Bordeaux is widely seen as the mecca of the wine world. Its iconic red Bordeaux blends have set the standard for wine production all over the globe with many winemakers inspired by its approach. Stellenbosch red blends in South Africa and Meritage in California are top-tier examples of wines inspired by Bordeaux.
The Left and Right Banks of Bordeaux differ in the grapes they use and in their appellation systems. On the Left Bank, red blends are dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon followed by Merlot, Cabernet Franc and, in some years, Petit Verdot.
Still white wines are typically a blend of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc although varietal wines of the latter are also widely made.
The world-renowned sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac are made from noble rot-affected Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle.
The best display concentrated black fruit, high acidity, full-body, and high tannins and have the structure for decades of ageing.
In terms of appellations systems, four dominate the Left Bank in order from highest to lowest.
The 1855 Classification – the Cru System
A famous wine classification of 1855 is still in place on the Left Bank with châteaux in this system producing some of the most elite and costly wines in the world. These are found in the Médoc and Pessac-Léognan areas. It’s important to note that it’s the produces rather than individual wines that are classified. They are referred to as crus and can be red or white wines.
This classification emerged in response to the 1855 Classification. Médoc producers who were excluded from the cru system are covered under this appellation. Unlike the cru system, each château is assessed on specific wines and must re-submit annually to gain the classification. This classification is a tier below the cru system, but the wines are still of exceptional quality.
Bordeaux Supérieur AOC
These early-drinking wines are made from fruit harvested from all over Bordeaux as opposed to specific, quality vineyards. They are always red and have stricter production criteria and higher alcohol levels than Bordeaux AOC, one tier below.
These early-drinking wines are also made from fruit harvested from all over Bordeaux. They can be red, white, or rosé. While on the lowest rung of the Bordeaux appellation system, the quality of these wines has improved enormously in recent years and the best can offer very good value for money.
Fun Fact: Historically, Dutch and British traders contributed significantly to the shaping of the Bordeaux wine industry.