Bordeaux, to some a mystery hidden within that world called French wines, to others who understand its beauty and wonderful products, it is a magnificence revealed, indeed a treasure to be considered and by some a wonder begging to be explored and understood so one may further appreciate the excellent wines that come from this region.
To begin, let us look at Bordeaux, which lies in the southwest of France, near the Atlantic Ocean where a large variety of wines are produced. One of the factors that makes the wines of Bordeaux so distinctive is the terroir which consists not only of the soil content of the land, but also the topography and climates. The terroir in this area is varied within the various regions which adds to the great variety and quality of the wines made there.
Of the wines produced, reds make up the vast majority at approximately 85% of the total. I often refer to the Bordeaux Five when speaking of the red wines: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petite Verdot. The French, masters of mixing wines, have achieved no greater success than in Bordeaux where the blending of grapes to make wines, known as cepage in French, is done so that all the grapes are a harmonious blend with no one varietal overshadowing all the rest to too much of a degree.
White wines acount for 15% of production including the following varietals: Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Muscadelle. Muscadelle is a popular grape used for the remaining 5% of wines produced which are very sweet. To maintain the high quality of wine everyone has come to expect from this region, a extremely stringent system of laws and guidelines have been established in order for a winery to be able to label their wines according to their appelation (known as AOC of AC).
There are two things to consider when buying Bordeaux wines, or any wine for that matter. The first is that not every wine is made to last forever. The saddest thing that can happen to any wine collector is when they pull out that special bottle they have been cellaring, thinking it was improving, only to find it has long since turned to vinegar. Internet research can often alleviate this problem, advising the maximum time it would be beneficial to set a bottle aside.
Secondly, Bordeaux wines do not have to be expensive to be excellent wines. In past years, as I have haunted local wine stores, I have found them to be very reasonable. Assuredly, there are many wines that are extremely expensive, but one must understand some wines are for an educated palate. I always think of a friend of mine who told me her father bought a $5000.00 speaker for his stereo system (this was back in the 70’s). When asked how he could spend that much, he stated that he could hear things that most people would not because he has studied and listened with a trained ear for so long. The same principle applies to wine. An experienced wine drinker will pick up things some one who has just begun drinking may not such as the different tastes that initially come across the taste buds, then the mid range and the finish as well as the bouquet and appearance of the wine.
Whether it be the terroirs, the variety of cepages, or just the multiple subregions within Bordeaux, it is an area that is worth the time and effort to study. As to whether these wines are the best of the best lies in the palate of the consumer. I always advise, “Drink what you like, but know what you are drinking.” Enjoy!