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Our Guide to Bordeaux Wine: From Region to Label

Stamp your palate passport with Bordeaux basics, picks and tips from our wine experts.

Glasses Filled with Red Bordeaux Wine on Table

Bordeaux — pronounced bore-dough — rolls right off the tip of the tongue. Saying the famous French region’s name aloud, you can almost taste the smooth glass that awaits. In our guide, we’ll cover the grapes you’re likely to find in signature blends, label deciphering pointers and more. To cap off the itinerary: some of our favorite bottles, plus storing and serving tips from our wine experts.

Bonus: From October 13 through January 4, save on select Bordeaux wines. Plus, take an additional 10% off purchases of six or more bottles.*

What Is Bordeaux Wine?

Ruby-hued stunners, Bordeaux red wines are typically dry and oak-aged while embracing the hallmark French grape varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Not to be overlooked are the fresh, full-bodied, dry white wines and honeyed, sweet dessert options made from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. All are delicious.

Bordeaux Wine Region

Let’s get our bearings. Located on the west coast of central France, the Gironde estuary divides Bordeaux into the Left Bank and Right Bank. Each sports a distinctive style owing to the unique properties of terroir and microclimate. Left Bank wines tend to be grown on gravel, while Right Bank are predominately clay and limestone.

  • Left Bank: Lefties have a reputation for tannic structure from Cabernet grapes with blends higher in alcohol and acidity — often well suited for cellaring.

  • Right Bank: Righties tend to be Merlot-based, softer, less tannic and more approachable with a juicy ready-to-drink personality. Taste for yourself — your palate might just be ambidextrous. Below are a few appellations to check out.

Map of Bordeaux Wine Regions in France

Bordeaux Supérieur

This large regional appellation mirrors the Bordeaux AOC — appellations d’origine contrôlée — or controlled designation of origin. The Supérieur certification mandates certain additional quality controls like grapes from older vines, lower yields, a minimum of 10.5% ABV and 12-month minimum bottle aging.

Canon Fronsac

Near the town of Libourne, Canon Fronsac is made up of limestone ridges, steep grades and generous plateaus. Wines from this region are well-priced and compare favorably to the communes of Saint-Émilion and Pomerol found nearby.

Haut-Médoc

Home to the heralded appellations of Saint-Estèphe, Pauillac, Saint-Julien and Margaux, the mineral-rich soil of the peninsula is well suited to Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

Favorite Bordeaux Wines To Try

From refreshing whites to deep, tannic reds, Bordeaux is a tapestry of flavors and styles. Our wine experts have curated an assortment of well-made, approachable expressions available at accessible price points.

How to Read a Bordeaux Wine Label

We’re here to help un-daunt the process of decoding Bordeaux labels without signing up for French lessons. Here are some tips to get you going.

Grand Vin – “great wine”

You might very well see Grand Vin scrawled across the face of the label. It means “great wine,” but there are no rules, regulations or standards behind it. Think of it as a friendly marketing flourish.

Hone In on Exactly Where It’s Grown

With more than 60 appellations across Bordeaux (the most in France), it’s a stretch to achieve somm-level expertise overnight. They are important, however, as identifying whether they are Right Bank (usually Merlot dominant) or Left Bank (usually Cabernet Sauvignon dominant) will clue you into the primary grape types that make up the blend.

Classifications: A Cru Story

With first to fifth growths (“Crus” in French) and a Grand Cru Classé quality system created in 1855, things can get complicated fast. The bottom line — classified growths represent prestigious estates that make fantastic, highly sought-after wine but only a very small percentage of the total wine grown in the region. There are many, many outstanding unclassified examples.

Vintage Matters

Every year, mother nature plays a big role in shaping the character (and yield) of the wine that’s made in a given region. Sun, rain, heat and frost all impact the growing season — when the harvest begins and ends. For a deep dive into specific Bordeaux vintages, get the full scoop on Bordeaux.com.

Glasses of Bordeaux Wines with Cheeses and Accoutrements

Serving and Pairing Tips

Ready to find your new go-to or special occasion Bordeaux wine? Check out our expert Wine Team’s insider tips for navigating our Wine department. After you’ve found the perfect bottle, make sure to store it properly if you’re not planning to drink it right away.

  • Keep it cool: Bordeaux, like most red wines, should be served slightly cooler than “room temperature.” The full-bodied and tannic wines from Bordeaux benefit from an ever so slight chill to 60–65 degrees.

  • Let it breathe: A little aeration goes a long way, helping to soften tannins and bring out nuanced notes. No need to splurge on a fancy decanter in the shape of a swan; get creative with a tea pitcher or flower vase. Aim for a vessel that can hold at least 32 ounces, and preferably double that to give the wine some room.

  • Go big on the glassware: Our experts suggest selecting a glass with 17 to 22 ounces of capacity. That doesn’t mean you should go heavy on outsized pours — 5 ounces is still the standard. The extra space allows for swirling, which brings out lovely aromas.

  • The golden rule of food pairing: If you don’t like a wine sipped by itself, even the most fantastic food is unlikely to elevate it to that special level of meal magic. So, pick a wine you like as a base. Classic seafood dishes lend themselves to the fresh and full-bodied white wines of Bordeaux while hearty meats, stews and steaks make for a melt-in-your-mouth partner with the region’s more rich and tannic red wines.

Check out Our Guide to Shopping the Wine Department for even more insider tips.

*Valid 10/13/21 – 1/4/22. Select U.S. stores only. In-store only. Offer applies to select wines only as indicated in-store. Ask a team member for details. Prices as marked. While supplies last. Quantity limits apply. Quantities limited. No rain checks except where required by law. Sale prices not legally available in all stores. Cannot be combined with case discount where prohibited by law. Case discount limited to in-store and select U.S. stores. Must be 21+. Please drink responsibly.

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