Pairing Beyond the Ordinary

Once, at a trade event, a woman advised me that the wine I was tasting went well with food. Well, duh! Wine has always been a beverage meant to be enjoyed with a meal and is among the only ones where both are enhanced by one another. In some cultures, drinking wine without food is anathema.

More recently the trend has been to look well beyond the axiom, “What grows together goes together,” in favor of showcasing the flexibility of a given wine by pairing it with less expected culinary options. Think Alsatian Gewürztraminer with Indian curries or Prosecco with sushi.

At Atla, Michelin-starred Cosme’s younger, more casual sibling, Mexican inspired food was served alongside a selection of New Zealand wines from Kim Crawford. This NZ producer has always been one of my go-tos for Sauvignon Blanc, but it was nice to see that the range seems to have been expanded stateside, as we also had the opportunity to taste the Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Rosé and Pinot Noir. Adding a further twist to the evening, dessert was a Mexican Hot Chocolate (recipe below), featuring the Pinot Noir. This was served after I left, so I didn’t get a chance to taste it, but with the cold rain pouring down that evening, I am sure it was a welcome treat.

Image courtesy of Susannah Gold

A few blocks away, I was introduced to the wines of Lugana, a small Italian wine region, which spans both Lombardy and the Veneto. These wines, primarily produced from the Trebbiano di Soave grape variety, may be dry, sparkling or, in the case of late harvest, sweet, dessert style wines. During the dinner at La Pizza Fresca, these beautiful white wines were more traditionally matched with a traditional Italian meal of arugula salad, beets, pizzas and a selection of fish, chicken and meat.

Among the less traditional decisions was choosing to pair these white wines with short ribs, but it worked well due to the richness, depth and full-bodied nature of many of the wines. My tasting notes are a bit spotty, but I was particularly impressed with the light, freshness of the Olivini Lugana DOC 2016, the complexity and richness of the Selva Capuzza Lugana Riserva DOC Menasso 2013 and the beautiful balance of the Margona Lugana DOC Vendemmia Tardiva dessert wine.

Both the Kim Crawford and Lugana events worked well primarily due to the basic pairing principle of ensuring that the wines had sufficient acidity to go well with the various dishes. Accordingly, their crisp, clean nature meant that one’s palate was cleansed between bites and ready for more, while simultaneously they highlighted the flavors in the accompanying food; an overall reminder that simple rules can serve us well even when we think we are breaking them.

The next night found us in Williamsburg at an unusual venue for the launch of Enjoy la Vie from Bordeaux negociant, Cordier. Entering through a loading dock, we were immediately struck by the quirky, high-ceilinged, warehouse-style space of ACME Studios. The space appears to be more regularly used for photo shoots, but it was a fun place to explore these new, entry-level wines.

The focus was on decidedly on France, with the classic pairing of cheeses and charcuterie. Similarly, attendees were invited to don a beret, grab a baguette and pose for a photo, instantly transformed (and immortalized) into cute, French clichés. But, despite the expected match, the event was far from boring and not all things were classically French. Namely, the brass band with its bold and boisterous jazz music meant that this was not a typical Bordeaux tasting.

With regard to the wines themselves, I was more impressed with the Bordeaux Blanc and Bordeaux Rouge wines than the varietally-labeled Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. Regardless, I had a great time at the event. Most likely because I was paired with my wonderful husband. Which just underscores that context and company are is often just as important as the cuisine.




4 oz Kim Crawford Pinot Noir
2 oz dairy milk or non-dairy milk (almond is a good option)
3 Tbsp powdered baking cocoa
1 oz coffee liqueur
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch chili powder

Pre-warm an 8-10 oz coffee mug. In a saucepan, combine chocolate powder and brown sugar with milk to make into a rich syrup. Add coffee liqueur and Kim Crawford Pinot Noir. Stir until ingredients are hot. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract and ground cinnamon. Pour into pre-warmed mug and garnish with whole cinnamon stick and pinch of chili powder.

France and India, A Marriage Made in the Kitchen


In an interesting twist to the typical press lunch, wine brand Vinadeis presented a subset of its portfolio alongside Indian cuisine at New York City’s Junoon restaurant.  Named for the Hindi word for passion, the Michelin-starred, fine dining establishment fuses together India’s culinary history and the Chef’s modern sensibility. Wine Director, Michael Dolinski carefully curated the restaurant’s existing menu to identify the best pairings to show off the selection of whites, rosés and reds.

