust tannic notes. It took hold in Argentina, where the warmer climate favors the Malbec’s requirement for more degree days. It has, since then, become Argentina’s national wine.
This is known as Chile’s National wine. Carménère is perhaps one of the oldest grapes in the history of winemaking. This is a peppery wine, and it nearly went extinct in France, where colder winters prevented it from producing any summer yields. However, eventually, it found its home in South America.
How to Serve Bordeaux Wines?
So, now that you know about the various varieties of the Bordeaux wine, let us understand a bit about how best to serve them:
Bordeaux wines generally taste better once they have been opened up, for example, been decanted. With their attractive labels and green glass, Bordeaux bottles offer an elegant look when served. Here is all that you need to know about serving this wine:
- It is best to serve Red Bordeaux just slightly below room temperature, which is around 65 °F / 18 °C.
- It is always a good idea to decant red Bordeaux wines.
- Be sure to Store Bordeaux and all your red wines at a temperature below 65 °F / 18 °C.
- A decent vintage and solid producer of around 19 EUR+ can easily age for about 15 years. This is all the more relevant because it has been made using Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.
- Once again, there are no rules, and it is best to always ask the vendor.
Bordeaux Wine Tasting
It is important to bear in mind that close to 7,500 different producers make almost 10,000 different Bordeaux wines. Hence, there exists no simple explanation about the taste of Bordeaux wine.
Nevertheless, the taste of Bordeaux wine can be broken down into young Bordeaux wine, older Bordeaux wine and the Bordeaux blends dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux blends dominated by Merlot, dry white Bordeaux wine, and the sweet Bordeaux wine.
Sometimes, to assist the user in becoming a better wine taster, it is recommended to know the right words to express what you are searching for in the glass.
Bordeaux Wine Terroir and Its Impact
Let us take a look at the Bordeaux types according to the region:
The Taste of Left Bank Bordeaux Wine
The Red Bordeaux wine from the Medoc is basically what most people think of when talking about the taste of Bordeaux wine. All the Bordeaux wines from the Medoc and Pessac Leognan are categorized as blends. Most of such blends make use of the Cabernet Sauvignon for the majority of the blends. This is followed by Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec.
On some occasions, you might find very tiny amounts of Carmenere in the blend as well. As the time of their youth, Bordeaux wines are generally deep in color, all the way from dark ruby to almost black.
The taste of Bordeaux wine from the Left Bank offers fruit scents and flavors of cassis, blackberry, dark cherry, vanilla, black cherry, coffee bean, spice, and licorice. These wines are often more concentrated, powerful, firm, and also tannic. According to the specific wine, it can appear to be austere during its youth.
One of the easiest manners to look at wine is the fact that the components consist of fruit, acids, tannins, and sugar. Usually, when thinking of a balanced wine, the term refers to the balance between those three elements: acid fruit, sweetness, and tannins. Currently, the trend is to select riper fruit in Bordeaux as the chateaux want to create wines that are soft, silky, and elegant, if possible.
The Taste of Right Bank Bordeaux Wine from Saint Emilion, Pomerol
Likewise, the taste of Bordeaux wine from The Right Bank is quite different. This is because of the the Merlot grape. Merlot is one of the most important grapes in the Right Bank, and Cabernet Franc follows that.
When young, the taste of Bordeaux wine from The Right Bank is licorice, chocolate, black cherry, plum, blackberry, spice, vanilla, smoke, floral, blueberry, and jam flavors. Merlot-dominated wines are generally lower in acidity as compared to the Cabernet Sauvignon.
That implies that the wines are going to feel much richer, softer, plusher, and rounder. These wines can be quite silky. Also, the best Bordeaux wines are from the Right Bank; the textures you feel in your mouth can range from luxury to decadence.
On the other hand, The taste of Bordeaux wine originating from Pomerol and Saint Emilion changes with time, and so does the texture. However, when this matures, the wines evolve positively, with additional levels of complexity arising within the tasting experience. The wines also develop enhanced aromas of truffle, spice, flowers, and fresh herbs.
Some wines also have hints of tobacco, mint, and earthy forest characteristics. The textures, despite being soft in their youth, later develop into silky, velvety textures. The wines from Pomerol and Saint Emilion are perhaps the world’s most indulgent wines due to their luscious textures.
Remember that there is more to Right Bank Bordeaux wine than the Pomerol and Saint Emilion. One of the best aspects of Bordeaux is the numerous smaller satellite appellations located across the region.
The smaller satellite appellations are located just adjacent to St. Emilion, and Merlot also dominates Pomerol within their blends. Likewise, most of these smaller wines offer pleasure when in their youth.
