Nothing about French wine seems to be straightforward or simple. But once you get to know the various wine regions of France it becomes a bit clearer.
In the past couple of postings I've touched on the French wine region of Burgundy. I discussed that there are Bourgogne Rouge (red) and Bourgogne Blanc (white) wines. The reds of Burgundy are primarily Pinot Noir with the exception that the sub-region of Beaujolais produces red wines from the Gamay grape. The Chardonnay grape dominates the white wines of Burgundy, with all wines from the Chablis sub-region being produced from Chardonnay.
So now let's take a look at the wines from another famous wine region in France, Bordeaux. Here, more than 90% of the wines produced are reds. The primary grapes used in red Bordeaux wines are Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. But, Petite Verdot, Malbec and Carmenere are also permitted to be used.
The white wines, again comprising less than 10% of Bordeaux's production, are made from the Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes. This is quite a contrast to the not so distant past. Prior to the 1960's, Bordeaux's vineyards were dominated by white wine producing grapes. Consumer tastes changed and red wine production methods improved and now we see the reds dominating Bordeaux wines.
Within Bordeaux, the geography is such that it is divided into the Left Bank and the Right Bank. The banks refer to which side of the Gironde River, or its two smaller rivers, they are located. And each of the Left and Right banks have multiple sub-regions that all produce great wines based on different grapes.
And, there is one other key sub-region in Bordeaux. It is called Sauternes and it is famous for its sweet dessert wines made mostly of Semillon grape, with some Sauvignon Blanc.
There's a lot to cover in Bordeaux. So next time we'll start exploring the sub-regions of Bordeaux in a bit more detail. For now, cheers!
Behind the Cork™ Wine of the Week - Château de Belcier ($10)
This Bordeaux is a blend of 69% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc and 6% Malbec. This is very typical of the Bordeaux blends of the Right Bank with its focus on Merlot. It is from the sub-region of Bordeaux called "Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux."
As you can see from the label, it is "Mis en Bouteille au Château" meaning it was bottled at the estate or on the property of the winery. But, the "Grand Vin de Bordeaux" is an unregulated term. It is most often used as a way for a château to indicate that this is their best wine, a step up from the second bottling.