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Flashcards in Bordeaux Deck (68):

What is the climate of Bordeaux?

Bordeaux has a Maritime climate.

Bordeaux is known for its high levels of rainfall and humidity, but it also benefits from the Gulf Stream which limits spring frosts and allows ripening to continue into October in certain years.


Where does the term Bordeaux come from?

Bordeaux gets its name from two French words, "bord" meaning border and "eau" meaning water. The region of Bordeaux does exactly that: borders the water of the Atlantic Ocean.


The first vineyards in Bordeaux were planted where and by whom?

Romans first planted grapes in an area most likely near Saint-Emilion in the first century B.C.


In terms of volume of wine produced, Bordeaux is the:

  • smallest
  • largest

region in France.

Largest in terms of volume.

The Bordeaux region makes approximately 900 million bottles of wine each year.


How many different appellations are approved for the Bordeaux region?

There are over 50 different appellations in Bordeaux.


Are the majority of wines from Bordeaux bottled as blends or single varietals?

Most red and white Bordeaux wines are blends.

Because of the uncertainty of the weather (rain and frost in particular), the Bordelais rely on different grapes that flower and ripen at different times.

White wines are usually blends of Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and some Muscadelle.

Red wines are typically blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.


What are the six main black/red grapes of Bordeaux?

The six main black/red grapes of Bordeaux are:

  • Merlot
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Petit Verdot
  • Malbec
  • Carmenère



What are the 3 main white grape varieties of Bordeaux?

  1. Sémillon
  2. Sauvignon Blanc
  3. Muscadelle



What is the most widely planted grape variety in Bordeaux?


Merlot accounts for around 66% of the black/red grapes planted in Bordeaux. This amounts to about 75,000 hectares. Cabernet Sauvignon is a distant second at around 25,000 hectares.


What kind of Bordeaux soil does the Merlot grape thrive in?

Merlot performs best in the cooler clay soils of Bordeaux.

Merlot is able to grow in soils too cool for Cabernet Sauvignon, making it the most widely planted grape on Bordeaux's Right Bank.


In what Bordeaux soils does Cabernet Sauvignon produce the best wines?

Cabernet Sauvignon performs best on the stone and gravel soils of the Left Bank.

The stony and gravelly soils of the Médoc and Graves are the only soils that can consistenly ripen Cabernet Sauvignon in Bordeaux. This is why the wines of the Left Bank are regularly associated with Cabernet Sauvignon.


What are the soils that produce the best Cabernet Franc in Bordeaux?

The best Cabernet Franc wines are made from limestone soils that are relatively warm and well drained.

Historically Cabernet Franc has done well in Saint-Émilion and as a minor component of the wines of the Médoc and Graves.


What are the 2 principal appellations of the Right Bank?

  1. Saint-Émilion
  2. Pomerol


What red grape varietal dominates the wines on the Right Bank?


Cabernet Franc and, to a lesser extent, Cabernet Sauvignon, play supporting roles in Right Bank blends.


How do the wines of Saint-Émilion and Pomerol differ?

Saint-Émilion wines tend to be well structured with a plush mouthfeel, soft and plummy, red berried-fruit, and layers of tobacco and cedar.

Pomerol is apt to be even richer, more velvety, and spicier than Saint-Émilion, with a darker, bluer fruit character.


Saint-Émilion can be loosely divided into 3 different groups of soils.  What are they?

  1. Warm, well-draining gravel and limestone to the north and west of the town of Saint-Émilion;
  2. Clay and limestone soils to the south and east of the town of Saint-Émilion;
  3. Sandy soils at the base of the escarpment found in Saint-Émilion.

The first two produce the finest wines of the appellation.


What is the difference between St.-Émilion Grand Cru and St.-Émilion Grand Cru Classé?

St.-Émilion Grand Cru is an AOP and only requires a producer to follow the AOP guidelines to label a wine as St.-Émilion Grand Cru. 

St.-Émilion Grand Cru Classé is a classification system and only ranked properties may be labeled as St.-Émilion Grand Cru Classé.


How often are the wines of Saint-Émilion reclassified?

At least once every 10 years.

Unlike the Médoc and Graves classifications which have remained fairly consistent since their inception, the Saint-Émilion properties are subject to promotions and demotions at least once a decade. The last classification was completed in 2012.


