From Merlot to Petit Verdot: red grape varieties of Bordeaux

Bordeaux has an abundance of characterful grape varieties which when blended together create unique wines of international renown. In the same way, Baron de Lestac red wine is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Each variety makes its own contribution to the Bordeaux wine spectrum. Read on to learn more about the specifics of each grape.


The fleshy character of Merlot 

Merlot is certainly a popular variety in Bordeaux winemaking, but its appeal is much broader than this – in fact, it is the world's second most-planted grape. Merlot's name derives from its blue-black hue which is similar to that of a blackbird (merle in French). King of the right bank, Merlot prefers the cooler soils of Libourne. This cross between Cabernet Franc and Madeleine Noire des Charentes makes red wines that are fleshy and easy to love. On the nose, ripe fruit notes of prune, cherry and strawberry jam dominate, complemented by earthy, floral aromas. Although Merlot is expressive on the palate, its supple tannins make it very accessible. With age, it acquires a silky texture and aromatic complexity (dried fruit, mushrooms and leather).


The tannic framework of Cabernet Sauvignon

As its name suggests, Cabernet Sauvignon is a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. Its first appearance in Bordeaux dates back to the 18th century, and since then it has become essential, due to its ability to produce wines which when aged display remarkable finesse. This grape is outstanding in temperate climates but it adapts well to more warmth, hence it has been planted further afield. Widely planted on the left bank, in Médoc and Graves, where the warm gravel soils help it reach optimum ripeness. It boasts multiple aromas, including blackcurrant, smoke, toast, coffee, spice, cedar wood and fern. When young, Cabernet Sauvignon can be tannic and astringent, hence it is often blended with Merlot. With ageing it becomes more velvety, developing notes of tobacco, forest floor and liquorice while retaining a certain freshness.

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The structure of Cabernet Franc

Although Cabernet Franc tends to take second place in the blend, it most certainly has an essential rôle to play, bringing fruit notes and supple tannins when it is in the minority, and structure and finesse when it dominates. This grape makes intense, deeply-coloured young wines with aromas of red and black fruit, violets, spice and smoke. If picked unripe, it has a vegetal quality and a distinctive green pepper aroma. It can be supple and fruity, or intense with more pronounced tannins. Its marked acidity translates into remarkable freshness, and thanks to its small, polyphenol-rich berries, it can age very well.

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The aromatic expression of Petit Verdot

Originally from the South West of France, Petit Verdot is known as Lambrusquet in the Pyrenees, its name referring to the small, tight bunches which are late ripening, remaining green for longer than other varieties. It has aromas of blackcurrant, blackberry, pepper, menthol and violet. Formerly only grown in Médoc, today it is found in Graves where it makes powerful, full-bodied wines renowned for their complex, spicy bouquet and ageing potential.

The colour of Malbec

The colour of Malbec

Native to Cahors, this grape accounts for less than 2% of the planted surface area in Bordeaux, but it is nevertheless favoured by the winegrowers of Bourg and Blaye. Malbec – otherwise known as Côt or Pressac – has a unique, deep, dark violet robe that can look almost black. Its aromatic range spans blackcurrant, blueberry, liquorice, menthol and floral notes. This full-bodied wine can be supple and fruity, depending on the grower, but it always has powerful tannins and a marked acidity. Its concentration makes it ideal for ageing, bringing notes of truffle, leather and forest floor.

The richness of Carménère

The richness of Carménère

Once widely planted across the region, this variety was almost wiped out by phylloxera. Carménère is still discreet but it is making a come back little by little, most notably in the Graves area where it is known as Carbouet. It makes dense, structured wines with notes of red and black fruit, liquorice and forest floor, plus herbal aromas which are more pronounced in its youth. On the palate, it is expressive, with silky tannins and low acidity.

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