Formerly known as Val d’Orbieu, Vinadeis was founded in Corbières back in 1967. The company has now expanded its purview beyond the borders of Languedoc and includes activities in the Rhone Valley as well as in Bordeaux. Today, there are approximately 20,000 hectares of vineyards under its management.

While many of its projects involve bulk wine, large brands and cooperatives, Vinadeis is especially proud of the estates and chateaux under its umbrella. Benoit Roussillon, Head of North America for Vinadeis (pictured above), was quick to point out that behind each estate, there is a family and a story. And, moreover, their aim is to respect the story of those families in pursuit of crafting the highest quality wines.

Held just the week before the Thanksgiving holiday, a time when many consumers panic about the best wine(s) to serve with the cacophony of food on the bountiful table, the Vinadeis event was a unique illustration of how well the French wines lent themselves to an unlikely pairing of the diverse flavors and textures of Indian food. Presented family-style, attendees had the opportunity to sample several dishes with each course, matched with two or three wines.

The luncheon first kicked off with Butter Garlic Shrimp and Saloni Macchi, a salmon dish, served with pickled cucumber, onion relish. These two dishes were paired with the rosé and white.

The dry and fresh Château de Jonquières Rosé Cuvée Cersius 2015 AOP Languedoc, a blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Cinsault, matched nicely with the shrimp with its cherry and herb aromas and flavors. Situated near Narbonne, the Château de Jonquières property was previously a Cistercian granary, which belonged to the Abbey of Fontfroide.

The 100% Chardonnay Domaine de Cazelles Verdier, Les pierres qui chantent 2015 IGP Pays d’Oc, was unusually aged in Acacia wood, given it a woody and spicy, yet not oaky, flavor with lots of cloves, and married beautifully with the salmon. Owned by the Verdier family since 1713, Domaine de Cazelle Verdier is known for its chalky soils.

The Murg Roulade Korma – minced chicken with a purée of nuts – was served with two reds: Château Notre Dame du Quatourze Rouge Nautica 2014, AOP Languedoc and Domaine de Cazelles Verdier, Les pierres qui chantent 2014, AOP Minervois. Both wines are Rhone-style blends with Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Carignan.

Presently owned by Georges and Suzanne Ortola, the name Chateau Notre Dame du Quatourze refers to a tax paid to the castle (formerly owned by the archdiocese) by the local farmers. This unoaked red is organic and biodynamic, with nice, bright red fruit.

From the same producer as the Chardonnay, the Domaine de Cazelles Verdier Minervois offers up intense, concentrated red and black fruit.

The third course consisted of Awadhi Raan, a leg of lamb with saffron and nuts; Nadru Matar Makhana with lotus root, English peas, and roasted tomato sauce; and Daal Makhni, black lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas in a tomato cream sauce, as well as sides of Pulao Rice and Butter Naan.

With this last set of savory dishes, we headed to Bordeaux for a trio of reds: Château Valade “Cuvée Renaissance” 2012, AOP Saint-Émilion Grand Cru; Château Brown 2012, AOP Pessac-Léognan; and Prieuré des Couleys de Meyney 2010, AOP Saint-Estèphe.

The Merlot-dominant (90%) Château Valade “Cuvée Renaissance” 2012 was bright with red fruit and slight spice notes. The property has been in the family since 1878, with the current generation Paul and Lorette Valade at the helm for more than 30 years.

With an almost equal proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, the Château Brown 2012 displayed darker red fruit, with a plush texture and firmer tannins. The chateau dates to the medieval period but was named for the Scottish merchant John Lewis Brown, in the late 18th century.

Given its blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon and 38% Petit Verdot, the Prieuré des Couleys de Meyney 2010 was the most full-bodied and tannic of the three, with lots of black fruit, herbal, spice and cedar aromas and flavors. Originally built as a convent, the Château de Meyney property dates to 1662, placing it among the oldest in the Médoc.

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A Celebration of Love, Life & Bordeaux

It was time. The older Bordeaux wines we had collected were coming into their own and it was time to taste them.

We selected ten wines from the cellar and assembled an equally stellar group of friends for a multi-course dinner at our home in September.

The line-up was impressive, but perhaps the piece de resistance was the Carruades de Lafite 2000, Château Lafite Rothschild’s second wine. Purchased through Sherry-Lehmann back in 2001 through a Future’s campaign*, the wine represented our first major foray into the wine world and marked the occasion of our fifth year of marriage.