List the 4 St. Émilion Premier Grand Cru Classé A châteaux as of the 2012 ranking.

  1. Château Angélus 
  2. Château Ausone
  3. Château Cheval Blanc
  4. Château Pavie

Châteaux Angélus and Pavie were both elevated from Grand Cru Classé B in the 2012 classification.


What are the 4 satellites of Saint-Émilion?

From north to south, they are:

  1. Lussac-Saint-Émilion
  2. Montagne-Saint-Émilion
  3. Puisseguin-Saint-Émilion
  4. Saint-Georges-Saint-Émilion


What does the term 'garagiste' refer to?

'Garagiste' refers to small châteaux making red wines that are full-bodied, incredibly ripe and made in minute quantities from small plots of land, usually from the Right Bank of Bordeaux.

These wines typically spare no expense in the vineyard or the winery.  They command extremely high prices.

La Mondotte is an example of a garagiste.


What are the areas included in the Left Bank of Bordeaux?

  1. All of the Médoc
  2. Graves
  3. Sauternes


What is the dominant red grape on the Left Bank of Bordeaux?

Cabernet Sauvignon


What are the 7 appellations of the Haut-Médoc?

From north to south, they are:

  1. Haut-Médoc AOP
  2. Saint-Estèphe AOP
  3. Pauillac AOP
  4. Saint-Julien AOP
  5. Margaux AOP
  6. Moulis-en-Médoc AOP
  7. Listrac-Médoc AOP


What are the 4 communal appellations of the Médoc that have the highest reputation for their wines?

From north to south:

  • Saint-Estèphe AOP
  • Pauillac AOP
  • Saint-Julien AOP
  • Margaux AOP

Nearly all of the classified wines of the 1855 Classification of Bordeaux can be found in these communes. All of these communes are found in the more generic region of the Haut-Médoc.


Which commune in the Médoc is home to the most Premier Grand Cru Classé wines of the 1855 Classification?


Châteaux Lafite-Rothschild, Latour, and Mouton-Rothschild are all located in Pauillac.


Name the First Growths that were originally classified for their red wines in the 1855 Classification.

Pauillac AOP

  • Château Lafite-Rothschild
  • Château Latour

Margaux AOP

  • Château Margaux

Pessac-Léognan AOP

  • Château Haut-Brion

Château Mouton-Rothschild was elevated to First Growth from Second Growth in 1973.  The above list reflects the original classified properties.


What is the only château to be classified in both the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855 and the Graves Classification?

Château Haut-Brion

Not only was Château Haut-Brion the only wine from Graves to be a Premier Cru Classé wine, but it was the only wine from Graves in the entire 1855 Classificaiton. 

With the Graves Classification of the 1950s, Château Haut-Brion became the only estate in Bordeaux to be listed on two separate classifications.


How many changes have been made to the 1855 Classification since it was introduced at the Universal Exhibition in Paris?


1. Château Cantemerle was added as a Fifth Growth in 1855 while the Universal Exhibition was still running;

2. Mouton-Rothschild was elevated from Second Growth to First Growth in 1973;

3. Third Growth Margaux estate Château Dubignon was absorbed by Château Malescot St. Exupéry.


Due to the small size of the 1855 Classification, what other classification was introduced to rank the other important properties of the Left Bank of Bordeaux?

Cru Bourgeois

Cru Bourgeois is different from the 1st-5th Growths in that a château is bestowed Cru Bourgeois depending on their wine from a specific vintage; the estate itself is not ranked the way 1st-5th Growths are.


What is the only Premier Cru Supérieur (from Sauternes) of the 1855 Classification?

Château d'Yquem

Historically Château d'Yquem commanded much higher prices than any other Bordeaux wine. As the only Premier Cru Supérieur, Château d'Yquem is literally in a class by itself.


What grape varieties are used to make the sweet wines of Sauternes AOP?

Like all Bordeaux white wines, Sauternes AOP is made from:

  • Sémillon
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Muscadelle

Sémillon is used because of its thin skin and its high susceptibility to botrytis. Sauvignon Blanc adds acid and fruity aromas. Muscadelle brings perfume and other exotic scents to the wine.


