I’ve been in Bordeaux for some private tours and tastings while en route to SW France. For your reference, here’s a reprint of my previous overview of a few major subregions of Bordeaux.
A Quick Guide
by L.M. Archer
Understanding Bordeaux’s subregions is a lot like understanding golf – it’s all in the terrain, or terroir. Wine growers, like skilled golfers, play it where it lays – in Bordeaux playing through some atypical water hazards, sand traps, and bunkers.
Bordeaux subregions include the Left Bank, Right Bank, and Entre Deux Mers. So what’s the difference?
You don’t want to snag a left hook on the Left Bank. This predominately flat expanse borders the Atlantic Ocean, and falls west of the Gironde Estuary and Garonne River. It also boasts Les Landes, Europe’s largest forest – 2.5M acres of pine trees to foil any bank shot.
In Left Bank’s Médoc and Pesssac Léognan areas, home to prestigious châteaux such as Château Margaux, Château Mouton-Rothschild, and Château Haut-Brion, the warm sand and gravel soils favor Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot varietals making Bordeaux the Biggest-Little-Cabernet Sauvignon-Growing-Wine Region in the world. Wines here hit the pin with firm structure, high tannin, pigment, acid, carrying hints of cassis, cedar, and graphite.
Thanks to the fog-inducing, botrytis-producing double-bogey action of the Ciron River cold air meeting Garonne River warm air in The Graves and Sauternais areas, white dessert wines find their sweet spot here, along with tournament-worthy dry whites composed primarily of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc.
No shanking on the Right Bank! This stretch of Côtes (slopes), worm-burning plateaus, and knock-down valleys of cold soils clay and limestone favor Merlot and Cabernet Franc, yielding soft, silky, high acid dry red wines with notes of dark plum, walnut and prune. Hole-in-one AOC’s in the Right Bank’s Libornais area include Pomerol and St.-Èmilion.
Entre Deux Mers
Fore! Entre Deux Mers, meaning ‘between two seas,’ falls between the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers, and enjoys the highest altitudes, greatest terrain variations, and most wine varieties in the Bordeaux region. We’re talking a little bit of sand and gravel, a little bit of clay and limestone, and a whole lotta water, producing above par dry red and whites. Same story, different side of the Garonne River regarding the fog-borne botrytis sweet white wines.
Unlike golf, in the winemaking world, there are no mulligans. Every shot, or harvest, counts. And in Bordeaux, it’s a game played by masters.
Author’s Note: One of the chateau visited during my stay included Château de Sales in Pomerol. Link to my The Hedonistic Taster tasting notes on Château de Sales here.
Have a favorite Bordeaux wine? Feel free to leave your comments below.
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