A Case for Bordeaux: 5 Curious Happenings You Really Need To Know
Note: This piece originally appeared in DrinkMe Magazine
One of the largest and most important wine regions in the world, Bordeaux is located in southwest France along the Atlantic coast. While many wine lovers are familiar with Bordeaux wines in general, there’s still a lot to discover in this diverse and historical region.
Bird’s Eye View of Bordeaux
Bordeaux has the largest area under vine in all of France, encompassing 280,000 acres of vineyards around the Gironde Estuary and the two rivers that feed into it: the Garonne and Dordogne. These rivers divide the region into two “banks:” the Left Bank (Médoc and Graves) and the Right Bank (Saint-Emilion and Pomerol). The large Entre-Deux-Mers (or “between two tides”) appellation is situated between the two rivers. A total of 65 appellations exist within the region.
Bordeaux’s climate is mild and distinctly maritime, heavily influenced by its proximity to the ocean. Because of its moderate climate, Bordeaux is able to produce all styles of wine: sparkling, dry white, semi-sweet and sweet white, rosé, clairet (deeply-colored rosé) and red.
Bordeaux Makes White Wine
Bordeaux is associated primarily with red wine production, but up until the late 1960s, the region actually made more white. Today, 11% of the region’s wines are dry and sweet white wines. One of the world’s most beloved varieties, Sauvignon Blanc, was actually born in Bordeaux. Often blended with Sémillon (which is known to be softer and rounder), this pair creates dry and sweet whites that are aromatic, fresh and juicy.
And the quality of Bordeaux whites keeps getting better, as the region focuses on fresher and more vibrant wines that can be enjoyed immediately or can age. From light and fresh to concentrated and aromatic, Bordeaux whites will entice many a wine fan.
What is a “Bordeaux Blend”?
Most of us have heard the term, “Bordeaux blend,” but what does that actually mean? Red Bordeaux blends can be composed of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec, in varied proportions. Merlot, with 65% of the vineyard area, is Bordeaux’s dominant red grape variety and is grown here in more abundance than any other wine region in the world. White Bordeaux blends consist of Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and, occasionally, Muscadelle.
With centuries of experience passed down to each generation, Bordeaux winemakers have certainly mastered the art of blending to produce a diverse range of styles, colors and tastes. Prefer a fresh and elegant white? Or perhaps an opulent or full-bodied red? There’s a Bordeaux blend that suits anyone’s taste buds.
Bordeaux: A Historic & Rejuvenated City
Home to an astonishing 362 monuments—second only to Paris—Bordeaux has structures dating back to early Roman times. This 2,000 year-old port city also boasts over 5,000 architecturally unique and ancient buildings, some of which are France’s oldest museums showcasing the region’s wealth of history.
Since the mid-1990s, the city of Bordeaux has undergone an immense rejuvenation. Beautiful, old buildings have been cleaned and restored to their former glory, a new tram system has unclogged the streets and the popular waterfront promenade is now free of vacant warehouses and is packed with Bordelais and tourists alike. This “facelift” earned Bordeaux a UNESCO World Heritage site award in 2007. (UNESCO is the United Nations organization responsible for identifying significant cultural landmarks around the world.)
Bordeaux is famous for hosting many important festivals throughout the year, for industry professionals and consumers alike. Take Vinexpo, the world’s largest wine and spirits convention, which happens every other year and pulls in over 50,000 visitors. Or the en primeur (“wine futures”), where wine merchants from around the world gather to taste and buy the next vintage while it’s still in barrel.
The Bordeaux Wine Festival, or Fête du Vin, is the biggest wine tourism event in the world. Hosted every other year, it features a 1.24 mile wine route along the river and between 18th century buildings, where you can taste wines from over 80 different appellations from across Bordeaux and the Aquitaine region. In addition to the hundreds of wines being shown, there are art exhibits, concerts, light shows, fireworks and much much more. Make this your summer getaway and you’ll be sure to experience everything that makes Bordeaux so unique—from its incredible and diverse wines to its rich and storied history to its vibrant and lively city.