What Is Bordeaux Wine?

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Bordeaux is the largest wine-growing region in France with thousands of vineyards producing a rainbow of wines, including the area's signature reds. The expansive region is divided into the Left Bank, dominated by cabernet sauvignon, and the Right Bank, ruled by merlot. White and dessert wines are also made, but red wines are what the region's vineyards are known for. The most famous of all is the red Bordeaux blend, a mixture of two or more of the region's grapes that boasts flavors of plum, black currant, and cedar with fresh floral notes. The medium to full-bodied wine is dry with a standard alcohol level for red wine and pairs well with food.

Fast Facts

  • Regions: Bordeaux
  • Origin: Bordeaux, France
  • Sweetness: Dry
  • Color: Vibrant red to deep purple
  • ABV: 13–14% 

Taste and Flavor Profile

The red Bordeaux blend is a dry, medium to full-bodied wine high in tannins with medium acidity. Because a Bordeaux blend can be made with several different red wine grapes from different regions in differing proportions, the color, amount of acidity, texture, and exact flavors can vary. Overall, Bordeaux blends are full of dark fruit flavors like juicy plum and black currant with a slight pucker from the tannins. Notes of cedar and graphite can be found on the palette and on the nose, as well as floral aromas.

How to Taste Wine

Follow a few steps when tasting wine to ensure you have the best experience:

  1. Look: Take a good look at the wine, examining the color and opacity through the glass.
  2. Smell: Swirl your glass for 10 seconds and take a quick whiff. Then stick your nose into the wine glass for a deep inhale, taking in your first impressions of the wine.
  3. Taste: Take a small sip and let it roll around your mouth. Note the acidity, sugar, tannins, and alcohol content when first tasting, then move on to tasting notes (berries, spice, wood) and finally the finish.

Grapes and Wine Regions

Bordeaux is an expansive region boasting over 6,000 different vineyards. A number of grapes are grown, including cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec, cabernet franc, and petit verdot. Any of these grapes can be used in a Bordeaux-style red wine blend. White wine grapes like sauvignon blanc are also grown but in significantly lower numbers. The region runs from the western shore inland, with the city of Bordeaux at the center.

The Gironde estuary divides the area into the Left Bank and Right Bank. The Left is known for its gravelly soils and the Right has largely red clay soils—producing different characteristics in the grapes. Overall, the region is known as an ideal place to grow wine grapes. The growing season and harvest differ depending on the varietal, but grapes are typically grown in the spring and summer and harvested starting in September. Fermentation lasts for up to a month before the wine is aged in barrels for one to two years and released about six months after bottling.

The wine estates of Bordeaux are known as châteaus, and they can be classified in a few different ways. The most famous is the 1855 classification, which designates about 60 vineyards with first through fifth-growth "cru" status. At the top of the Bordeaux ranking are five vineyards with first-growth cru classé—legendary châteaus with a long and rich history. Any Bordeaux labeled cru classé is certain to be of high quality, but because there are so many wineries in the region, there are plenty of high-quality wines without elite classification.

Food Pairings

The ample body and tannins of a Bordeaux blend make it especially good for pairing with food. Meats and foods rich in umami are especially good with this bold red wine, and it can hold its own against rich and fatty dishes. Try it with steak poivre, roast lamb or pork, a flavorful cheese plate, or meat with a creamy mushroom sauce.

Serve Bordeaux at about 65 F and decant for 30 minutes before pouring into red wine glasses. A high-quality Bordeaux blend will cellar well for a few years.

Key Producers, Brands, and Buying Tips

Bordeaux wines are widely available, with a good selection of red Bordeaux blends appearing at wine stores, supermarkets, and liquor stores everywhere. Bottles can be found ranging from $15 on up, with high-quality bottles available at about $30. Certain years are known for better quality vintages than others, with 2009, 2010, and 2016 producing especially excellent grapes.

When trying to decide what Bordeaux blend to buy, these winemakers are easy to find and produce consistently good bottles of red. If you can't find Bordeaux, look for a cabernet or merlot red wine blend.

  • Château Pierre de Montignac
  • Château Lilian Ladouys
  • Château d'Arsac
  • Château la Haye
  • Château Macquin St Georges
  • Château de Chantegrive Graves
  • Clos Labarde St. Emilion
  • Le Petit Haut Lafitte
  • Château Dutruch Grand Poujeaux
  • Château Croix de Reverdi