Bordeaux Wine Region – an Introduction to Wine from Bordeaux

Bordeaux refers to wines that come from the wine producing region of Bordeaux in southwest France, the largest wine producing region in the country. Most of these are reds, made with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, but the region does have its famous whites, such as Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. Let’s take a whistle-stop tour through the Bordeaux wine region, taking in both the left and right banks, and exploring the key grape varieties from each.

Bordeaux wine regions – left bank, right bank

The Bordeaux wine region is separated into two main zones, the left bank and the right bank.

The left bank sits on the Atlantic Ocean side of the rivers Gironde and Garonnne, and the right bank to the right and north of the Dordogne River, which also feeds into the Gironde. The area in between the rivers is known as Entre Deux Mers, which means ‘between two seas’ in French. 

Bordeaux wines from the right bank are known for their bold style, but usually fairly smooth, with more subtle tannins. Left bank Bordeaux wines tend to be more peppery with bolder tannins. 

There are a notable 57 appellations across Bordeaux, making it the largest producer of appellation wines in France. It’s because the region is so vast, that there is so much variation across the wines, influenced by the stark diversity in climate and the soils that feed the vines. 

Bordeaux wines can be divided into five core categories.

First you have the red wines of left bank Médoc, Haut Médoc, Listrac and Moulis, and the more intense Margaux, Pauillac and St-Julien which will happily keep for up to 20 years. There’s also the earthy St-Estèphe, and the smoother Pessac-Léognan and Graves.

Then there’s the right bank red wine Bordeaux, including spicy Saint Emilion, velvety Pomerol and slightly less finessed Lalande de Pomerol.

You’ve also got the rustic wines of the Saint Emilion Satellites and the hill Bordeaux vineyards (the côtes) of Bourg, Fronsac and the Côtes de Bordeaux; reds and whites from the Entre-Deux-Mers region between the Garonne and Dordogne; and the great white wines from Graves and Sauternes. 

Wine from Bordeaux – grapes and tasting notes

Bordeaux wine is made from five red grape varieties, and three white.

Red wine from Bordeaux

Amongst the red wine Bordeaux produces, in terms of grapes you’ll find Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carménère. The very first Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot vines were grown in Bordeaux.

Dominant flavours include blackcurrant, plum, violet, cedar and graphite.

In general, the Bordeaux left bank is known for its Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated wines, and the right bank for Merlot. 

Red Bordeaux wines tend to be medium to full-bodied, with aromas of blackcurrant and plums, and earthy notes of gravel. You’ll usually find them brimming with mineral and fruit, eventually guiding the palette towards more of a savoury finish with dry tannins. The tannins are often abundant enough to allow these wines to age for many years. 

If you’re looking to pin down the best Bordeaux wine, then you’ll need to look at vintages. A good Bordeaux vintage won’t necessarily be over-priced, and may deliver exceptional value, as well having that ageing potential.

The main perpetrator for Bordeaux vintage variation is the weather. This region is heavily influenced by the Atlantic Ocean and the two rivers that cross it, but this maritime climate does a good job of protecting the vines from winter freeze and spring frost, so it has its plus points.

Great vintages tend to come along every five years, so it’s good to seek them out and stock up. 2015 and 2016 are both excellent vintages with fantastic ageing potential. 

Château Des Demoiselles Castillon 2015 is a great example. This crimson red wine carries complex aromas of red fruits, with vanilla and mocha sitting quietly in the background. The fruits burst through on the palate, accompanied by velvety tannins and a rounded finish.

Château Des Demoiselles Castillon 2015 Bordeaux Wine

Château Gabelot Bordeaux 2016 is a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. This rich, harmonious, medium-bodied wine is already delicious, but thanks to the great vintage will continue to age well over the next few years.

Château Gabelot Bordeaux 2016

White wine from Bordeaux

White Bordeaux wine region grapes are Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Muscadelle. Dominant flavours include grapefruit, lemon and lime, gooseberry, lemon curd and chamomile.

Sémillon is the foundation of the region’s sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac. Bordeaux is also renowned for outputting exceptional dry white wines, for example those under the Graves sub-region and the Bordeaux appellation itself.

Sauvignon blanc is the grape that plays the starring role in fresh, crispy Bordeaux blanc. It may be blended with Sémillon to form a rich, full-bodied wine, often with oaky undertones.

The Bordeaux blend

Talking of blending grapes, one of the key things to know about Bordeaux wines is that most are a blend of varieties, with a few exceptions.

The red wine Bordeaux blend is one of the most copied worldwide, primarily composed of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, with smaller portions of Malbec and Petit Verdot, and sometimes a splash of Carménère.

The white Bordeaux wine blend is primarily Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon, with a hint of Muscadelle.

Bordeaux wine – it’s got to be tried!

Keen to give Bordeaux wine a try? The Oddbins French Bordeaux range is certain to have exactly what you’re after. Not sure which of the Bordeaux wines will tempt your taste buds? Try our Vin de Bordeaux mixed case featuring reds from a variety of Bordeaux vineyards, or contact our helpful team for advice via Live Chat, e-mail or by calling 0800 328 23 23.