The Taste of White Bordeaux Wine
Now, let us discuss a bit more about the taste of the White Bordeaux. The taste, to be precise, of dry white Bordeaux wine offers a variety of Flavors and characteristics that include mainly citrus rind, fresh lemon, spice, flowers, honey, orange, lime, butter, grapefruit, and vanilla. You will also notice hints of herbs, lemon wax, and fresh-cut grass. White Bordeaux wines, to be precise, are generally rich, deep, concentrated, and powerful.
These can also ‘taste’ fresh and also showcase minerality. As the white Bordeaux wines start to age, they develop more sophisticated scents of honey, flowers, citrus, spice, and also the stone characteristics. Also, the dry white Bordeaux wine is prepared in several appellations, and the top dry, white Bordeaux wine originates from Pessac Leognan.
The grapes mainly used to produce white Bordeaux wine are Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Sauvignon Gris.
Production and Aging Process
The aromas and the Flavors of wine are generally classified into three main categories: primary, secondary, and tertiary. Primary Flavors are those that are associated with the fruit itself. The secondary notes are the ones that are added by the winemaker, for example, malolactic fermentation and oak Flavors. Finally, the tertiary notes are the ones that originate with age and include dried fruits, leather, game, mushrooms, and so forth.
Eventually, as wine ages, the initial aromas and Flavors of the bright plum can change into a dried prune. Likewise, the floral notes become dried potpourri, and the fresh herbs become dried herbs, and so on.
Here, the term ‘bouquet’ describes the aromas of the more evolved wines. It owes to this unique increase in complexity that makes bottle-aged wines all the more interesting and desirable. Especially in the case of Bordeaux, many young wines comprise an herbal quality, much like menthol, eucalyptus, and green bell pepper are all commonly occurring.
Did you know that at a young age, oxygen can be the main enemy of fine wine? For example, you can open a bottle, and a day or two later, it has gone ‘off.’ Likewise, a very slow flow of oxygen through the years via the porous cork closure can assist the wine to mature and evolve without becoming oxidized. The naturally occurring high acidity in wine prevents the bacteria from being able to survive, hence protecting the liquid from long-term aging.
The acidity, along with the higher alcohol levels, behaves as a preservative of sorts, allowing the wine to remain unblemished while it is allowed to slowly mature in the cellar. The color also will slowly change from deep ruby to more garnet.
This is all the more noticeable around the rim of the wine once it is poured into the glass. This color change is because of the slow oxygen leak into the bottle during aging and is a good indicator of a more mature wine. If the color gets too faded, it can signify that the wine is past its peak.
This interaction is the main cause that creates the silky mouthfeel of an aged Bordeaux. Where the tannin turns to velvet, hence creating a smooth, drinkable wine where once the tannin might have been harsh and overwhelming. The Bordeaux red wines, especially the Cabernet Sauvignon-based blend variety from the Left Bank, can be specifically more tannic when they are young.
Famous Châteaux and Wine Regions
Ever wondered where your favorite variety of Bordeaux originates from? Well, a lot about the flavor depends upon the region of origin:
Médoc and Graves, produced on the left bank, are where both red and white grapes are also grown, generally in the same vineyard. This area is well-known for its gravelly soils and graphite-driven red wines with a dominance of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend. The most popular sub-regions in the Médoc include Pauillac, Saint-Julien, Saint-Estephe, Margaux, and Pessac-Leognan. The wines from the Médoc are perhaps one of the boldest and most tannic of Bordeaux wines and go great along with red meats. The dominant grape that is utilized in the blends from Graves and Médoc is Cabernet Sauvignon.
Now, Libournais, located on the right bank, is well-known for its red-clay soils that produce bold, plummy red wines with a dominance of Merlot. The most popular and sought-after of the sub-regions include Pomerol and Saint-Émilion. Likewise, the wines around Libourne are still bold but generally have softer, more refined tannins. This is why the right bank wines are a wonderful introduction to the region.
The area between the two major rivers of Bordeaux, the Garonne, and Dordogne, is known as Entre Deux Mers or Between Two Seas. This area produces both red, predominantly Merlot, and white wines. However, it is better known for its white wines, which blend Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and Muscadelle.
The famous St-Èmilion and Pomerol wine-producing districts are located where the soil is mainly suited for growing Merlot grapes, whereas Graves and Médoc are some of the best and most age-worthy wines in the world. These have Cabernet Sauvignon as their dominant grape. These are the areas that are well-known for the most prestigious châteaux.
Pairing and Serving Suggestions
So, what should you eat with your favorite wines? Let us look at some of the most famous wine and food pairings.
Dry, white Bordeaux wine is a wonderful blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. White Bordeaux wine is available in a wide range of flavor profiles, from light and fresh to creamy and citrusy. Hence, as a result, a white Bordeaux wine will go well with almost any white food, such as veal, pork, chicken, sushi, clams, and seafood of all types.
Bordeaux red wine is well-known for its striking fruit Flavors and vibrant acidity. This is the perfect wine to go with a French cheese or a creamy cheese. Likewise, the full-bodied red wine also goes well with sharp or aged cheese.
