Of all the great wines that come from France, Bordeaux must be counted as one of the greatest, if not the greatest. The area is found in the southwest coast of France on the Bay of Biscay and has 54 appellations, or government approved areas where the vineyards grow. The great wine districts are Medoc, St. Emilion, Pomerol, Sauternes, Barsac, Graves, Loupiac and Entre Deux-Mers. Red wine and white wine are produced, with the reds being described as elegant and the less common whites having a distinctive bouquet. Now, many of the grapes that make these wines are raised successfully in Australia.
The excellence of these wines has much to do with the climate and the terroir, the
overall environment in which the grape grows. The climate is stabilized by the
nearness of the sea and many rivers. Forests at the coast protect the vineyards
from salt air and cut down on the rainfall. Though the terroir of the districts vary, in
general the bedrock of the area is mineral rich, and the topsoil is impoverished.
Enthusiasts consider this a good thing, as the grapevine must suffer and its roots
must dig deep in order to produce a good vintage.
Red and White
There are six families of reds and two families of white Bordeaux wines. The reds
are Red, Red Superieur, Red Cotes, Left Bank and Right Bank. The whites are
simply sweet and dry.
Bordeaux red wines are traditionally made from a mixture of three or four grapes,
and their proportions depend on the preferences of the vintner. The most popular
grape for reds is the Cabernet Sauvignon. This a small, purple grape with tough
skin that’s often blended with Malbec and Merlot grapes. Other grapes used include the Cabernet Franc, Marselan and Petit Verdot. Wines made with Cabernet Sauvignon grapes improve with age, even in the bottle.
Reds include Medoc, Margaux, St. Julien, Pauillac, Graves, St. Emilion and Pomerol. They are dry and medium-bodied and go well with roast beef, braised lamb, ham and other meat.
White wines are also created from blends of grapes, mostly the Muscadelle,
Cabernet Blanc and Semillion, though grapes such as Ugni Blanc, Petit Manseng
and Sauvignon Gris are now allowed. They are blended together to create either a sweet Sauternes wine or or dry Graves. The Sauvignon Blanc is the chief grape
that’s used, and the Semillon is prized for its ability to rot nobly. This means that
when the temperature and humidity is just right the grape is attacked by a fungus
that softens the skin and allows the juice to evaporate. This concentrates the
grape’s sugar and flavors and gives the wines made from it a creamy taste. Though the skin of some of these grapes is pinkish, the white wine they produce occurs because the skins are removed before fermentation.
These white wines go very well with fish or chicken, and some people even serve
them with sushi or ceviche.
Wines from France have an interesting amount of information on their label. The
label shows the chateau, or estate where the bottle originated and its récolte, or
vintage. It may also read “Mis en bouteilles au chateau," which means it was bottled at the place where it was made.