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by Staff Writer - B. Scottenberg | December 15, 2010

When you hear the term "Bordeaux wine", it is typically referring to the classic red blend. The red Bordeaux are created with Cabernet Sauvignon, often blended with Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The color tends to be a garnet or ruby shade. The flavor is typically a light one, with blackberry, black fruits and wood.

A Bordeaux wine is any wine produced in the Bordeaux region of France. Average vintages produce over 700 million bottles of Bordeaux wine, ranging from large quantities of everyday table wine, to some of the most expensive and prestigious wines in the world. Eighty nine percent of wine produced in Bordeaux is red (called 'claret' in Britain), with notable sweet white wines such as Chateau d'Yquem, dry whites, rosé and sparkling wines (Crémant de Bordeaux) all making up the remainder. Bordeaux wine is made by more than 8,500 producers. Red Bordeaux is generally made from a blend of grapes. Permitted grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carménère. Typical top quality Chateaux blends are 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc and 15% Merlot. This is typically referred to as the "Bordeaux Blend." White Bordeaux is predominantly, and exclusively in the case of the sweet Sauternes, made from Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle. Typical blends are usually 80% Sémillon, 20% Sauvignon Blanc. As with the reds, white Bordeaux wines are usually blends, most commonly of Sémillon and a smaller proportion of Sauvignon Blanc.

The world's most famous wine growing region is located near the Atlantic coast, in the south west of France. It spreads for 60 miles around the city of Bordeaux which is its center. The region is located on Europe’s biggest inlet, along three rivers: Gironde, Garonne and Dordogne. The climate is generally temperate with a short winter and a high degree of humidity from the Atlantic Ocean. Bordeaux can be divided into the left and right banks of the Gironde: On the left bank are the Médoc and Graves regions, celebrated for wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. The Sauternes region is located just south of the Médoc and is renowned for exceptional sweet white wines. The right bank is home to St. Emilion (which produces some of the most robust red of Bordeaux made from Merlot and Cabernet Franc) and Pomerol (the smallest wine producing area in the Bordeaux region). Pomerol is a community of family shared vineyards which produce wine from Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec which are robust and are best when aged. While this region is home to the most exclusive wines, which can run in the hundreds to thousands of dollars per bottle, the best wines of the region, represent a small minority of the wines produced and a large number can be thin and hard, making buying affordable Bordeaux tricky.

Wineries all over the world aspire to making wines in a Bordeaux style. In 1988, a group of American vintners formed The Meritage Association to identify wines made in this way. Although most Meritage wines come from California, there are members of the Meritage Association in 18 states and five other countries, including Argentina, Australia, Canada, Israel, and Mexico. To legally use the word Meritage on a wine label, a winery must be a member of The Meritage Alliance, which owns the trademark. To obtain a license to use the Meritage name, the wine must be a blend of at least two of the traditional red or white Bordeaux grape varieties. No single variety can make up more than 90% of the blend.

Bordeaux wines pair very well with the beef, lamb and duck. The beef and lamb of the area are sometimes prepared à la bordelaise, in a sauce made with red wine, ham, butter, shallots, thyme and parsley. Bordeaux wines are also served with grilled veal, game such as pheasant and poultry such as grilled turkey. The recommended cheeses that go well Bordeaux wines are Camembert, Brie and Roquefort.

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