Bordeaux Wines

Now, what can I tell you about Bordeaux wines in a few short paragraphs? It’s a tall order, so I’ll limit myself to sharing a few key facts and insights with you. Consider this an introduction to Bordeaux wines!

The Bordeaux Wine-Growing Area

Let’s start with a quick look at the area “under vine”, or planted with vineyards. At 111,150 hectares, it’s by far the largest area in France. By comparison, there are “only” 68,800 hectares under vine in the Vallée du Rhône, France’s second largest winegrowing region. The Bordeaux wine industry produces some 667 million bottles per year (5 million hectolitres) and provides around 55,000 jobs.

In terms of geography, the Bordeaux winegrowing region stretches all the way from the Médoc in the northwest to Pessac-Sauternes in the southwest and Saint-Emilion in the east.

The average Bordeaux winegrower cultivates 15 hectares of vineyards (remember, one hectare is roughly equal to 2.5 football fields, and one football field is roughly equal to an acre).

The Bordeaux Wine Region

“Terroir”

But what makes the Bordeaux region so special? Many factors play a role, including soils, climate, grape varieties and human talent. The Gironde Estuary with the rivers Dordogne and Garonne also make a big contribution to the Bordeaux wine industry. All these factors add up to a concept known as “terroir” – it’s a difficult term to translate! We’ll talk about “terroir” in a separate article.

Vineyards close to Saint Christophe des Bardes, near Saint Emilion

Grape varieties

Although Bordeaux is perhaps best known for its red wines, it also produces excellent dry and sweet whites, rosé, Clairet and sparkling wines (crémant). Nevertheless, red wine varieties account for 89% of average total production.

Red Wine Grape Varieties
Merlot65%*Early-ripening; smooth, deeply-coloured wines with low acidity. Widespread in Pomerol and Saint-Emilion.
Cabernet Sauvignon23%*Late-ripening; deeply-coloured, very tannic wines. Widely planted in the Médoc and Graves.
Cabernet Franc10%*Early-maturing; very elegant wines with medium-deep colour. Very widespread in Saint-Emilion.
Other varieties2%*Malbec (Côt), Petit Verdot, Carménère
*Surface planted per grape variety
White Wine Grape Varieties
Sémillon47%*All white wines, especially sweet ones. Ideally suited to noble rot. Elegant wines.
Sauvignon Blanc45%*Dry white wines. Aromatic, musky, fresh wines.
Muscadelle6%*Fragile variety. Used for both dry and sweet wines. Delicate wines with floral overtones.
Other varieties2%*Colombard, Merlot Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Folle Blanche, Mauzac, Ondenc, Ugni Blanc
*Surface planted per grape variety

Each variety has its own distinct characteristics and qualities. Most Bordeaux wines are made from a blend of several varieties. Blending is an art in itself, which is where human expertise builds on the gifts bestowed by nature to produce superb wines of great finesse and balance.

No doubt about it, there’s a lot to explore! And enjoy! Whichever wine area you visit, our Bordeaux apartment and our Libourne apartment are great bases to start from!

Tip: don’t miss a visit to the excellent Bar à Vin, right opposite the Bordeaux Tourist Office.

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