Bordeaux is one of the wine regions with highest reputation for fine, red wines in the entire world. They have been growing vines for more than 2000 years and it is the biggest producer of appellations wines in France -57 across Bordeaux-, which can be attributed to its great diversity of high-quality terroirs. It lies in the southern part of western France, near the Atlantic Ocean. The Gironde Estuary, along with rivers Garonne and Dordogne, is right in the middle of the region. It creates two banks, corresponding to the two major areas of Bordeaux: the Left Bank and the Right Bank.
This region has a Mediterranean, maritime climate thanks to its nearness to the coast: damp spring, hot summer, a bit rainy autumn and mild winter. Maritime climate is ideal for Bordeaux but it can also be dangerous for the vine development. The hail storms that frequent the area can wipe out the harvest.
The soil, as you already know, is also a key factor. On the Left Bank, the predominant terroirs are gravel based. It allows for great drainage and boosts the roots to deepen into the soil and look for nutrients. What many wine tasters appreciate in Bordeaux wines is the sensation of minerality, and the origin can be found in the soil. The terroir on the Right Bank is dominated by clay and limestone, which retains much needed moisture in the dry vintages and offers good drainage in wet years. The clay contains many compound and nutrients that feed the vines. These different kinds of soils contribute to shape the wines of Bordeaux their unique identity and personality.
The designated red grape varieties in Bordeaux are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carmenere. Cabernet Sauvignon is the main grape variety used in the Left Bank, while wines from the Right Bank will have more Merlot. These grapes are used to create the famous “Bordeaux blend”, which are also different depending on the area. Left Bank blends usually have more acidity, tannins and alcohol. They are said to age better than wines from the Right Bank. These wines taste of black currant, pencil lead, violet, tobacco, cocoa and licorice. On the other side, Right Bank blends tend to be less alcoholic and tannic, much more juicy and ready to be drunk much earlier than the Left Bank wines. These wines have flavors of leather, strawberry, fig, plum, vanilla, grilled almonds and smoke.
Although red wines make up nearly 90% of the production, Bordeaux is also known for producing excellent dry white wines in a wide array of styles. The blend is mostly Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc with tastes that range from light citrus character to chamomile, grapefruit, spice, honey and beeswax.
Many countries make wine from the same grapes, but Bordeaux blends are not the same that the wines you can find in Napa Valley, where Cabernet Sauvignon is well spread. The climate and terroir are completely different in these two areas, and they are the distinctive factors that shape wine’s character. Understanding the soil and the microorganisms that inhabit it is key to make the difference. With WineSeq, it is easy and possible.