A Tale of Two Bordeauxs – Left and Right Bank
Bordeaux wines are the most well-known and desired wine blends in the world. You may know that most Bordeaux wines are red and made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. But did you know that the winery’s location within the region of Bordeaux determines the percentages of each varietal?
Bordeaux is home to a large number of wine growing areas but is naturally divided by the Gironde Estuary, breaking it up into two main regions – the Left and Right Banks.
Left Bank Bordeaux
If the wine is made on the Left Bank of Bordeaux, the blend will have more Cabernet Sauvignon than Merlot. Other varietals that you’ll find on this side are Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and Petite Verdot.
The soil is mainly gravel which some wine experts say is what gives Left Bank wines their mineral quality (though there is an endless debate in the wine world).The wines also tend to have more alcohol, acidity, and tannin.
Jenny Siddall, our resident wine expert, guide, and creator of the Bordeaux Food & Wine Tour, explains, “All but one of the 1855 classified first growths are located in Haut-Médoc where the world famous Cabernet Sauvignon dominated blends are made.”
Left Bank Bordeaux regions include Médoc, Haute-Médoc, Saint-Estéphe, Pauillac, Saint-Julien, Margaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan, Sauternes, and Barsac.
Right Bank Bordeaux
If the wine is made on the Right Bank for Bordeaux, the blend will have more Merlot than Cabernet Sauvignon. The other main varietal grown here is Cabernet Franc.
The soil is mainly clay on the Right Bank, creating wines that are moderately bold and plummy, but with a softer tannin.
“Wines from Saint-Émilion Premier Grand Cru Classé and Grand Cru have aromas of red berry fruit with ripe tannins and hints of tobacco and cedar. Wines from Pomerol AC have aromas of blackberry and are richer with spicy notes. Both command premium prices.” says Jenny.
Right Bank Bordeaux regions include Libournais, Saint-Émilion, Pomerol, Bourg, and Blaye.
When asked if she has a preference for Left or Right Bank wine, Jenny says, “No preference! I enjoy both. From a blending perspective, I find it interesting to compare Left and Right Bank wines as you can see the different roles (structure, acidity, alcohol, and tannins) that Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot play according to the varying percentages in the blends.”