For years, I’ve said that I love Bordeaux wines. I just love the combination of the Bordeaux grapes. For reds, these include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet France, Malbec, Petit Verdot and to a lesser extent Carmenere. For whites, this includes Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. Just today, I learned that there are big differences between Right Bank and Left Bank Bordeaux wines. Who knew? So today we’re going to do an introduction to Right Bank vs. Left Bank Bordeaux wines. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do. Of course, I won’t truly enjoy this until I schedule a Right Bank vs. Left Bank tasting.
Let’s Start with Geography
Decanter describes the geography perfectly: “The very simple answer is that the Left Bank and Right Bank are two Bordeaux winemaking regions separated by an estuary and two rivers. Situated on the west coast of France, Bordeaux is split in two by the Gironde Estuary, which divides into the Dordogne and Garonne rivers. When looking at a map of the region, the area to the north and right of the Gironde is the Right Bank and the areas below and to the left constitute the Left Bank. More specifically, the Right Bank is the area to the north of the Dordogne river and the Left Bank is the area directly south of the Garonne River, both of which feed into the Gironde estuary that meets the Atlantic Ocean. The joining of these three forms a shape like an upside down ‘Y’ with the two banks on either side and the area in between known as the ‘Entre-deux-Mers’.”
Important Names to Know When Studying Right Bank vs. Left Bank Bordeaux Wines
The Left Bank includes the much acclaimed Médoc wine region north of Bordeaux. Medoc’s four best-known appellations are St-Estèphe, Pauillac, St-Julien and Margaux.
The Right Bank’s most famous appellations are Pomerol and St-Emilion, with St-Emilion having four ‘satellite’ appellations: Montagne-, Lussac-, Puisseguin- and St-Georges St-Emilion.
On the Left Bank of Bordeaux, the best terroirs are predominantly gravel based. On the Right Bank of Bordeaux, the soils are dominated by clay and limestone. Of course, you will find some clay, limestone and sand in the Left Bank, and gravel and sand in the Right Bank.
The lead grape in the Left Bank is Cabernet Sauvignon followed by Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The lead grape in the Right Bank is Merlot followed by Cabernet Franc. You will find all the grapes on both sides, but these are the primary ones. Left Bank wines tend to have more tannin than Right Bank wines.
Size of Vineyards
In the Left Bank, you find huge vineyards that can be as large as 100 hectares. In the Right Bank, the average size is five hectares.
With nearly 125,000 hectares of vineyards and 60 separate appellations, Bordeaux is one of the most highly classified wine regions in the region. In addition to the appellation map, it’s helpful to know about the 1855 Classification of the Médoc and the 1955 Classification of St-Emilion. According to The Wine Cellar Insider, “The historic 1855 Bordeaux Classification stands as the single most important and famous classification of any wine region in the world. Almost 160 years later, this historic document continues to stand the test of time, with almost no changes. In fact, since 1855, the official classification of Bordeaux wines from the Medoc has only allowed two modifications in almost 160 years!”
The Right Bank got its classification 100 years after the Left Bank. So, is it less important? I’m sure people from the Left Bank would say it is. And they would gleefully talk about the fact the St-Emilion Classification has had many versions. So, is it really legitimate? Of course it is. I know almost nothing about these classifications. So, I will leave this topic for another day.
I hope this walk down the Left Bank and the Right Bank provided some new information for you. I would love to know, which Bank are you a bigger fan of?
As an independent wine consultant with WineShop At Home, I absolutely enjoy bringing a taste of the Napa wine country home to you one sip at a time. Whether you simply love to drink wine, seek a special personalized wine gift, or are in search of a new wine jobs opportunity as a wine consultant, feel free to contact me for a truly unique wine tasting experience!
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