The traditional gift for a fifth wedding anniversary is wood and I racked my brain for months on what to get hubby. Finally, I discovered the concept of wine futures: buying wine before it has been bottled and released (and, generally, still aging in oak barrels at the time). Consequently, it was an appropriate gift and one that we would both appreciate as we were just getting our bearings in wine.

We had visited Bordeaux on our belated honeymoon trip in 1999 and very much enjoyed these wines, but still didn’t know a lot about wine in general. Accordingly, we associated much of our love of wine with Bordeaux.

As luck would have it, the object of the Futures were the much vaunted 2000s, which meant high praise and high prices. Getting over my initial sticker shock, I pulled out my copy of Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World Complete Wine Course (who incidentally teaches his 40th and last class this fall) and read up on the Bordeaux Classification of 1855. I couldn’t afford the top growths; instead, I selected seven different bottles of wine, choosing third growths, a fifth growth, several second wines from top producers and a St. Emilion Grand Cru for a total expenditure of $236.00 – quite pricey for us at the time.

With only a single bottle of each, we had been reluctant to open any of these special wines previously, but with over 40 bottles of Bordeaux in our cellar, the impending arrival of our 20th wedding anniversary was as good as an excuse as any to justify their consumption.

We carefully crafted a menu to highlight the wines and chose pairings from the Left and Right Banks to provide the opportunity to compare Cabernet-dominant and Merlot-dominant wines, respectively.

And, of course, we ended the meal with a lovely aged Sauternes, giving guests the option of finishing off on a sweet or savory note, or both!

Overall, the dinner was a perfect marriage of good food, good wines and good company as well as a wonderful celebration of our continued partnership both in the kitchen and out.

Hamachi Crudo
Marinated Yellowtail Tuna with Jicama & Greens
Château La Louvière Blanc 2011, Pessac-Léognan







Rack of Lamb
Herb & Mustard-Crusted Islandic Lamb with Zucchini and Carrot Purée
Château La Fleur Peyrabon 2010, Pauillac
Château La Tour Figeac 2008, St. Emilion Grand Cru







Magret de Canard
Roasted Duck Breast with Blackberries and a side of Duck Fat Potatoes
Château d’Armailhac 2005, Pauillac
Château Les Hauts-Conseillants 2005, Lalande de Pomerol







Cheese Course
Fort Saint Antoine Comté (Aged 36 mos), Burgundy, France
Mrs. Quicke’s Cheddar (Aged 24 mos), Devonshire, England
Château Giscours 2001, Margaux
Château Beau-Séjour Bécot 2001, St. Emilion Grand Cru
Carruades de Lafite 2000, Pauillac
Château Certan de May 1998, Pomerol

Bloc de Foie Gras
Served with Roasted Figs and Toast Points
Crème Brûlée
Caramel Custard with Burnt Sugar Crust
Château Doisy-Védrines 1998, Sauternes









*NB: When buying wine futures, it is imperative that you work with a trusted agent or retailer since the company will take your money now, but you won’t receive the wines for two years.


Goldilocks and the Crus Bourgeois

Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Goldilocks who went for a walk in the forest. After walking for awhile, she came upon a house. She knocked and, when no one answered, she walked right in.

At the table in the kitchen, there were three bowls of porridge. Goldilocks was hungry (walks in the forest tend to do that) and proceeded to taste the porridge from the first bowl.

“This porridge is too hot!” she exclaimed.

Next, she tasted the porridge from the second bowl.

“This porridge is too cold,” she said

So (ever the optimist), she tasted the last bowl of porridge.

“Ahhh, this porridge is just right,” she said happily and ate it all up.

While we know that the bears soon returned home to find Goldilocks fast asleep in Baby Bear’s bed, we can learn a lot from Goldilocks (and not just the part about staying out of people’s –and bear’s– homes).

I recently had the opportunity to present a class on the Crus Bourgeois wines to the staff members of Bottle Rocket Wine & Spirit.

Since it was late (9:00 PM on a Thursday night), cold (polar vortex anyone?) and that they were likely to be tired (did I mention it was late?), I knew that I couldn’t give them too many facts and details. Not only would they easily forget them, it would simply be “too much” information.

I also knew that I couldn’t just talk about the Crus Bourgeois because the assembled group of employees possessed a varied set of existing knowledge about Bordeaux. Such an approach would provide “too little” information. I had to ensure that everyone had at least a basic understanding of the Bordeaux wine region.

