Bordeaux - The Growing environment & Grape Growing - Grape varieties

11 important questions on Bordeaux - The Growing environment & Grape Growing - Grape varieties

What are the main grape varieties in Bordeaux?

  • REDS:
    • Merlot (almost 60%)
    • Cabernet Sauvignon (20%)
    • Cabernet Franc (8%)
    • Malbec
    • Petit Verdot
  • WHITES
    • Sémillon (4%)
    • Sauvignon Blanc (4%)
    • Muscadelle (1%)
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Give facts about Merlot (60% planting) in Bordeaux, what are its benefits? What does it contribute in a blend?

  • Early budding > vulnerable to spring frost
  • Susceptible to coulure, drought, botrytis
    • sorting is necessary
    • can reduce yields
  • Benefit: Mid ripening > grapes can be picked before autumn rain
  • Benefit: Ripens fully in cooler years > better than CS
  • Dominant in (fertile damp cool soils with high clay content)
    • Right Bank
    • Cooler northern Médoc
  • waterholding capacity of clay > large berries
  • high sugar > higher potential alcohol than CS and CF
    • climate change > this less important
  • contributes:
    • red fruit
    • cooked blackberry
    • black plum
    • medium tannins
    • medium-high alcohol
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Give facts about Cabernet Sauvignon (20% of plantings) in Bordeaux, what are its benefits? What does it contribute in a blend?

  • Benefit: Late budding > some protection from spring frosts
  • Late ripening > vulnerable to early autumn rains
    • needs warmer soils and well-drained soils.
  • small-berried and thick skinned > high tannins
  • prone to fungal and trunk diseases
  • highest quality on warm, well-drained soils
    • gravel beds of Médoc
  • contributes:
    • violet
    • blackcurrant
    • black cherry
    • menthol or herbaceous flavours
    • medium alcohol
    • high acidity
    • high tannins
  • can struggle to ripen > blended with Merlot and Cabernet Franc
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Give facts about Cabernet Franc in Bordeaux, what are its benefits? What does it contribute in a blend?

  • Benefit: Well suited to cool inland climates
  • Benefit: Buds, matures early -> easier to ripen fully vs. Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Benefit: less susceptible to poor weather at harvest
  • lighter in colour
  • tannins and higher acidity vs. Cabernet Sauvignon
  • earlier maturing vs. Cab Sauvignon
Contributes:
  • red fruit
  • high acidity
  • medium tannins
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Give facts about Petit Verdot in Bordeaux, what are its benefits? What does it contribute in a blend?

  • Buds early and prone to spring frosts
  • Ripens late, later than CS
    • > unpopular
  • Best in warmer parts of Médoc
  • Less than 5% in blend often
  • Contributes:
    • powerful
    • deeply coloured
    • spicy notes
    • high tannins
  • Increasingly valued > climate change > warmer > more easy to grow
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Give facts about Malbec in Bordeaux & Cahors, what are its benefits? What does it contribute in a Bordeaux blend?

  • Bordeaux: After frost of 1956 mainly replaced with Merlot, which is easier to grow in Bordeaux.
  • Cahors:
    • Black wine of Cahors -> deep ruby colour.
    • 4000ha planted (potential for 18.000ha) - 85% of plantings
    • Vigorous, needs canopy & yield management
    • Violet, red and black plum
    • m+/high tannins
    • Ageing potential
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Give facts about Sauvignon Blanc in Bordeaux, what are its benefits? What does it contribute in a blend?

  • See Loire section for basic information.
  • Buds and ripens early.
  • Increasing amounts of single variety wines made because due to popularity worldwide.
  • Contributes in dry and sweet botrytis-affected wines:
    • grassy
    • gooseberry
    • high acidity
    • Note: flavours do not evolve but hold only
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Grape varieties in Bordeaux

  • REDS:
    • Merlot
    • Cabernet Sauvignon
    • Cabernet Franc
    • Malbec
    • Petit Verdot
  • WHITES
    • Sémillon
    • Sauvignon Blanc
    • Muscadelle
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Give facts about Sémillon in Bordeaux, what are its benefits? What does it contribute in a blend?

  • mid-ripening
  • susceptible to botrytis bunch and noble rot (benefit)
  • benefit: can carry high yields
  • Contributes:
    • light intensity apple, lemon
    • if unripe: grassy
    • medium body, alcohol
    • medium - medium+ acidity
    • medium intense aromas, weight and body
    • Benefit: softens SB's intense favours and high acidity
    • strong affinity with vanilla and sweet spice from new French oak
    • Benefit: ageability; toast and honey
    • Botrytis: honey, dried fruit, waxy
      • more susceptible to botrytis than SB > top Sauternes high amount of Sémillon (vs SB)
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Give facts about Muscadelle in Bordeaux. What does it contribute in a blend?

  • Prone to botrytis bunch rot
    • > Needs to be planted on well-exposed site
  • Vast majority used in sweet white wines
  • contributes:
    • flowery and grapey notes
  • not related to Muscat
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Describe the contribution that the grape varieties grown in Bordeaux make to the character of the Appellation Controlee wines in which they are used. Illustrate your answer with examples of wines from the region.

Describe the 8 grapes (5 red, 3 white) and their contributions.
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