+1 855.946.3338
Bordeaux entails left/right decision

Bordeaux entails left/right decision

I recently overheard an interesting conversation between a wine retailer and customer. The customer was looking for a nice bottle of wine to give as a gift. The two talked about regions and price, and the shopper said with confidence that he was searching for a Bordeaux wine.

(I admit I eavesdrop a lot in retail stores because I love to hear the questions consumers ask.) The next question was from the retailer: “Were you thinking right bank or left?” With this wine-speak question, of course, I had to sneak a quick peek and continue listening. And as would have been expected it was a term the customer was not familiar with concerning Bordeaux wines.

The term “left bank” versus “right bank” is an easy lesson in the sometimes difficult-to-understand language of French wines. It refers to the geography of the region. The main river in Bordeaux, the Gironde, passes through the core of Bordeaux’s most prestigious vineyards. There are two smaller rivers, the Dordogne and Garonne, that merge to form the Gironde. If you’re looking at a map, the left bank is south (or left) of the Garonne and the right bank is north (or right) of the Dordogne. (The area in the middle, the Entre Deux Mers, is mostly forest with only a handful of vineyards.)

Red wines make up almost 90 percent of wine produced in Bordeaux. Most red Bordeaux is blended from cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec, cabernet franc and petit verdot, but each grape thrives in different growing areas.

Most white Bordeaux is made of sauvignon blanc, semillon and muscadelle.

The left bank boasts regions such as Margaux and Pauillac. Cabernet sauvignon dominates this area because the vine demands well-drained, gravelly soils. Unlike some grapes, cabernet sauvignon does not grow well with its roots lying in soggy soil.

The right bank includes the regions Pomerol and St. Emilion, and is home to world-renowned wineries such as Petrus and Cheval Blanc. The soil of the right bank has more clay, leading to less drainage. In this soil, merlot and cabernet franc take the lead, and cabernet sauvignon plays a very small role. Merlot wines tend to be more fruit-forward and they mature earlier than many of the wines dominated by cabernet.


  • 2013 Chateau Pilet Bordeaux Blanc, right bank/Entre Deux Mers, France (about $13 retail)


  • 2012 Chateau Mongravey, left bank, France (about $50 retail)

Fussy Bordeaux seeks sleeker image

When most of us think of French wines, too often what comes to mind are expensive prices, confusing labels and unfamiliar, esoteric terminology.

Even though many French wines are among my favorites, the wines have never seemed very user friendly. And it’s easy to spend more time trying to figure out what to buy than simply enjoying the wine.

But that doesn’t have to be the case. Near the end of 2009, Bordeaux launched a new campaign — “Life Goes Better With Bordeaux” — aimed at honing its image and capturing a larger share of the U.S. market. Aware that consumers often search the Internet for information and recommendations, Bordeaux launched a new Web site, www.enjoybordeaux.com.

The site offers sections for live chats, Bordeaux event listings from around the world, recommended wines priced under $25 (100 listed) and tips and facts about Bordeaux. There is much information that could change consumers’ perceptions about Bordeaux. I found the site easy to navigate with helpful tips.

The following are my picks for wines less than $25 and produced in the Bordeaux region of France.

  • 2007 Chateau Bonnet Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot (about $19 retail)
  • 2007 Chateau Bel Air Haut Medoc (about $24 retail)
  • 2008 Chateau Bonnet Bordeaux Blanc (about $15 retail)
  • 2007 Chateau De Clairefont Margaux (about $25 retail)
  • 2007 Chateau Mayne Pargade Blanc (about $10 retail)
  • 2007 Michel Lynch Merlot (about $13 retail)
  • 2007 Mouton-Cadet Red Bordeaux (about $10 retail)