If you are like me, you get confused by the multitude of appellations, regions, villages, Chateaux’s… etc., etc., that exist in France. So many in fact, during my last trip to France I bought an atlas of French vineyards to explain it all to me. Truth, 33 maps, tables and graphics, soils, PDO’s, and grape varieties I couldn’t consume all the info it had in it. I was still confused.
People often are confused by Bordeaux. Left bank, right bank, Cab Sav, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot… One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated (a little throw back to Laverne and Shirley days)
It doesn’t need to be complicated, let’s break down the important bits and talk a little about red wines of Bordeaux. You can make a “C” shape with your left hand and it is not backwards when you look at it. ( I will pause here while you try it). “C” stands for Cabernet Sauvignon, it is your left hand ~ which stands for the left bank. The left bank grows Cab Sav and the flavours are black currant and plum. The little vine “feet” like to be dry and warm which is why it does well on the left with the stone/gravel soils. Bordeaux, is famous for it’s blends. A Bordeaux blend is typically Cab Sav, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. If you see “Meritage” on the menu or bottle it is referring to a Bordeaux blend. The French are rule followers and the rules are not to use “Bordeaux Blend” outside of Bordeaux. “Meritage” is the combination of “Merit” and “Heritage” a homage to the high quality and traditional ways of making the blend.
To the right the most widely known appellations are Saint-Émilion and Pomerol. Here Merlot is the Queen of grapes. Merlots tiny little vine feet don’t mind the warm, dry soils in this area that have clay and limestone, they are also a less fussy and do not mind the cooler climate in the North, Cab Sav does not like to be cold and it won’t ripen well if it is. Merlot flavours are red berry fruit, plum, developing tobacco and cedar notes. Pomerol tends to have spicer flavours with blackberry fruit.
If you see the term ” Vins de garage” don’t think it is wine made in someone’s garage. This is a special term used for small plots of land where no expense was spared. The person making the wine is called a “Garagiste”.
~Trina Plamondon is the founder of Carpa Vino, a local company specializing in wine events & consulting. In her blog she helps her readers discover the magic in wine in a way that is easy to understand and appreciate.