RIGHT BANK BORDEAUX
Look. Bordeaux is complex, intimidating, and intricate, but it doesn’t always need to be like this. Recently, we’ve fallen in love all over again with Right Bank Bordeaux. The wines currently coming out of this part of France are compelling and memorable. We want to share with you what we love about them.
Bordeaux has multiple languages from which it delineates its wine, geography being at the top of the list. The great Gironde estuary firmly carves its way into the western coast of France, splitting into two rivers as it makes its way southeast. Those two rivers are the Garonne and the Dordogne. The Right Bank is succinctly summarized as the land to the east of both the Gironde and the Dordogne rivers. See map below.
Major Communes of the right Bank to keep in your mind…
Pomerol and St. Emilion are the most famous appellations of this side of the river. Other noteworthy ones, (and often crazy value!) are the zones of Côtes de Blaye, Côtes de Bourg, Fronsac, Côtes de Castillon. Both Pomerol and St. Emilion have their own satellite appellations as well.
map credited to The Fermented Fruit
One more language of the Right Bank is its grape varieties. Its bread and butter are Merlot and Cabernet Franc, though looking at any given Bordeaux wine label, you couldn’t determine this. Wine law dictates that each region and appellation will yield a certain style of wine. For example, wines of St. Emilion are made with Merlot and a bit of Cabernet Franc.
Let’s talk about Merlot. Forget what you’ve heard from the movie Sideways! We will say this loud and proud, “We love Merlot.” If it weren’t for Merlot, Bordeaux would not be where it is now. Merlot brings fruit, freshness, and a texture that we’ll call sensual.
The other variety is Cabernet Franc, balancing the fruit of Merlot with spice and savory aromatics. Cabernet Franc is everything that Merlot is not—a perfect balance.
One bottle that we’ve fallen for recently is ‘Emilien’ by Chateau Le Puy. We've been pouring this here in the Tasting Room recently. The family behind Chateau Le Puy is currently into its 14th generation in the same family. This domain is situated on the Right Bank in Bordeaux adjacent to the villages of Saint Emilion and Pomerol, though the wines are all bottled as ‘Cotes de Bordeaux.’ While much of Bordeaux focuses on a style with power and oak usage, this historic winemaking continues on with their mission to make wines true to its origins. Bordeaux has had some wildly distinctive influences over the years, as trends go in and out of vogue. Think oak usage, alcohol, and fruit presence. For us here at H&C, along with many of our mentors and inspirational wine shops/bars from around the world, the focus should be on the fruit and it should have a sense of place.
Furthermore, Bordeaux isn’t exactly (always) known for its farming practices. Le Puy chose to have their estate both certified organic and biodynamic. While the estate is almost 100 hectares, about half are preserved to the natural forests to elevate the health of the vines. This is just one of the many examples of the shift in both farming and winemaking that we’ve seen today in a region that’s long been known for wine of power and oak aging.
Though we, as consumers, speak of wine in terms of grape varieties, the French vignerons (otherwise known as vine growers) would speak of wine in terms of soil types. In the Right Bank, another wine language spoken there is the clay (which is what really makes this side of the river famous and what merlot thrives in), limestone, and sandy soils that Merlot and Cabernet Franc thrive so well in. Talking soil types isn’t exactly the most romantic thing to discuss when it comes to wine, but all things must have balance, right?
There’s something considerably more special about the properties you’ll find on the Right Bank. Consider that during the Classification of 1855, there came from these five First Growth Chateaux. All five of these resided on the Left Bank, leaving the Right Bank to fly more so under the radar. Consider that the wines here are not necessarily so much about power as they are about finesse and elegance. Often in the wine world, wines of power are glorified more than wines with restraint. For this, we love the elegant, softer wines of the Right Bank that much more.
If you seek romance and history in your bottle, look no further than our storied collection of wines from one of the most historic, classic regions in the wine world. We love these wines, and we know you will love them just as we have.
by Brittany Marsh - the Cru - HART & CRU