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The First 4 Wines You Must Try From Bordeaux

- Updated

It’s hard to deny the importance of Bordeaux in drinks history because many of the world’s top wines originated here.

So, what wines should you taste to get to know Bordeaux better? Let’s dive into the 4 major styles of Bordeaux wine and what you need to know to find great quality.

Complete Bordeaux Guide: Out now! See the complete guide to Bordeaux to find your next bottle – See Guide

In this video, Madeline walks through a tasting of the 4 Bordeaux wine styles you must try.

Bordeaux is one of the most difficult regions to master because of its complexity. Fortunately, it’s not hard to start enjoying Bordeaux by tasting its 4 major wine styles.

  1. Cabernet Sauvignon Blend: A Cabernet Sauvignon-based blend from the Médoc.
  2. Merlot Blend: Merlot-based blend from the Libournais.
  3. White Bordeaux: A dry white wine of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc.
  4. Sweet Bordeaux: A rich, golden sweet wine.

winefolly-illustrations-cabernet-sauvignon-bordeaux

Cabernet Sauvignon Blends

Cabernet Sauvignon originated in Bordeaux sometime during the 1700s. So, it’s a great first wine to try from this area!

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Of course, Bordeaux makes wine blends that are labeled after the appellation so you can’t just pick up a bottle of wine called “Cabernet.” You need to find a wine from an appellation that specializes in Cabernet Sauvignon-based blends.

Look for wines from the 8 Médoc appellations

In Bordeaux, the Médoc (aka “Left Bank”) specializes in Cabernet Sauvignon-based blends. These 8 appellations are famous for their bold and savory style of Cabernet Sauvignon that’s often blended with a touch of Merlot and Petit Verdot.

In the tasting video, we sourced a bottle from the Haut-Médoc appellation which offers great value. Cabernet Sauvignon-based blends from this region make great wines for your cellar because they have higher tannins and acidity. Here are a few clues to find your own bottle:

  • Check the vintage: Check the vintage chart for buying red wines in Bordeaux.
  • Look for “Grand Vin de Bordeaux”: If you’re buying value, look for the words “Grand Vin de Bordeaux” – the winery’s top wine.
  • Identify the Classification: Bordeaux has several classifications in Médoc to identify quality.

winefolly-illustrations-merlot-bordeaux

Merlot Blends

Merlot is the most planted grape throughout Bordeaux which means most red wines use Merlot in the blend.

Two major regions produce Merlot-based red wines in Bordeaux: Libournais and Entre-Deux-Mers. These areas are often referred to as the “Right Bank” because of their location on the eastern side of the Garonne river.

In the tasting video, we sourced a Merlot and Cabernet Franc blend from Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux which is a red wine appellation in Entre-Deux-Mers. What was interesting to taste was the stark contrast between this wine versus the Cabernet. The Merlot-blend was much more plush and velvety with lower tannins and more fruit flavors.

Here are a few clues to find your own bottle:

  • Look for Bordeaux Supérieur and Côtes de Bordeaux for value: These appellations offer some of Bordeaux’s best red wine values.
  • Check the vintage: Check the vintage chart for any red wines in Bordeaux.
  • Looking for high-end?: Saint-Émilion and Pomerol are home to the Right Bank’s most critically acclaimed Merlot-based wines. These are two areas to explore for top quality that rivals the best of the Médoc.

winefolly-illustrations-white-bordeaux

White Bordeaux

Dry white wines make up less than 10% of the wine production in Bordeaux. Nevertheless, White Bordeaux has a serious following because it’s delicious!

These wines use mostly Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes. Together, these varieties make a richer and more peachy wine, with Sauvignon Blanc’s long, tingly finish.

In Bordeaux, the only appellations that make white Bordeaux sit in Graves and Entre-Deux-Mers. So, most wineries label the wines simply as “Bordeaux.”

In this tasting, we sourced a wine that was 70% Sémillon and 30% Sauvignon Blanc. It comes from the exclusive Sauternes sweet wine appellation, but since it’s a dry white wine, it’s required to be declassified to basic Bordeaux. Great quality for under $20 a bottle!

  • Look in Graves and Entre-Deux-Mers: Most White Bordeaux comes from these two areas.

winefolly-illustrations-sweet-bordeaux-sauternes

Sweet Bordeaux

The last wine to taste to round out your understanding of Bordeaux is a sweet white wine from the Sauternais region. These wines are golden-colored and richly sweet with honey and apricot flavors!

The area that specializes in these sweet wines includes Sauternes (“sew-turn”) which is the most famous sweet wine in Bordeaux.

In this tasting, we sourced a wine from Barsac, which is right next door to Sauternes. And, because it doesn’t have the same name recognition as Sauternes it offers better values. Normally, these wines sell for hundreds of dollars a half-bottle, so value-hunting is a must if you’re on a budget.


More on Bordeaux? See the Guide!

If you’d like to learn more about Bordeaux, definitely check out the complete guide to Bordeaux. The region guide includes a knowledge base, wineries, and wines, all in one place.

The best part is it’s free!

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AboutMadeline Puckette

James Beard Award-winning author and Wine Communicator of the Year. I co-founded Wine Folly to help people learn about wine. @WineFolly