As for the storing part, you need to Store the red Bordeaux below 65 °F / 18 °C. It is advised to serve it at the same cellar-like temperature. Next, be sure to Decant the wine for a minimum of 30 minutes before consuming it to allow it to completely open up. This will ensure to bring out the intense and complex Flavors. This will help you to truly appreciate the French wine, and this could be a sweet wine, a golden Bordeaux, or a rich red wine. Also, the Bordeaux white wines are best served at temperatures between 43° to 47 °F / 6 – 8° C.
Bordeaux Wine Classifications
Here are the best ways to classify your favorite Bordeaux:
What Is the Saint Émilion Classification?
The Saint-Émilion classification applies only to those wines that are prepared from those grapes that are grown in Saint Emilion AOC that qualify through an independent review panel. The classification system for St. Émilion was established in 1955.
What's the Bordeaux Classification of 1855?
The Médoc Classification of 1855 is the most popular in the world. When you hear the phrase ‘Grand Cru,’ you perhaps think of this popular classification even if you do not realize it.
What Is the Graves Classification?
Located at the south of the Médoc sits Graves AOC. This was Established in 1959 when the Grave classification considers the price, fame, and quality of red, white, or red and white wines prepared by a château. Sixteen château have been classified in total. All of these fall from within the Pessac Léognan sub-region.
What Is the Crus Bourgeois du Médoc Classification?
This was established in 1932, and the Crus Bourgeois du Médoc wines are categorized under the 1855 classification within the quality ladder. However, it still reflects high quality and offers everyone else a chance to have a classification label for their wines.
Tips for Buying and Storing Bordeaux Wine
The perfect temperature for red Bordeaux is about 13 degrees C. This will make sure that the wine will age very slowly. Cooler but not freezing is preferred, but the higher temperature should not exceed 18 degrees C. Secondly, it is advised to try and keep the wine in a dark, humid place.
Does wine freeze?: Conclusion
It is optional that you have to be a wine lover or a sommelier to get creative with the wine pairing. The main key is to decide whether the wine or the food will be the highlight of the night and then build the rest of your cuisine around it.
Likewise, you can start to build a portfolio of the best Bordeaux wines to open at your next big event or simply as an investment that will grow in value over time. What has been your favorite Bordeaux wine experience so far? Do let us know in the section below, and we would love to hear from you.
Does wine freeze?: FAQ's
Question 1. What makes Bordeaux wines unique?
Answer: Bordeaux wines are unique as these are blends prepared using a predominant proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.
Question 2. How do I distinguish between the different Bordeaux classifications?
Answer: Generally, the Bordeaux wines from the Left Bank are classed according to their price and quality under five different classes: First Growth, Second Growth, Third Growth, Fourth Growth, and Fifth Growth.
Question 3. What are the primary grape varieties used in Bordeaux wine?
Answer: Merlot is the primary grown grape on the right bank, which is used for Bordeaux preparation.
Question 4. How does the price range vary among different Bordeaux wines?
Answer: The wines that fall under the 1855 Classification of Bordeaux are categorized as higher quality and superior as compared to the other Bordeaux wines. The best First and Second Growth wines, like Château Latour and Château Lafite Rothschild, are comparatively more expensive than the others.
Question 5. What are some affordable options for those new to Bordeaux wines?
Answer: Some of the recommended options include: 2019 Château Fourcas-Dupré Listrac-Médoc ($26), 2018 Château Petit Bocq Saint-Estephe ($28) Cru Bourgeois Superior.
Question 6. What is the best way to store Bordeaux wine?
Answer: In case you do not have a cellar, select a temperature-controlled cabinet or refrigerator in which your bottles will stay preserved at the ideal temperature.
Question 7. Is Bordeaux wine expensive, and can I find affordable options?
Answer: Yes, it is expensive, but there are available affordable options as well.
Question 8. What food pairs well with Bordeaux wine?
Answer: It pairs well with red meats such as beef, lamb, and game, as well as poultry like duck and roasted chicken.
Question 9. How does Bordeaux wine age, and when is the best time to open a bottle?
Answer: The general white Bordeaux wines should be consumed within two years.
Question 10. Are there vegan or organic Bordeaux wines available?
Answer: Yes, they are available.
Question 11. Can you recommend some top Bordeaux wine producers?
Answer: Some of these are: Chateau Ausone, Chateau Cheval Blanc.
Question 12. Where can I buy Bordeaux wine, and what should I look for on the label?
Answer: A typical label of Bordeaux comprises the name of a winery, a “château,” a little picture of a house or a castle, the reference to an appellation of protected origin, the year, and a “mis en bouteille au château.
Question 13. How can I visit Bordeaux and explore its wineries?
Answer: You can opt for being a part of the small-group tours or a private wine tour as well.