Monday, February 16, 2009

Le Tour De France des Vins

"Wilfried Sentex is born in Bordeaux, France and for sure his passion for wine comes from his home country. At present he is working in New York, at Bar Boulud, Daniel Boulud Wine bar. For more information you can reach him at"

France is a wonderful wine country with a great variety of grapes, climates and soils and some talented and devoted winemakers. For a better understanding of French appellations and different wine styles I decided to do a Tour de France Des Vins (France's wine Tour).

As a native of Bordeaux I wanted to start with this part of France. Bordeaux is divided in two parts, known as The Left Bank and the Right Bank, due to the two rivers ("La Garonne" and "La Dordogne"), which separate the vineyards from Bordeaux in two Banks. In Bordeaux a variety of different grapes is planted, such as Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot for the reds and roses and Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle for the whites and sweet wines. In Bordeaux there are also 57 appellations and 6 main classifications.

But let's talk today about the Left Bank which is divided in two parts, the Medoc and the Graves. Set between the ocean and the Garonne river (following the river for 150km) and protected from the sea air by big pine forests, the soils are mostly composed of gravel (graves) and pebble (galet), but you can also find some sand and limestone. Because of the location and the climate, the soil gets warmed up faster during the day and can keep the heat during the night, therefore the vines will not suffer from the day and night temperature differences.

As for the grapes you will mostly find Cabernet Sauvignon (often blended with some Merlot) and maybe some Malbec and Petit Verdot (the last two in small quantity). Cabernet Sauvignon gives a tannic and aromatic wine (black fruits, rose and licorice) but blending it with Merlot will bring some structure and power to the wine. Those wines are usually better drinking after a few years depending on the vintage but it could be either 3 years or 20 years old after the stockage factor is playing.

Medoc is situated on the north and consists of 8 appellations: Medoc, Haut Medoc, Listrac-Medoc, Moulis-en-Medoc, Pauillac, Margaux,Saint-Julien and Saint-Estephe. Graves region includes the Pessac Leognan.

In 1855, for the Universal Exposition, Napoleon asked for the classification of the Bordeaux wines. Following his order, the wines were classified by the following criteria: reputation of the Chateaux and the price of the production (which at that time was directly related to the quality of the wines). In this classifications 88 wines were selected (61 reds and 27 whites) in importance from the First to the Fifth growth. Only 4 wines were classified as First growth: Chateau Lafitte Rothschild, Chateau Latour (both from Pauillac), Chateau Margaux (from Margaux) and Chateau Haut Brion (from Pessac Leognan). In 1973 two more wines were added, Chateau Mouton Rothschild as First growth and Chateau Cantemerle as Fifth growth.

The next stop will be the Right bank with the Saint-Emilion and Pomerol.

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