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Born out of necessity to manage yield variation due to volatile weather patterns year over year, Bordeaux’s decades-long tradition of creating perfectly balanced, complex blends using a mix of international varieties has inspired winemakers around the world to emulate this classic style. Comprised primarily of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, red Bordeaux blends may also include Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc. The high tannin, full body, and flavors of blackberry, leather, black pepper, and bell pepper found in Cabernet Sauvignon balances Merlot’s softer tannins, medium body, and flavors of plum, red cherry, and red currant, resulting in a complex combination that has won over aficionados across the globe.
Left-Bank Bordeaux blends are dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, which is more prevalent on the Left Bank of the Gironde Estuary. “Right-Bank blends are dominated by Merlot, reflecting its prevalence on Bordeaux’s Right Bank. The precise composition of each blend varies by vintage, reflecting the variation in weather patterns and their impact on the quantity and quality of each variety planted. Bordeaux blends the world over are typically aged in French oak barrels, and many of the highest quality examples can age further in the bottle for decades.
First-Growth producers such as Château Lafite-Rothschild, Château Latour, and Château Margaux consistently produce some of the highest quality Bordeaux blends from the Old World. The best New-World regions include Napa and Sonoma in California and the Columba Valley in Washington, with Harlan Estate, Joseph Phelps, and Pahlmeyer gaining international recognition for the quality of their Bordeaux-style wines.
Right-Bank Bordeaux blends are lighter in style and pair well with classics such as pork loin, Cornish game hen, and tomato-based dishes. Left-Bank blends carry more weight and tannin, and can stand up to heavier dishes like steak, short ribs, and mushrooms.