What Grape Varieties make up a Bordeaux Blend?


August 31, 2015 Blog » Learn About Wine » What Grape Varieties make up a Bordeaux Blend?

Quick Answer

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

Many American culinary traditions are borrowed from the French (omelette anyone?), and wine making 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’ place of origin, if for no other reason than to don respect.

What Grape Varieties Make Up a Bordeaux Blend?

bordeaux-blends-grapes-winefolly
Surprise suprise! Merlot is the most planted red wine grape in Bordeaux.

3 Bordeaux Blends To Try

Bordeaux is divided by a large river estuary called the Gironde. This is where we get the terms “Left Bank” and “Right Bank,” which refer to winemaker’s use of different dominant grapes in their red Bordeaux wines. There is also a third Bordeaux blend, rarely mentioned, made of white grapes.

“Right Bank” Bordeaux

The Libournais area, or “Right Bank” as it’s informally named, makes wines with Merlot as the primary 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.

Libournais region grapes (in order of importance):

  1. Merlot (usually over 60% of the blend)
  2. Cabernet Franc

“Left Bank” Bordeaux

The “Left Bank” of Bordeaux contains two 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 tannins.

Médoc and Graves region grapes (in order of importance):

  1. Cabernet Sauvignon (usually over 60% of the blend)
  2. Merlot
  3. Cabernet Franc
  4. Malbec
  5. Petit Verdot (usually under 2% of the blend)

white-bordeaux-blend-winefolly

White Bordeaux

The last blend of Bordeaux wine 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 wine production, but they are very famous, especially for the rich golden-hued sweet dessert white wine called Sauternes.


12x16 France Bordeaux wine map by Wine Folly

Learn More About Bordeaux

This article will introduce you to the Bordeaux wine region and includes tasting notes, food pairing suggestions, a wine map, and key details to drink better wine.

 


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By Madeline Puckette
I'm a certified sommelier and creator of the NYT Bestseller, Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine. Find me out there in the wine world @WineFolly