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Bordeaux Basics: The Blend & The Banks



The wines of Bordeaux have inspired an entire style across the globe; from South Africa, to Australia, to the Napa Valley and beyond.

The Bordeaux Blend, as it is affectionately known, consists of some combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc with sprinklings of Malbec and Petit Verdot at times.

To know wine is to know geography and so here is a map of Bordeaux for reference.

(Source: A Laymans Wine Musings)

Nature always plays a role and in Bordeaux, nature's biggest contributor is the Gironde estuary, which splits Bordeaux wine country in two, forming what we refer to as the Left Bank and Right Bank.

There is a distinct difference in the soils on the Left Bank and Right Bank and this difference is what has ultimately dictated what is planted and where.

The Left Bank has a good amount of gravel in the soils - making it more suitable for Cabernet Sauvignon and hence, the wines from the Left Bank are Cabernet Sauvignon dominant in their makeup.

On the Right Bank, we find a higher amount of clay and limestone in the soils. This suits Merlot and Cabernet Franc better and hence the wines of the Right Bank focus more on Merlot and Cabernet Franc.

The Left Bank is highlighted by the Medoc, the area north of Bordeaux city home to some wildly famous appellations like Margaux, Saint-Julien, Saint Estephe and Pauillac. Here we find four of the five 1st Growths as outlined in the Classification of 1855 - Château Margaux (Margaux), Château Latour (Pauillac), Château Mouton Rothschild (Pauillac), and Château Lafite Rothschild (Pauillac).

South of the city of Bordeaux we find a few additional world-renowned appellations - Pessac-Leognan, home to the fifth 1st Growth, Château Haut-Brion, as well as Graves and Sauternes, home to the world famous sweet wines made from botrytized grapes.

The Right Bank is highlighted by the towns of Pomerol, where Merlot typically shines, and St. Emilion, where Cabernet Franc and Merlot tend to work as co-stars. Here you'll find some magnificent estates, including Château Cheval Blanc and Chateau Pétrus, just to name a few.

The makeup of these wines mixed with their terroir makes the best of the best extremely long lasting - capable of ageing several decades easily. Make sure to store them correctly. This means lay them down, out of direct sunlight and, if you can, in a cool, temperature controlled space... like a wine cave.