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Bordeaux-the benchmark for cabernet sauvignon and merlot

There are a dozen or so icons in the wine world, whose names are synonyms with quality, tradition, and consistency. Burgundy, Champagne, Rioja, Chianti, Barolo, and Bordeaux are all names of places with stature. The people in these regions are not just making wine; they're sustaining legends. This is why some geographic names speak volumes about the wine made there and are used as a benchmark for the grape varieties they promote.

Bordeaux put cabernet sauvignon on the map. Wine experts are often heard describing cabernet sauvignon as Bordeaux-like, but never do you hear them call it Napa-like, Mendoza-like, or Barossa-like. Bordeaux has been producing sophisticated red and white wine for two thousand years. It is so special a place that only specific varieties are permitted. Red Bordeaux can be cabernet sauvignon, merlot, petit verdot, malbec, or cabernet franc. White Bordeaux can be sauvignon blanc, muscadelle, or sémillon. When the name Bordeaux, or any of its smaller appellations, appear on the label it can only be from that stretch of land defined by the Garonne River and Gironde Estuary.

The Garonne River and Gironde Estuary empty into the Atlantic Ocean while dividing Bordeaux into two major growing areas, the right bank and the left bank. Merlot, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon prevail on the right bank of Bordeaux, in the villages of Saint-Emilion, Côtes de Bourg, Côtes de Blaye, and Pomerol. Look for left bank appellations named Medoc, Margaux, Pauillac, Saint-Estèphe, and Saint-Julien; where cabernet sauvignon dominates.

Production of both red and white Bordeaux is highly defined; but producers don't seem to mind. The rest of the world emulates everything about the wine made here, from the blend of grapes, the oak barrels, to the shape of the bottles. Bordeaux is synonymous with prestige and stands solo in a world of wines that strive to, but never copy.

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