7 Things to Know about Bordeaux

Whether you’re a beginner or a Bordeaux buff, we’re sharing seven things to know about Bordeaux.

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Let’s start with the basics - Bordeaux (pronounced /bor - dow/) is a notable wine region in France known for producing some of the world’s most prestigious Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Whether you’re a beginner or a Bordeaux buff, we’re sharing 7 things know about Bordeaux.

1. Bordeaux is the largest AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée) in France.

Perhaps Bordeaux is the most well known, because it’s the biggest AOP in all of France! There are 50 different appellations in Bordeaux. Some of the key districts include The Medoc ('left bank' wines), The Libournais (‘right bank’ wines), Blaye & Bourge, Entre-Deux-Mers, Graves & Sauternes.

2. Much of Bordeaux’s land was once underwater.

Bordeaux is a flat, low elevation peninsula in between the Atlantic Ocean and the Garonne estuary, so much of its land was actually underwater at one time.

The area was drained in the 17th century by Dutch engineers to clear out marsh land for easier transport of goods, and this drainage actually revealed Medoc’s gravel soils where some of the world’s most famous wines are made.

3. There are five official classifications.

Within Bordeaux, there are five official classifications. The first classification was pioneered by Emperor Napoleon III at the Exposition Universelle of 1855 in Paris. He requested each wine region establish a classification, and the The 1855 classification was born. The 1855 classification encompasses left bank red wines and sweet wines.

In 1953, at the request of the Syndicat de défense de l’appellation des Graves, the Institut national des appellations d’origine (INAO) established another classification - the Graves classification. This includes reds and whites.

In 1954, at the request of the Syndicat de défense de l’appellation Saint-Émilion, the Institut national des appellations d’origine (INAO) began the Saint-Émilion classification for right bank reds. This one’s a bit unique, as it must be revised every ten years.

In 1932, the Crus Bourgeois were grouped in a list established by the Bordeaux wine merchants, under the aegis of the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce of and the Gironde Chamber of Agriculture. The Crus Bourgeois du Médoc classification includes red wines driven by quality and value.

Lastly, in 1994, European regulations reintroduced the designation and authorized a “Cru Artisan” mention on the wine’s main label. The Crus Artisans classification was born for quality and value driven wines from small properties.

4. There are 6 permitted varieties for red wines.

Within Bordeaux, there six approved red varieties - Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Carmenere.

The Left Bank of Bordeaux is famed for Cabernet Sauvignon dominant blends that thrive in gravel soils. The quick-draining nature of the soil combats maritime climate, while the warmer temperatures promote ripening.

5. Merlot makes up 66% of red wine production.

Of those 6 permitted varieties, Merlot is clearly a front runner, making up over half of red wine production.

Unlike left bank wines, right bank wines are better suited for the slightly cooler temperatures and clay and limestone soils you’ll find on the right bank.

6. Winemakers here also produce dry whites & sweet wines.

While the region is known for its prized red wine, dry whites and sweet wines are also part of the mix. Permitted white wine varieties include Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadelle, Colombard, Merlot Blanc, Sauvignon Gris, and Ugni Blanc.

Of these varieties, Semillon & Sauvignon Blanc are the most common.

Dry whites are best known in Entre-Deux-Mers, Graves, and Pessac-Léognan. Sweet wines are produced from fruit using a wine technique called noble rot which concentrates the sugar.

7. And there’s also sparkling wine.

Don’t forget the bubbles! Bordeaux is also known for sparkling wine, made from the same grape varieties used for still wines using the Traditional Method.

While Crémant de Bordeaux became the official sparkling wine appellation in 1990, winemakers have been producing bubbles here since the 1800s.

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