Thus, I spent some time reviewing the essential elements of Bordeaux – climate, grape varieties, wine styles and appellations – before discussing and tasting the Crus Bourgeois wines. I acknowledged that some of this would be review for them and was careful not to dwell on irrelevant details. In addition, I made sure to emphasize the information that would be most useful to them in selling Bordeaux wine to their customers.

When I was finished with my presentation, the General Manager pronounced that what I had delivered to his staff was “just right.” I’m sure Goldilocks would be pleased.

Looking to expand your knowledge on Bordeaux and the Crus Bourgeois?

The inaugural issue of my Drink Wisely magazine was “All About Bordeaux,” but admittedly might be “too much” content for some readers. For a more general introduction to Bordeaux, see my Examiner article on Decoding Bordeaux (possibly “too little” for others). Finally, my Wine Portfolio article on the current status of the Crus Bourgeois might be “just right” to bring you up to speed on this important Bordeaux wine category.

Searching High and Low for Bordeaux (Grand Cru Grapevine: April 2012)

At a recent Wine Media Guild lunch featuring Château d’Issan and Château Rauzan-Segla, it was stated that, “as Bordeaux goes, so does the whole industry,” with the further comment that, it was a “lynchpin by which other regions measure themselves.” And, with the iconic nature of these two Margaux producers, it is not surprising that the wines showed quite well that afternoon. Several months earlier, four Pauillac châteaux – Château Lynch Bages, Château Pontet-Canet, Château Mouton Rothschild and Château Clerc-Milon – gave equal pleasure to the assembled journalists.

However, with the price of the classified growths reaching astronomical figures, many wine drinkers feel priced out of the Bordeaux market. Yes, it’s true, wines from pedigreed châteaux have become the object of collectors who may never drink a drop rather than the cherished claret they once were. Such wines are the result of high scores and top reputations, which have made them more prized for their investment value than for their hedonistic value. But, thankfully, the majority of Bordeaux is still very much for drinking.

As an extremely large French wine region, representing 26% of all AOC (quality) wine produced in the country, Bordeaux is home to 63 appellations. Yet, Bordeaux AOC and Bordeaux Supérieur AOC together comprise 55% of the total production. And, despite the volume this entails, Bordeaux has thousands of small, family-run estates such as Château Penin run by Patrick Carteyon, the fifth generation of his family to work in wine. Similarly, at Château de Bonhoste, winemaking is the domain of Yannick Fournier, while his sister, Sylvaine, and mother, Colette, tend to the vineyard.

Although these two appellations stem from grapes grown on both sides of the Garonne River, on its own, the Right Bank has been the scene of recent change. A new appellation – Côtes de Bordeaux – was established in 2009, providing these wines with more market recognition. For example, wines previously labeled as Blaye or Côtes de Francs were not instantly recognizable. Now, the name Bordeaux is featured prominently on their labels.

While not as prestigious as the wines from the various classifications, wines from these three appellations offer great value, with most under $20.00 and many in the $10.00-13.00 range. And, at these prices, you can take a chance on a bottle or two to try before splashing out on a whole case.

Château La Rivalerie, Côtes de Bordeaux Blanc 2009, Bordeaux, France, $N/A
(60% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Sauvignon Gris and 20% Semillon)
This wine offers aromas of oak, bruised apple, citrus and ginger on the nose. With bright acidity and medium body, the flavors echo the nose and linger throughout the long finish.

Château La Goutere, Bordeaux Rouge 2009, Bordeaux, France, $12.00
(77% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc)
Hailing from vineyards located near Saint Emilion, this wine showed aromas of blackcherry, vanilla and a hint of oak on the nose. Its palate also offered notes of earth and herbs along with medium tannins.

Château Penin, Grande Selection Bordeaux Supérieur Rouge 2008, Bordeaux, France, $13.00
(100% Merlot)
Blackberry, plum and some herbal character were present on the nose. Showing a supple texture, the wine had good acidity, with flavors of blackberry, plum, dried herbs and slight oak notes.

Château Peynaud, Bordeaux Supérieur Rouge 2009, Bordeaux, France, $12.00
(50% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc)
Aromas of spice, oak, vanilla and black cherry greet the nose. On the palate, the wine is very fruity, with similar notes.

