Wine Words: Bordeaux Blend

published Aug 20, 2012
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How often have you heard a wine described as a ‘Bordeaux blend‘ even when it does not come from Bordeaux, France? “Bordeaux blend’ is a wine term used to describe a wine that is styled on a Bordeaux wine. But do you know what that exactly means?

If a wine is described as a Bordeaux blend, it is because it is made from some or all of the grape varieties used to make a Bordeaux wine. While it can refer to a white wine, it is generally used when describing a red wine.

Permitted Grape Varieties
The grape varieties used in producing Bordeaux red wine are typically Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Though Malbec and Carmenère are also allowed. Most wine producing regions around the world, where Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Merlot thrive make wines that are sometimes described as being a Bordeaux blend, especially in California’s Napa and Sonoma Valleys, Tuscany in Italy, South Africa, the Yarra Valley, Australia and Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.

Neither a Legal nor a Technical Term
The term ‘Bordeaux blend’ is neither a technical nor a legal term. There is no “Bordeaux blend’ police out there checking that such a wine complies with a specific blend composition. Neither must it adhere to a specific percentage ratio or vinification regime.

Typically a wine described as a Bordeaux blend will be made from at least two of the permitted Bordeaux varieties. It also evokes a certain positioning of style and quality, as in Bordeaux, of a blended, complex, medium-to-full-bodied wine that is typically aged in French barrique before bottling.

Meritage Wines
California has its own special word to describe such wines. It is called Meritage (rhymes with heritage). The Meritage Association was formed in California in 1988 to identify hand-crafted wines made from the ‘noble’ Bordeaux varieties. While the Meritage Association was founded in California, it has members in many other US wine producing states as well as other countries around the wine producing globe.

White Bordeaux Blend Wines
While, much smaller in production, white wines described as Bordeaux blends are made from a blend of Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle grapes.

Mary Gorman-McAdams, MW (Master of Wine), is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant.

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