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Wine Folly

Quick Answer

  • A red Bordeaux blend is primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc with smaller portions of Malbec and Petit Verdot.
  • The white Bordeaux blend is primarily Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon with a splash of Muscadelle mixed in (not the same grape as Moscato).

So many American traditions are borrowed from the French (omelette anyone?), wine is no exception. The most popular grapes in the United States (Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon) are both French varieties, and many of the techniques practiced in the States were learned from French winemakers. So, it’s not a surprise that we would create a wine blend and name it after the blends origin place, if for no other reason than to don respect.

What Grape Varieties make up a Bordeaux Blend?

White and Red Bordeaux Blends - types of varieties

Famous Wine Blends Poster Chart

Blends vs. Single Varietal Wines

The term single-varietal wine implies that the wine has 100% of one type of grape in it (e.g. Chardonnay, Merlot, etc). However, in the United States this is a little misleading because legally, wineries can blend up to 25% other grapes. Regardless, wine blends can be quite good because a quality winemaker will use variety, like ingredients, to create a perfect flavor recipe. This is exactly what the Bordeaux blend is all about. Of course, wine blends are also common in the value wine market, which is why many give it a poor reputation. But again, it really depends on what you’re drinking!

3 Different Bordeaux Blends To Get To Know

Bordeaux is divided by a large river estuary called the Gironde. This is where we get the terms “Left Bank” and “Right Bank” Bordeaux. Each side is known for using different red blends to make their wines (and also have slightly different climate/terroirs). There is also a third Bordeaux blend, rarely mentioned, made of white grapes.

1. Right Bank Bordeaux

The Libournais area, or ‘right bank’ as it’s informally named, makes wines primarily with Merlot as the main blending grape. Wines from the right bank are known for their bold style, but because of the proportions of Merlot, they tend to be slightly smoother, with more subtle tannin.

Primary Grapes of the Libournais region:

  1. Merlot
  2. Cabernet Franc
  3. Cabernet Sauvignon

2. Left Bank Bordeaux

The ‘left bank’ of Bordeaux contains 2 main regions, Médoc and Graves, each with several smaller appellations. On the left bank, Cabernet Sauvignon is the primary blending grape lending the wines a peppery flavor and bolder tannin.

Primary Grapes of Médoc and Graves regions:

  1. Cabernet Sauvignon
  2. Merlot
  3. Cabernet Franc

White Bordeaux

The last blend of Bordeaux is not red at all. Bordeaux Blanc is a zesty blend of primarily Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc (with a tiny bit of Muscadelle and/or Sauvignon Gris). Bordeaux blanc wines may only account for less than 10% of Bordeaux production, but they are very famous, especially for the rich golden-hued sweet dessert white wine called Sauternes.

 

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