Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Quick French Lesson- the Right Bank

A couple of weeks ago, I covered the left bank wines of Bordeaux. Today, we will be looking at the "right bank"- the area to the north and east of the Gironde river, more specifically the regions of St. Emilion, Pomerol, and Fronsac. These areas are sort of like the Sonoma to California's Napa- it is more of the "workingman's wine" in Bordeaux. The soil is one of the important aspects in this area. Whereas in the left bank, the soil is mainly gravel, this area contains mainly clay. In other areas of the world, clay-based soil gives the vines "wet feet" by not allowing drainage. However, here the slope of the vineyards allows fantastic drainage, and is perfect for the area's main two grapes- Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
St. Emilion is one of the areas that is home to some of the most wonderful Cabernet Franc-based wines in the world. The most famous of these is Cheval Blanc, a chateau that is comprised almost entirely of cab franc and merlot. In fact, if you have seen Sideways, you remember Miles ranting about not drinking merlot. The wine that he drinks at the end of the movie- 1961 Cheval Blanc, is comprised of cab franc with a very heavy dose of merlot! The other famous wine from this area is Chateau Ausone. These wines are almost haunting in how good they are, and have price tags to match. Right down the road is a smaller appellation called Lussac-St. Emilion, which is a great place to get well made, bargain Bordeaux.
Pomerol is the other brother of St. Emilion, and is most famous for its top chateau- Petrus. Made mostly of merlot, this is regularly one of the most sought after, and expensive wines in the world. Only about 2000 cases are made, and only a few hundred make their way into the U.S. When I worked for a distributor in Boston, we had a bottle of 2000 Petrus, and sold it for $2000 wholesale. If you want similar-ish wines, but don't have the money, look for those from Lalande de Pomerol.
A third, lesser know area to get wonderful red Bordeaux is Fronsac. It is located to the west of it's big brothers mentioned previously, has the same sort of blend, and sometimes has some Cabernet Sauvignon in the mix. This results in a powerfully rustic wine that is fair priced.

That's enough for now- have a fantastic Thanksgiving, drink something good!


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