You think you know wine? You can’t say that until you know French wine. And what’s the best place to get a feel for some of the best wines in the world? Bordeaux, of course.
Bordeaux is a wine region in western France, situated on the Atlantic coast. It makes some 26 percent of all AOC wine. The region produces mainly red wines, about 83 percent, dry reds to be more precise. The rest of 17 percent is dedicated to white wine types, including sweet white wines such as Sauternes.
The Atlantic climate makes for big weather variations. Due to this vintages vary quite a lot. However when things go smooth, like in 1996, 2000, or 2005, the wines can turn out excellent.
Among the red wines that made Bordeaux famous are grands vins (great wines) made by historic chateaux (wine estates). These wines get better and better as time passes. A bottle of Chateau Petrus can cost up to $500, and that’s for some of the more recent vintages.
The Bordeaux region is divided into two production zones, named the Left Bank, the western area, and the Right Bank, situated in the eastern area. The main difference between them is the soil composition: gravel on the Left Bank and clay on the Left Bank.
Both areas grow Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot but we can clearly see that Cabernet prefers gravel terrain while Merlot adapts better on clay.
The wines of the Left Bank are generally more austere, tannic wines, delivering a blackcurrant flavor. These wines develop well over long periods of time.
Wines made in the eastern area, the Right Bank, are more approachable, though contain more alcohol. These wines can be enjoyed as soon as five to eight years after the vintage. Being less tannic, richer in texture, and plummier in flavor, they are good starter wines.
When looking for a good buy in wine you should look outside the classified growths. These wines are wines that you can drink within a few years of the vintage.
Bordeaux wine regions of lesser status
1. More affordable wine types – The Cru Bourgeois
These are the wines which, in 1855, weren’t recognized as Grands Crus Casses. This makes them a little bit noble and it also means that you can they can get your taste buds entertained at lower prices, ranging from $18 to $35.
The jury divided the wineries into three categories: Cru Bourgeois, Cru Bourgeois Superieurs and Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel. Among the better wines are: Chateau Potensac, Chateau de Pez, Chateau Siran, Chateau Coufran, Chateau d’Angludent and Chateau Lanessan.
2. Wine types that have never been classified bear the name Petits Chateaux
This category incorporates all the Bordeaux region wines that have never been classified. They are reasonably priced and made from grapes brought from all over the region.
But they are primarily Merlot, and they have a fruitier taste. Some of these underrated wines are: Cotes de Bourg, Cotes de Francs, Montagne-St.Emilion and Lalande de Pomerol.
3. Canon-Fronsac is a lesser standard but the highest quality in it’s category
Wines from this category are of the highest quality when talking of the lesser Bordeaux standards. Their price range is about $20 to $30.
Let’s not forget that this region also produces white wines, which are either dry or sweet. The dry wines are distinguished into two very different categories. On the one hand we have inexpensive, young wines and on the other hand we have some of the greatest dry whites of the world.
The main grapes used in these whites are Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. Wines containing a higher percentage of Semillon are more age worthy. Inexpensive white Bordeaux wines are usually made entirely from Sauvignon Blanc.
High quality dry white wine develops richness, complexity, and a honeyed bouquet during it’s aging. These wines need at least ten years to mature.
As a final note keep in mind that only snobs will drink Classified Growth Bordeaux exclusively. You should start with younger, easier-to-drink wines so that you can get a better feel when actually tasting a fine wine. Drinking less expensive wines is part of the process when trying to understand the majesty of a great Bordeaux.
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