Thursday, November 12, 2009

French Wine Primer- Left Bank Bordeaux

As promised, today we will take a look at the area of Bordeaux, in France, known as the "Left Bank." This is essentially the western bank of the Gironde river, which flows into the Atlantic ocean, and is fed by the Garonne (of which the western bank is also part of today's focus), and the Dardogne rivers. The left bank is broken into a couple of major regions- Medoc (composed confusingly of the Medoc and the Haut Medoc), Graves, Barsac, and Sauternes.

The Medoc is the furthest region to the Northwest, and contains most of the famous communes of Bordeaux. It is divided into Medoc (the top 35% of the area) and the Haut Medoc (the southern 65%). The wine coming from here is so historically important that we still use the classification of 1855. This was where the government classified the chateaux into four "first growths", fourteen "second growths", fourteen "third growths", ten "fourth growths" and eighteen "fifth growths". This classification was based on quality, and furthermore by price. The only change to this system was that in 1973, through a great deal of political influence and pandering to the market, Mouton Rothschild was moved from a Second Growth into the First Growth realm. Today, the First Growths (Lafite-Rothschild, Mouton-Rothschild, Haut Brion- the only commune from the Graves, Latour, and Margaux) are some of the most sought after, and most expensive, wines in the world. The communes of the Medoc, moving from Northwest to Southeast, are: St-Estephe, Pauillac, St. Julien, Listrac, Moulis, and Margaux. These are the appellations that you will see on the label if you are fortunate enough to buy them. The grapes planted in the Medoc is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, and most of the wines coming from here have a large dallop of the grape.
As we move Southeast, we get into Graves, named for the gravel-based soil. The main region here is Pessac-Leognan, also composed mainly of Cabernet.

Confused? I was too at first. Just think of concentric circles- a bottle of Chateau Lafite Rothschild is:
1. a Bordeaux
2. more specifically, from the Medoc
3. Even more specifically, from Haut-Medoc
4. Even more specifically, a Pauillac (The commune and the appellation which will be on the label)
5. Most specifically, from the Chateau Lafite Rothschild property.

At the southeastern end of the left bank are the areas of Barsac and Sauternes. The grapes grown here are more toward the whites, usually Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. Most of the wines produced here are sweet, dessert wines that have been affected by botrytis. The most famous of these is Chateau d'Yquem, which is wicked expensive, but tastes like something we will be drinking in Heaven!

I hope this was informative. Go find a bottle of Haut-Medoc, and enjoy!


1 comment:

  1. Great French wine experience.
    Château d'Yquem is my favourite French wine :)

    Easy French