WINE TRAVEL: EXPLORING BORDEAUX, FRANCE

Bordeaux is the largest wine region in France, in terms of volume and value. Many of the most prestigious fine wines are produced there.

Bordeaux’s climate is moderated by its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and the presence of the various rivers (the Dordogne, the Garonne and the Gironde Estuary). The warm ocean current extends the growing season. At the same time, the Atlantic also brings high levels of rainfall and humidity. The Landes forest and the sand dunes protect the vineyards from strong, salt-bearing winds coming off the ocean.

Almost all red Bordeaux wines and most whites are produced from a blend. A reason that most Bordeaux reds are made from a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon is that these two varieties flower and ripen at different times, which spreads the risk posed by variable weather conditions. In years when the autumn is wet, the Cabernet Sauvignon harvest suffers from rot and dilution, but the earlier-ripening Merlot provides a back-up. When the spring is wet, the Merlot flowers poorly, leaving the Cabernet Sauvignon to take up the responsibility of providing a good harvest.

Merlot is the most planted red wine grape in the vineyards of Bordeaux, accounting for around 65% of all vines, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carmenère are also permitted, but only make up around two percent of the red grape total.

Bordeaux’s white wines are generally blends of  Semillon (49% of plantings) Sauvignon Blanc, (43%) and, less often, Muscadelle (6%).

To discover Bordeaux blend reds we suggest to taste the 2010 Château Belgrave Grand Cru Classé. The estate is located in the Haut-Médoc, one of the highly rated areas of Bordeaux, and was classed as a Fifth Growth in the 1855 classification of the Médoc and Graves. The 2010 Château Belgrave is a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot.

The wine has a complex bouquet, though still restrained by the wine’s youth, and exudes powerful, fruit-laden, spicy notes with a hint of mint. The wine is generous, silky and very well balanced on the palate, and gains structure from the extremely fine-grained Cabernet tannins. The body, structure and freshness of the wine are remarkably well balanced, and add to the exceptionally long finish. An extremely elegant Belgrave wine, born of a vintage of great ageing potential.

Vivino: 4.1

Amsterdam, April 28th 2020