Bordeaux Like A Pro: The Wines of Bordeaux

I’m here to tell you everything you need to know about Bordeaux. It’s really not too painful. I promise.

Bordeaux is a region in France, and you can’t call it a Bordeaux if it comes from anywhere else in the world. It can be white, it can be red, dessert, rose. All colors of the wine f**king rainbow.

First, a little about France being a controlling mom. There are rules. France has laws that dictate what types of grapes can grow where, and what they can use for wine. After hundreds of years, they’ve figured out which grapes grow best where and they don’t want to mess with that.

The Banks

Bordeaux is divided into two areas known as the Left Bank and the Right Bank.

“I only drink wines from the Right Bank. I don’t know why.”

“Ew you drink from the Left Bank, you peasant?”

Left and Right Bank wines taste very different because the blend of grapes is very different.

Also, why are the labels hard to read? What makes reading French labels difficult is that they name the wines by the place. Since the country has specific laws that indicate where certain grapes can grow, they just label it by the place. Because, obviously, that grape would grow there. You with me?

The tricky part is they expect the consumer to just automatically know what their laws are and which grapes are planted where. It’s confusing. For instance, instead of saying Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot on the label, they’ll say Bordeaux…the place.

Sound complicated? It was, until now. The Left Bank is made up of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, making the wine more full-bodied and darker in color. Like the Pauillac region, for instance.

(Editor’s note: Take a sip of the Chateau Durhart-Milon 2008 from Pauillac, Bordeaux. It’s a soft, dark fruit Cab Sauv/Merlot drop that’s an absolute steal of a price point for the region.)

The Right Bank is more Merlot dominant, which means the wines are usually lighter bodied and more pale in color. Easy, right?

White wines and dessert wines are made up primarily of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. The bottle says Pauillac? OMG it’s from the Left Bank! It’s probably more Cabernet Sauvignon then. If the bottle says “St. Emilion”, it’s on the Right Bank and probably going to be more Merlot-dominant as a result.

The Buy

Oh, that wasn’t so hard – agreed? Some Bordeaux is very expensive and collectable, however, most are between $10-25. So go out, try something, and use your fancy buzzwords. Oh, can I have a Left Bank? What about a Right Bank? Right Bank? Left Bank?

(Editor’s note: A very tasty example of a Right Bank, Merlot-dominant Bordeaux is the Chateau Peymouton 2012. And for just over 20 bucks? Woop!)

There it is. Your super basic intro to Bordeaux!


Cristie Norman is a certified sommelier and currently helps diners at the acclaimed Spago Beverly Hills as a resident Sommelier. She’s a bikini athlete and her wine creds include CMS and WSET Level 3. Check out her Instagram!

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