A Simple Guide to the 5 Noble Grapes of Bordeaux

A Simple Guide to the 5 Noble Grapes of Bordeaux

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by pastoral  |  0 comments

This week we will focus on the 5 noble grapes of Bordeaux. What a great foundation for learning about wine...

General Information

CartebordeauxThe Bordeaux region is located on the central coast of western France where the Gironde River empties into the Atlantic. This region is traditionally thought of in two sections. The Right Bank is the northern bank of the river, which produces mostly Merlot-based blends. The Left Bank is the southern side of the River that produces blends comprised of mostly, if not all, Cabernet Sauvignon.

The red wines of Bordeaux are usually blends of two or more of five grapes:

  1. Cabernet Sauvignon
  2. Merlot
  3. Cabernet Franc
  4. Malbec
  5. Petit Verdot
  • The art of assemblage (blending) is practiced to create power, complexity and elegance in the wine.
  • In 1855, the wines of the Medoc appellation (Left Bank) were ranked. This classification designated 5 growths according to the reputation of the producer.
  • There are five 1st growth producers and their wine is among the most expensive and sought after in the world.
  • There are 61 classed growth wines in Bordeaux
  • St. Emilion (Right Bank) wines are classified differently than the Medoc wines. They are Premier Grand Cru Classe A, Premier Grand Cru Classe B, Grande Cru Classe and Grand Cru. These are Merlot based wines and do not age as well as the left bank wines.

Bourdeaux

ON TO THE GRAPES!!!

While we are speaking specifically about Bordeaux, these descriptions are pretty standard for any wine made with these grapes.

Cabernet Sauvignon

  • Used for power, structure and aging potential
  • Dry Red wine
  • Full, strong intensity
  • Ripe dark fruit, dark berries, currants, mint
  • high acidity
  • very tannic

Merlot

  • Used for rich fruit flavors and as a smoothing agent.
  • Dry, Red wine
  • Medium to strong intensity
  • Ripe fleshy fruit, plums, cherries
  • Medium acidity
  • moderate tannins

Cabernet Franc

  • Used for smoothing texture and adding earthiness
  • Dry, red wine
  • Medium intensity
  • Red berries, blue berries and red plum fruit
  • High acidity
  • Low to moderate tannins

Malbec

  • Used for dark rich color
  • Dry, red wine
  • Medium intensity
  • red plum, earth and spice notes
  • high acidity
  • low tannins

Petit Verdot

  • Used for stucture and body
  • Dry, red wine
  • Medium intensity
  • Dark berries, earth flavors
  • moderate acidity
  • moderate tannins

The idea behind the ‘Bordeaux Blend’ is to accentuate the good and eliminate the less desirable attributes of particular grapes. (ie. Cabernet adds the structure and body while Merlot provides the supple, lush fruit). It is all about the balance between acidity and tannin and the mixture of these grapes produces some of the greatest wines the world has ever known.