Château Saincrit, Vieilles Vignes Bordeaux Supérieur Rouge 2008, Bordeaux, France, $18.00
(70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvigon and Cabernet Franc)
This château is owned by Florence Prudhomme who took over the property in 2003. Showing aromas of plum, raisin and spice on the nose, the palate gives way to blackcherry and oak.

The Circle of Life

From year to year, winemakers get the opportunity to begin again and make a new wine from a new harvest. Each vintage sharing some of the same elements as the one before, yet making its own mark on the world.

The newest vintage of wines from Bordeaux’s Right Bank (Rive Droite) was premiered at a Le Cercle Rive Droite tasting in March. Accordingly, barrel samples from 2010 were on offer from chateau in Pomerol, St. –Emilion and other Right Bank appellations.

Baronne Guichard owns three separate properties, each with a unique terroir – Chateau Vray Croix de Gay in Pomoerol with gravely soils; Chateau Siaurac in Lalande de Pomerol with clays and gravels; and Chateau Le Prieure in St.-Emilion with soils of limestone and clay. Accordingly, the ability to do a mini-vertical and mini-horizontal tasting presented itself.

Proprietor Paul Goldschmidt describes the Chateau Le Prieure wine as being feminine and notes that the slopes are south-facing. The 2010 was very mineral in character with herbal notes (which Paul qualified as “Herbs de Provence, but under the shade”) and red fruit. The 2008 was similarly herbal with red fruit, but the minerality wasn’t present.

Paul characterizes the wines from Chateau Siaurac as being more masculine and explained that its appellation is known as the “poor man’s Pomerol” due to its lower price. The 2010 was intense with a concentrated nose of blackcherry, while the 2008 had mellowed and showed more red than black fruit.

The sample of Chateau Vray Croix de Gay has a slightly different make-up than its brethren, featuring more Merlot (90% vs. 80%) and thus less Cabernet Franc. The 2010 was concentrated with floral aromas while the palate had firm, tight tannins, blackcherry, some spice and long length. Similarly, the 2008 was rich, lush and ripe, but with the flavors and structure more closely knitted together with time.

The future is now – Bordeaux 2009 white and rose

The 2009 vintage in Bordeaux continues to receive rave reviews, but for now, the only red wines available for purchase are being sold as futures. Instead, consumers can look to Bordeaux’s whites and rosés – yes, you read that right, rosés – for a taste of this vaunted vintage.

Château Penin AOC Bordeaux Clairet 2009, Bordeaux, France
Located within the area of Entre-deux-Mers in the village of Génissac, Chateau Penin has been in the Carteyron family since 1854. Patrick Carteyron, a member of the fifth generation, has been the current owner as of 1982. The château’s white wine is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon, along with Sauvignon Gris. The remaining range of wines is predominantly produced with Merlot, the most widely planted grape in the Bordeaux region. Two of those wines are rosés – an AOC Bordeaux Clairet and an AOC Bordeaux Rosé.

The Château Penin Bordeaux Clairet is 100% Merlot. This wine spends 24-60 hours of maceration on the skins, which accounts for its depth of color. In addition, approximately 25% of the wine underwent malolactic fermentation, rounding out the acidity on the palate, before spending four months ageing on the lees. With its deep rose color, you have to look twice to confirm that this is in fact a rose wine, but its cherry and strawberry aromas confirm its identity. With medium acidity, medium+ body, bright fruit and low tannins, this is a structured and dense wine that drinks more like a chilled red than a rose, but certainly hits the spot on a hot summer’s day.

Château Les Vergnes Bordeaux Blanc 2009, Bordeaux, France
Château Les Vergnes has been involved in viticulture from the very beginning with efforts to establish a national plan to combat phylloxera at the start of the 19th century and experiments with the first use of potassium thiocarbonate in 1879. Today, the château is committed to preserving the environment and qualified for the title, l’Agriculture Raisonnée in 2005 for its sustainable agriculture practices. 

Its Bordeaux Blanc wine is produced from a blend of 55% Sauvignon Blanc, 35% Muscadelle and 10% Sémillon, with grapes sourced from throughout the Bordeaux region. The nose carries aromas of grapefruit, floral and a waxy/lanolin note (likely from the Sémillon). The dry palate boasts vibrant acidity with medium body and flavors of citrus, pith and a slight hint of lanolin, which persist throughout the medium+ length.

