From the Wine Cellar Insider:
Bordeaux wine gains its unique character and flavor profile from a combination of the grapes planted in the vineyards, the terroir and soil of Bordeaux, climate and the choices made by the wine maker. But it all starts in the vineyard with Bordeaux wine grapes.
First off, it’s important to note that a large part of what makes Bordeaux wine great, is that 99% of all the top wines are produced from blends of different grape varieties. Even though the Bordeaux wine being made today bears little resemblance to the wines produced in the region when the 1855 Classification took place for much of the appellation, the best wines of Bordeaux have always been produced using a blend of different grapes.
It’s the whole of its parts that comes from blending grape varieties that creates the magic tasted in Bordeaux wine. There are a few stunning 100% Merlot wines from Pomerol and St. Emilion, but the vast majority of the time, Merlot, due to its rich, opulent textures is the perfect pairing for blending with the more tannic, firmer Cabernet Sauvignon grape.
Keep in mind, the terroir and climate in Bordeaux is much different than you find in California, so while wines from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon are sublime from regions like Napa Valley, on its own, Cabernet Sauvignon planted in the gravelly terroir of Bordeaux is too hard and austere.
But when blending with other grapes, the wine gains in complexity in the nose and more importantly, the textures and mouth feel of the wine at its best develops elegance and opulence and silky, velvet textures. While Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are unarguably the two most important grapes used in Bordeaux blends, you can also find varying amounts of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec in the blends. But that wasn’t always the case as you will see.
Cabernet Franc is one of three main grapes used in Bordeaux wine blends. The grape reaches its best expression and potential in the limestone soils found in the Bordeaux wine appellation of St. Emilion. Pomerol also offers fertile soils for the varietal.
Cabernet Franc is planted with varying degrees of success in other French wine regions; for example, the Loire Valley. In fact, the Loire Valley is where Cabernet Franc first became popular during the 1600’s. It at least 100 more years before plantings of Cabernet Franc began to appear in Saint Emilion and Pomerol.
While Cabernet Franc first earned its popularity in the Loire Valley in the 1700’s, when it was known by its original name, Bouchet, perhaps its greatest claim to fame is due to the fact that it gave birth to Cabernet Sauvignon after it was crossed with Sauvignon Blanc.
It has continued gaining in popularity in America with its best success taking place in California in the Napa Valley, Washington State and Oregon. Cabernet Franc is also planted in other wine producing countries including: Italy, (in Tuscany in the Bolgheri wines as well as in Friuli), Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, Hungary, Canada, Bulgaria, Croatia and most recently China.
Read more at:https://www.thewinecellarinsider.com/wine-topics/wine-educational-questions/grapes-for-wine-making-flavor-characteristics-explained/cabernet-franc-wine-grapes-flavors-character-and-history/
Cabernet Sauvignon is planted all over the world in a myriad of climates. It reaches its full potential in Bordeaux, especially in the Medoc as well as in Pessac Leognan, and of course the Napa Valley region in California. It is used to produce much of the world’s most expensive wine.
It is also used to make a lot of inexpensive wine. Cabernet Sauvignon continues to gain in popularity as a grape for wine. To illustrate the grapes explosive growth, in 1990, it was the 8th most widely planted varietal in the world. By 2010, it jumped to being the world’s most popular grape variety!
To give you an idea on how popular Cabernet Sauvignon is today, there are over 300,000 hectares of the grape planted all over the world. That is more than 741,300 acres! In 1990, 100,000 hectares were planted. Cabernet Sauvignon is so popular, the grape has its own holiday, International Cabernet Sauvignon Day is celebrated every August 30.
Clearly, Cabernet Sauvignon is now the most famous red wine grape in the world. What you might find surprising is, it was created relatively recently. At some point in the 17th century, it is thought that Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc was originally the creation of nature when the vines first propagated.
From there, French wine growers continued crossing Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. This new creation was named as you can see from the two varieties it was created from, Cabernet Sauvignon.
Because of this natural creation, Cabernet Sauvignon is limited in its genetic diversity. Working with the natural selection, growers continued working on the new variety to bring out its special flavors, tannins and tough, thick skins that made it easy to grow and harvest.
Merlot is the most popular and widely planted wine grape varietal in France, reaching its true zenith of expression in Bordeaux wine. Around the world, it’s the fifth most planted wine grape.
Merlot has also been used to make stunning wines in Tuscany and to a much lesser degree in Switzerland, Australia, Argentina and numerous other countries, as well as in America. Merlot continues to gain in popularity as a grape for wine. In 1990, Merlot was the 7th most popular grape.
By 2010, Merlot jumped to second place as the world’s most widely planted grape. Only Cabernet Sauvignon has more vines planted.
According to studies conducted by the University of California in Davis, the Merlot grape is related to Cabernet Franc and Carmenere. Thanks to DNA, it is now thought that Merlot is a cross between Cabernet Franc and the obscure grape Magdeleine Noire des Charentes.
Merlot started earning a reputation for producing quality wine in 1784, due to the growing fame of the wines produced in the Right Bank of Bordeaux.
While the Right Bank of Bordeaux discovered Merlot in 1784, it took several decades until the grape started to become widely accepted in the Medoc, even though it is only used as a blending variety in that region.
Merlot based wines are perfect for the lunch or dinner table, It’s naturally soft textures and rich flavors works well with a diverse array of foods. For the best wine and food pairing tips.
Try matching Merlot wines with meat, lamb, veal and stewed dishes. Mushrooms, chicken and pork work great. Depending on the preparation, use it with fish, if you add earthy sauces or flavorings. Merlot based wines are also perfect for a myriad of different cheeses. Merlot and Chocolate work for some people, although it’s never excited me personally.
The grape earned its moniker from its eye catching, dark, blue color. Merle in French is translated into a blackbird, which could be taken to reference either the color or the birds fondness for the sweet flavored, thin skinned grape.
Merlot is now so popular, it has its own holiday. International Merlot Day is celebrated every November 7. International Merlot Day
Merlot thrives best in the clay and limestone soils of Pomerol, Saint Emilion and Lalande de Pomerol. In those soils, Merlot delivers a unique expression that Christian Moueix, the owner of Trotanoy, La Fleur Petrus and other estates that combines feminine and opulent qualities.
So, there you have the three main varietals of the Bordeaux region. Also found here are Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Carmenere. White varietals include: Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Muscadelle, and Sauvignon Gris.
I intend to try them all! And at this point, you know as much as I do about Bordeaux wines.