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A Complete Starter Guide To Bordeaux Wine

A Complete Starter Guide To Bordeaux Wine

Here is a complete starter guide to Bordeaux wine!  If you were like me, then at first you really didn’t want to take the chance on Bordeaux.  What even is a “Bordeaux”?  A special kind of grape?  The flavor of the wine?  That sure does sound like some region in France?  Well, you are correct, and to break this thing down, we start with the map:

Bordeaux Wine Region Map:

A Guide To Bordeaux Wine


Bordeaux is a port city on the Garonne River in the Gironde department in southwestern France.

The municipality of Bordeaux proper has a population of 243,626 (2012). Together with its suburbs and satellite towns, Bordeaux is the centre of the Bordeaux Métropole. With 749,595 inhabitants (as of 2013) and 1,178,335 in the metropolitan area, it is the fifth largest in France, after Paris, Marseille, Lyon and Lille, and before Toulouse. It is the capital of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, as well as the prefecture of the Gironde department. Its inhabitants are called “Bordelais” (for men) or “Bordelaises” (women).

Okay well now that you are familiar with the area, that still doesn’t explain the wine. So the next step on the guide to Bordeaux wine is why it is called a Bordeaux! 

A Bordeaux wine is any wine produced in the Bordeaux region of southwest France, centered on the city of Bordeaux and covering the whole area of the Gironde department, with a total vineyard area of over 296,000 acres, making it the largest wine growing area in France. Therefore, if the wine is not produced in this area, it can not tecnically be called a Bordeaux.

Claret is occasionally used in the United States as a semi-generic label for red wine in the style of the Bordeaux, ideally from the same grapes as are permitted in Bordeaux. So if you see a wine in your local store that has Claret on it, it’s our American version.  Give it a shot, they aren’t bad!  One of my absolute favorites is the Francis Ford Coppola Black Label Claret!

Back to the French Bordeaux: Average vintages produce over 700 million bottles of Bordeaux wine, ranging from large quantities of everyday table wine, to some of the most expensive and prestigious wines in the world. The vast majority of wine produced in Bordeaux is red (called “claret” in Britain), with sweet white wines (most notably Sauternes), dry whites, and (in much smaller quantities) rosé and sparkling wines collectively making up the remainder. Bordeaux wine is made by more than 8,500 producers or châteaux. There are 54 appellations of Bordeaux wine.

The next step on the guide to Bordeaux wine is the Bordeaux wine grapes!

Red Bordeaux is generally made from a blend of grapes. Permitted grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec and rarely Carménère.

Typical top-quality Châteaux blends on the left bank (Médoc and Graves) are 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc and 15% Merlot. This is typically referred to as the “Bordeaux Blend.” Merlot tends to predominate on the right bank (Libournais). The Right Bank blends from top-quality Châteaux are typically 70% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. Depending on the proportion of the grapes, the Bordeaux can have different tastes and aromas.  Speaking of tastes….

Bordeaux Wine Taste: Another step on the guide to Bordeaux wine!

“Red Bordeaux wine from the Medoc (left bank) is probably what most people think of, when talking about the taste of Bordeaux wine. All Bordeaux wine from the Medoc and Pessac Leognan are blends. Most of those blends utilize Cabernet Sauvignon for the majority of the blend, followed by Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. On occasion, you occasionally find very small amounts of Carmenere in the blend as well. In their youth, Bordeaux wines are often deep in color, ranging from dark ruby to almost black. The taste of Bordeaux wine from the Left Bank delivers fruit scents and flavors of cassis, blackberry, dark cherry, vanilla, black cherry, coffee bean, spice and licorice. The wines are often concentrated, powerful, firm and tannic. Depending on the specific wine, it can appear to be austere in character in its youth.

The taste of Bordeaux wine from The Right Bank is different, due to the Merlot grape. Merlot is the most important grape in the Right Bank, followed by Cabernet Franc. When young, the taste of Bordeaux wine from The Right Bank delivers licorice, chocolate, black cherry, plum, blackberry, spice, vanilla, smoke, floral, blueberry and jam flavors, characteristics and sensations. Merlot dominated wines are lower in acidity than Cabernet Sauvignon. That means the wines are going to feel richer, softer, plusher and rounder. These wines can be incredibly silky. and in the best Bordeaux wines from the Right Bank, the textures and feelings in your mouth range from opulence to decadence.” – The Wine Cellar Insider

Great in-depth article on their website if you want to learn MUCH more about Bordeaux as a whole. Read more at:

The last stop on the Guide to Bordeaux Wine Tour is: Bordeaux Wine Pairing.

A Bordeaux blend with more of a Cabernet Sauvignon (from the left bank as we learned above) is going to go great with more of the “beef” menu items.  Beef stew, Lamb, Shepherds Pie, Pot Roast, and Filet Mignon are wonderful pairings with a Bordeaux.  The flavor of the meat along with the high tannins in the wine (feel free to check out my blog on wine vocabulary here) are a GREAT match that will almost cancel each other out so you can taste the sweet and fruity notes of the Bordeaux.  Any of these combinations are sure to get the most out of the wine and the meal and help you experience the wonderful taste of a Bordeaux wine.  Remember, you get to experience on your own, and decide what you like when it comes to pairing wine, but hopefully this points you in a general direction that helps you grow along your wine journey!

Well that is the end of our tour.  I hope you enjoyed the complete starter guide to Bordeaux wine and it added some value to your day!

Wine can be confusing, overwhelming and intimidating.  I am not your typical wine guy (cargo shorts, flip flops and wine) and understand your plight.  I strive to make wine easy and simple for you to understand.  Now go enjoy your Bordeaux wine shopping experience, or grab that Claret from the nearest store and cook you up a great beef stew and smile, as you are living the life of the French!

Bon Appétit



Not Typical Wine Guy

PS: If You Want To Learn How to Pair Wine with Everyday Food Watch This Short Video Here

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