What northernmost village within the Sauternes AOP has the right to label its wine under its own AOP?

Barsac AOP

Barsac is unique in that it can label its wines as either Barsac AOP or Sauternes AOP.


What is the main beneficial impact of Botrytis on white grapes, and how does it change the resulting wine?

The main impact of botrytis is diminishing the proportions of liquids to solids inside the grape. This concentrates flavors and creates a more complex and intense finished wine, including notes of saffron, ginger, mushrooms, and honey.

Botrytis will change the resulting wine by:

  • lowering the water content of the grape by 1/2
  • reducing sugar by 1/3
  • dropping tartaric acid by 5/6
  • diminishing malic acid by 1/3


How much wine will one vine's worth of botrytized grapes yield?

As a general rule, one vine's worth of botrytized grapes will produce between 1-3 glasses of wine.


Which two rivers provide the Sauternes region with the ideal climate for producing Noble Rot?

The Garonne River and its tributary the Ciron River.

The joining of these two rivers produces the morning fogs needed to develop Noble Rot.


What does the name Entre-Deux-Mers mean?

"Entre-Deux-Mers" literally translates to "between two seas." This is because the Garonne and Dordogne are tidal up to 75 miles inland.


What styles of wine are produced in the Entre-Deux-Mers AOP?

Still, dry white wines only based on Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and Muscadelle.

Red wines from this region must be labelled with the more generic Bordeaux AOP or Bordeaux Supérieur AOP.


Generally speaking, how do the whites of Entre-Deux-Mers differ from those of Pessac-Léognan?

Entre-Deux-Mers whites are dry like those from Pessac-Léognan, but they rarely see new oak and are more affordably priced.  The majority of white wines from Entre-Deux-Mers are fresh and fruity with minimal aging.

Pessac-Léognan whites are generally higher quality with higher prices than Entre-Deux-Mers.  Pessac-Léognan whites typically see a portion of new oak for fermentation and/or maturation, are richer with more layered flavors, and require some bottle aging.


What smaller appellation contains all the wines that were classified in the Graves Classification?

All the wines that were classified in the Graves Classification lie within the newer appellation of Pessac-Léognan AOP, which was created in 1987.

The Graves Classification was created in 1953 and revised in 1959, both well before the Pessac-Léognan AOP was established.


Why has Petit Verdot not played a larger part in Bordeaux wines as of late?

Petit Verdot has far fewer plantings than Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc because it is only able to ripen in very hot years.

While even a little Petit Verdot can have a noticeable impact on the wine, Petit Verdot's late budding and late ripening mean that it is the last grape harvested and it does not consistently ripen in Bordeaux.


The Petit Verdot grape variety is known for adding what characteristics to wines?

Petit Verdot is known for adding tannin, color, and some Indian-spice flavors to the Bordeaux blend.


Why was the Malbec grape more prevalent in older Bordeaux vintages but not more recent ones?

The frost of 1956 lead to a severe winter freeze that killed many of the Malbec vines in Bordeaux. Merlot replaced Malbec due to its ability to withstand the cold winter temperatures better than Malbec.

This is why many Bordeaux wines made before 1956 contain much higher Malbec content than current Bordeaux wines.


What vessels are commonly used to age top-quality red Bordeaux wines?

Nearly all top-quality Bordeaux red wines are aged in French barriques. Barriques are small oak barrels that hold 225 liters of wine.

While top-quality Bordeaux red wines are aged in 100% new French oak, lower-quality wines can be aged in larger oak barrels or slightly used barrels. Most generic Bordeaux wines will not see any oak at all.


How many liters (or gallons) of wine does the famous Bordeaux barrique barrel hold?

225 liters (around 60 gallons)


Cabernet Sauvignon is a cross created from what other two famous Bordeaux varieties?

Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc


What are the three main rivers of the Bordeaux region?

  1. Gironde Estuary
  2. Dordogne River
  3. Garonne River


Where does the Gironde estuary get its name from?

The Gironde estuary gets its name from the French word for swallow, "hirondelle."

The Garonne River and the Dordogne River form the bird's famous split tail.


What important contribution to the region of Bordeaux did the Dutch make in the 1600s?

In the 1600s the Dutch drained the Médoc peninsula, allowing the region to grow grapes.

