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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Bordeaux’s Wine Districts





The Bordeaux wine region covers a vast area, approximately 300K acres of vines, making it the second largest wine region in the world behind the Languedoc.  (Napa Valley, in comparison, has only 45K acres of vines.)  With 8.5K winemaking chateaux, Bordeaux is physically divided by the Gironde River and its tributaries, the Dordogne and Garonne, into the “Left Bank” and the “Right Bank.”  Both banks have sub-districts.

The Medoc, referred to as the Left Bank,  is the name used to denote the land located on the left side of the Gironde estuary.  The Gironde,  which empties into the Atlantic, exerts a powerful effect on grape growing.  In the case of its Left Bank, the soil as well as the micro-climate are dramatically impacted by the Gironde. 

The Right Bank is composed of two small wine areas, St Emilion and Pomerol.  Located on the right side of the Gironde, both of these districts are reigned by Merlot due to the clay soil.  Cabernet Franc is also prevalent, especially in Pomerol.  The climate and damper, cool soils of the Right Bank makes it difficult for Cabernet Sauvignon to fully ripen, hence, it is not used as often.

In contrast to the Left Bank’s large chateaux, the Right Bank’s St Emilion and Pomerol is composed of small producers.  Moreover, the Right Bank growing area is miniscule in comparison to the Medoc.  Similar to the Medoc, however, there is little white wine vinified in either St Emilion or Pomerol.

Graves, located on the Left Bank of the Garonne River, is directly south of the city of Bordeaux and encompasses the sub-regions of Pessac-Leognan as well as the sweet wine district of Sauternes.  The area is known for its intensely gravel-like soil brought down via the Garonne by glaciers during the Ice Age.  In fact, Graves in French translates to “gravel.”  Both red and white wines are produced.  Cabernet Sauvignon is the most prevalent red varietal.  Whites allowed by law include Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle.

Entre Deux Mers, the least known of Bordeaux’s wine regions, is named for its position between the Dordogne and Garonne Rivers (actually, the literal translation is “between the two seas.”).   The soil is alluvial, washed down from millenniums of sediment from the Pyrenees and Central Massif mountains.  One of Bordeaux’s largest districts, it produces mainly whites (most of which are sweet wines) although red is also vinified.   The area’s wine offers good value as prices are very fair and quality has been improving.

Coming on this Fall’s trip to Bordeaux?  We will visit all of the areas with the exception of the last, Entre Deux Mers.  Additionally, Wine-Knows will be renting wine-making chateaux in the Medoc, St Emilion and Sauternes.

1 comment:

  1. What a fabulous trip, June. I was looking at the photos on your website, saw the wait list, and just had to say hello. Tour through France with you has remained the "Best of the Best" vacations ever. The wine tasting in Saint Emilion was over the top. Looking forward to seeing you soon!

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