Some of the most popular wines in the world are Bordeaux wines. Despite the name being synonymous with high cost, all Bordeaux wines are not necessarily the highest quality of wines you can get, as some of them can actually taste pretty ordinary. So, if you are looking towards Bordeaux wines as an investment or just to have around home, having a bit of knowledge on them is always good to have to prevent you from getting ripped off, or just to know exactly what you are purchasing.
A Bordeaux wine is simply any wine produced in the Bordeaux region of France, which is one of many French wine regions. In this area alone, there are over 9000 wineries and vineyards. In general, Bordeaux red blends are the most popular, but there are also notable sweet white wines, dry whites, rose, and sparkling wines.
History of Bordeaux Wine
Like all French wines, the history of Bordeaux wines is very old, stretching back to 48 AD when the Ancient Romans used the area to grow grapes to make the wine for its soldiers. Although the wine was very popular domestically, it was rarely exported, as the volumes produced in the area were generally quite low. However, this changed dramatically in the 12th century with the marriage of Henry Plantagenet (Henry II) and Eleanor of Aquitaine. The marriage effectively made the province of Aquitaine an English territory, which meant that the majority of Bordeaux wine was exported. However, at the end of the Hundred Years' War the French reclaimed the territory.
In 1725, the Bordeaux region saw the number of vineyards spread rapidly. This required the region to be divided into specific areas so people buying the wine could tell exactly where each one was from. As a consequence, all bottles were labelled with the region and the area from which they originated.
At the height of their popularity, nearly all Bordeaux wine vineyards were nearly destroyed through infestations of Phylloxera. If not for the importation of root-stock from America (which were pest resistant), the Bordeaux wine industry may not have survived. As a consequence of this slowdown in production, other regions in France started producing wine and labelling them as Bordeaux. The government was called into action to save the Bordeaux region, and a law was imposed that demanded only products made in the Bordeaux region could be labelled as such. From here, the region has seen its ups and downs economically, but has survived to produce some of the most sought-after wines in the world, both for investment purposes and for drinking.
Grapes Produced in the Bordeaux Region
What is known as Claret in the UK, Red Bordeaux is made from a blend of grapes. The grapes used officially are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenere, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. The blend of these grapes can vary widely within the region. For example, a "Bordeaux Blend" will consist of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc and is common of the areas on the left bank of the Gironde estuary, whereas Merlot will dominate the blends produced in areas on the right bank.
White Bordeaux, while not as common as the Bordeaux red blends, are generally made from Semillon, Muscadelle and Sauvignon Blanc, with typical blends being an 80/20 Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc
In all, Bordeaux wines can be a very sophisticated choice of wine. They can be very expensive, but many tend to appreciate with age, not only in taste but in monetary value. However, because of their complexity, you should learn as much as you can about Bordeaux wines before purchasing in order to get full value!