Bordeaux futures — the 2008 en primeur campaign

The Bordeaux Futures campaign kicked off this month, providing consumers with the opportunity to purchase wines from this vintage. The wines are currently still in barrel, ageing in the cellars of their respective Chateaux. Accordingly, wines bought now won’t be delivered until 2011. Robert Parker and other wine critics have declared this to be a good vintage, but note that it is not on par with 2000 or 2005. More specifically, they are comparing it to 2001.

Given the economic climate, the initial prices have been dropped with some wines being offered at the same prices as 2004. However, some of the prices have since increased as purchases have been made, indicating more interest from the trade than was initially expected.

While some people have cautioned that it is not necessary to buy this vintage during the Futures campaign given the economic climate, others have suggested that this is a great opportunity to buy Bordeaux from a quality year, at more reasonable prices than we had seen.

As an indication of the mixed messages, some wine merchants who traditionally offer a large selection of Bordeaux wines through a Futures campaign have decided to forgo participation this year or will be offering only a small set of wines to their customers.

For consumers who do choose to buy en primeur, it is extremely important to buy from a reputable merchant to ensure that you will actually receive the wine you purchase. The key issues are that the store will still be in business when 2011 rolls around and, more importantly, that you are not being scammed as had been the case with a number of dishonest people in 2003 with the 2000 campaign.

If you don’t have a trusted store (or if yours isn’t offering Bordeaux Futures), here are a few recommendations. I have personally had continued success with Sherry-Lehmann, which has posted a list of 59 wines to its site for the 2008 campaign. I have not bought Futures from, but would also recommend, Zachy’s (located in Scarsdale, but you can do a search on their site with key words: Bordeaux 2008) and Acker, Merrall & Condit (no information is on their site, but you can call and speak with a salesperson to discuss availability). In addition, while I am less familiar with Gary’s Wine & Marketplace, they, too, are offering Bordeaux futures (there are 38 wines listed on their site) and they have a good reputation. Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list.

The Wines of Bordeaux

Bordeaux wines are among the most venerated, with a long history and sizable production. Bordeaux has been a major force on the wine scene since the 18th century and continues to be highly regarded by wine drinkers and collectors alike.

The Bordeaux region can be found on the Western coast of France, along the Atlantic Ocean and including the Gironde estuary and Garonne and Dordogne Rivers, which all help to moderate the climate, which is maritime. The weather generally permits grapes to do well, but frost can occasionally be a problem as can issues with flowering in the spring. Rainfall can also pose a threat if it comes too close to harvest. Moreover, the moisture from  the ocean and rivers, coupled with the rain, can cause rot and fungus among the grapes. In some instances, as in the case of sweet white wines, this can be a good thing. However, for the most part, rot is to be avoided.

As a moderate climate, the grapes achieve full ripeness, but not in the manner that they do in warmer climates such as California. Hence, the resulting wines are more restrained and less fruit forward. They tend to be of medium acidity, medium body, garnet in color and with aromas and flavors of red or black fruits, cedar/oak, pencil lead and minty notes. When young, these wines have less to offer than they do when they have been aged for 20 years or more.

The region is divided along several lines, most notably the Left Bank (left of the Dordogne) and Right Bank (to the right of the Dordogne). The Left Bank is home to the top chateaux, which were classified in 1855 from Premier Cru (First Growth) through Cinquieme Cru (Fifth Growth). These properties are still at the pinnacle of the Bordeaux wine market. All but one of the First Growth wines are located in the Northern half of the Left Bank, known as Haut-Medoc.

Bordeaux wines are primarily blends, made from several different grapes. There are 14 grape varieties permitted, but in truth, only five red grapes and three white grapes are used. For red, Cabernet Sauvignon dominates Left bank wines, with classified chateaux using ~70% in their blends, along with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. These latter two grapes take greater precedence on the Right Bank, particularly in the communes of St. Emilion and Pomerol.

White wines from the region are both sweet and dry, blended from Semillion, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle with Sauvignon Blanc finding increasing favor and Muscadelle losing the same. Most of the whites come from Graves (southern part of the Left Bank) and Entre-Deux-Mers, the portion of land between the Dordorgne and Garonne Rivers.

Soils on the Left Bank are generally gravelly, particularly in Graves, which provides extremely good drainage for the vineyards. The Right Bank has a diversity of soils, notably in St. Emilion. Here, soils may consist of sandy gravel or clay over limestone. The better vineyards are found on the hillsides with soil of either type. Alluvial soils found close to the river banks are much less suitable and do not produce wines capable of using the Bordeaux appellation.