H
ere in the U.S., we largely
view Bordeaux as an elite cat-
egory of wine. No doubt this
maritime region in southwest
France produces some of the globe’s most
coveted bottles. Yet, as the world’s largest
wine-producing region, most of its juice
is produced for everyday drinking. There
are good reasons to change the American
paradigm as Bordeaux
rouge
can display
multitudes of flavors and palate profiles,
offer good value and pair well with a
broad array of dishes.
Why These Blends
Can Taste So Different
Red Bordeaux are blended wines, of-
ten called claret by traditionalist (the
term claret originated in England). Six
red grapes are authorized in Bordeaux:
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet
Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carme-
nère. The latter three have fallen out of
favor though some
châteaux
are recon-
sidering them in salt-and-pepper quanti-
ties (a percent or two of the final blend)
as the region’s climate gradually warms.
It is the first three grapes that dominate
red Bordeaux, and their varied combina-
tions in turn impart stylistic distinctions.
Here is what each grape variety contrib-
utes to the classic claret blends:
>>>
Not every wine contains all three
primary grapes. Interestingly, while we
often think of Cabernet Sauvignon as
the
player, Merlot is actually the most
common variety in Bordeaux, except
among Classified Growths (aka Cru
Classé wines). Here are basic guidelines
on blend composition based on appel-
lation, with grapes listed in descending
proportions:
Classified Growths (Left Bank): Cabernet
Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc
St. Émilion (Right Bank): Merlot, Cabernet
Franc
Pomerol (Right Bank): Merlot, Cabernet
Franc
Other Appellations: Merlot, Cabernet
Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon
:
deep color, often purple
and even black
overt aromatics with notes
of blackcurrant, cassis,
cedar and eucalyptus
powerful, yet elegant
and fine-grained,
tannins
dense weight, or body
refreshing acidity
Merlot:
mid-depth color, except-
ing top cuvées, often
with blue tinges
moderate fragrance
with red plums,
mulberries, fruitcake
and oolong tea
gentle tannins with
little bitterness or
astringency
soft acidity
Cabernet Franc
:
average color concen-
tration that can some-
times seem too pale in
cool climate Bordeaux
generous aromatics of
raspberry, blueberry,
twigs and hard-stemmed
herbs
subtle and finessed
tannins
mouthwatering acidity
3 primary grapes of bordeaux
Simplifying
Today
A Modernized Overview
By Christy Canterbury MW
tasting
corner
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