The Dutch's thirst for sweet white table wines and brandy led them to drain the Médoc and create suitable vineyard areas in what was historically swampland.


What is the name of the man-made forest that separates the Bordeaux region from the Atlantic Ocean?

Les Landes


Why was the 12th century marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II especially important for the Bordeaux region?

Eleanor of Aquitaine's dowry included the region of Bordeaux, giving the English control of the region and making the wines of Bordeaux especially accessible to English wine drinkers.

This marriage established England as an important market for Bordeaux wines.


Where does the grape Merlot get its name from?

Merlot gets its name from the French word for blackbird, "Merle".

The Bordelais named the grape after the blackbird because it is the number one pest at harvest for most of Bordeaux.


What is a "Petit Château"?

A "Petit Château" is an unoffical term given to unclassified properties in the Bordeaux region.


What does En Primeur mean and why is it important to the Bordeaux wine trade?

En Primeur means "in futures."

En Primeur represents the uniquely Bordelais tradition of selling the wine in futures while still maturing in barrel.


What is clairet?

Clairet, not to be confused with claret, is a pale red wine made by the saignée method.

Clairet often spends a greater amount of time macerating (sometimes up to 48 hours) compared to Bordeaux rosé. Clairet is mostly popular in the French market.


What is claret?

Claret is the traditional English name for the wines of Bordeaux.


What style of wine is made in the Premières Côtes de Bordeaux AOP?

The Premières Côtes de Bordeaux AOP is authorized to produce semi-sweet white wines only.

The Premières Côtes de Bordeaux AOP should not be confused with the Côtes de Bordeaux group of AOPs which are approved for dry red and white wines as well as some sweet wines.


What appellations are able to put their names before the more generic appellation of Côtes de Bordeaux?

  • Blaye 
  • Cadillac
  • Castillon 
  • Francs


Which grape tends to dominate the red blends from Côtes de Bordeaux?



What two appellations of Bordeaux are named after their soils?

The Graves AOP and Graves de Vayres AOP are both named after their gravel soils.


What famous solution to downy mildew, powdery mildew, and other fungal infections was developed in the vineyards of Bordeaux?

Bordeaux Mixture

This combination of copper sulphate (CuSO4) and slaked lime (Ca(OH)2) was invented in Bordeaux by Pierre-Marie-Alexis Millardet.


What is a "super-second"?

A "super second" is a château that consistently sells for a higher price and is seen as higher quality than where its placement in the 1855 Classification would suggest.

Super-seconds will often sell for a far greater price than other Second Growths, but less than First Growths.


What are some examples of "super seconds?"

A few examples widely considered to be "super seconds" are:

2nd Growths

  • Château Cos d'Estournel
  • Château Ducru-Beaucaillou
  • Château Léoville Las Cases
  • Château Léoville-Poyferré
  • Château Montrose
  • Château Pichon-Longueville Comtesse Lalande
  • Château Pichon-Longueville Baron
  • Château Rauzan-Ségla

3rd Growths

  • Château Palmer

5th Growths

  • Château Lynch-Bages
  • Château Pontet-Canet


What is a "second label?"

"Second labels" or "second wines" are wines made from cuvées not selected to go into a château's Grand Vin.

A second label does not necessarily mean a wine that is lower in quality; some châteaux simply make second label wines from other vineyards, younger vines, or different grape blends than those used for their "Grand Vins."


What famous professor at the University of Bordeaux was instrumental in creating the concept of a "second label" wine?

Emile Peynaud

Peynaud was a major advocate of only using the best grapes to make the "Grand Vins" of Bordeaux and championed the concept of a "second label" as a way to keep the quality of the highest wines consistent.


What is a "Grand Vin"?

A Grand Vin is a wine that the château considers to be its best wine.


What are the five classifications of the Gironde?

  1. 1855 Classification
  2. Graves Classification
  3. Saint-Émilion Classification
  4. Cru Bourgeois du Médoc Classification
  5. Cru Artisans Classification


What is "La Place de Bordeaux?"

La Place de Bordeaux is a three-tier, de facto system of wine production (châteaux owners), brokerage (brokers), and sales (merchants) that controls the trade of wine in Bordeaux.

La Place de Bordeaux is a system, not a location.