Wine Wise – Bordeaux Style

Before we get further along, you might be wondering: what, exactly, does “Bordeaux Style” or “Bordeaux Blend” actually mean?

Well, as you may have already discerned, Bordeaux is a region in France located here:


The Bordeaux region is huge: Napa is divided into 16 appellations, while in Bordeaux there are 60!  There are 6 varietals in Bordeaux that, by law, are allowable in the blends produced in the region:  Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petite Verdot, and Carmenere.  Not all 6 need to be included, but wine containing any varietal not in that list of 6 must be sold as merely as “Vin de France”.  The dominant varietal in red wine produced in Bordeaux is either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot; Left Bank wines feature Cabernet Sauvignon as the primary grape, and Right Bank wines feature Merlot.  The remaining varietals are usually found in small amounts, contributing characteristics such as color and additional tannin structure.

In the United States, if a wine label boasts a single varietal (e.g. “Cabernet Sauvignon” or “Chardonnay”), it must contain at least 80% of that varietal.  If the wine contains only 79% Merlot, the wine maker is not allowed to market the wine as “Merlot” and must call it something else (usually “Red Wine”).  Bordeaux-style Cabernet Sauvignon, such as the Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from Silver Oak Cellars, therefore must contain at least 80% Cabernet Sauvignon.  To be considered a Bordeaux-style blend, it must contain at least 3 of those 6 Bordeaux varietals.


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