It is the blend of several grape varieties that gives its character to Bordeaux wines. It is also the variety and the components of the grape skin that brings about the varying colours among the appellations.
The most used red-skin varieties are Merlot (50%) and Cabernet-Sauvignon (30%). Also Cabernet Franc, Carmenère, Malbec and Petit Verdot.
The most used varieties in the production of white Bordeaux wine are Sémillon (60%), Sauvignon (20%) and Muscadelle (10%). Three other varieties are also present : Colombard, white Merlot and Ugni blanc.
Red-skin grape varieties
Gives a very fine quality wine, full of perfume, of a lighter colour than Cabernet-Sauvignon produced wine, and less rich in tannin; thus it ages faster.
Aromas of cocoa, blackcurrant (sometimes with notes of brambles), quince, ivy leaf, fern, undergrowth, strawberry, raspberry, dry pepper, green pepper, violet …
It is present in all Bordeaux blends as a complementary variety, but never dominant, but it holds an important place (20 to 50 %) in Saint-Emilion where it combines with Merlot.
This variety adds finesse and a typical aroma.
Small bunches, cylindrical and conical, loose, sometimes winged, with small spherical berries, displaying pruinescence, that is, a thin whitish protective skin, a bluish black flesh, with sweet but slightly astringent juice.
Gives pleasant wines that are subtle, full of colour, high in alcohol and with little acidity. It holds an intense colour, and when blended with Cabernet franc it gives the wine a greater lightness, more delicacy and moelleux.
Its wine is susceptible to oxidation so it is worth avoiding exposing it too often to the air.
Aromas of cherry, leather, spices, strawberry jam, blackberry, dark chocolate, game and hints of sloe, prune, liquorice, truffle, violet… Merlot is present in all clarets, it is more dominant in Médoc, and makes up 70 %, even 90% sometimes, of Pomerol blends.
Its favoured terroir is the Médoc area where the thermal control of the ocean and the estuary develop its aromas through gentle ripening.
Average cylindrical bunches, loose and sometimes winged, with small to medium spherical bluish black berries.
• Petit verdot
Gives tannic wines with a strong concentration in anthocyane, full-bodied, with a dark bright colour, a fairly strong alcohol strength, with good keeping qualities (its overall acidity is often rather high), which take a long time to develop their bouquet. This variety is used for blending (even in small percentages, 5 to 10 %) with other grape varieties.
Aroma of liquorice. Small to medium bunches with long peduncles, cylindrical. Seldom winged, with small spherical bluish black berries with a hard skin.
Is the oldest Bordeaux grape variety; it gives a wine high in colour, with a low percentage of alcohol, and very tannic. It matures late and keeps very well, it needs to age.
Aromas of ripe blackcurrant, and blackcurrant leaves, fern, smoke, blackberry, green pepper, liquorice, undergrowth, tobacco, truffle, vanilla, violet …
It is used in all blends of Bordeaux appellations but most especially in Médoc (Pauillac, Margaux, Saint-Estèphe…) and Graves (Pessac-Léognan).
Small to medium, cylindrical and conical, winged bunches, with small black spherical berries, showing lots of pruinescence, bluish black; the skin is thick and hard, the flesh firm, crisp, and with a typical flavour, the taste astringent.
• Malbec ou pressac ou côt
This variety is less grown in the Bordeaux region ; only a small percentage is added to the blends.
It gives a very fruity wine, with colour, rich in tannin, and which can be drunk quickly.
Aromas of spices, pepper, leather, jasmin …
Medium size bunches, generally double winged, rather loose, with black medium size spherical berries that yield little juice.
Very little used in Bordeaux wines, this variety resembles somewhat Cabernet franc. It gives rich, colourful wines that are tannic, sometimes slightly bitter and lacking in acidity. Young wines have a typical taste of herbs.
Small cylindrical and conical loose bunches, with medium size spherical berries, of a beautiful bluish black, soft flesh, a taste of herbs.
White grape varieties
Gives an elegant and classy wine, with a beautiful golden hue, shiny, lacking a little in acidity. Very often it is associated with Sauvignon.
Aromas of toasted almond, acacia flower, angelica, fresh butter, cinnamon, lemon, crystallized fruit, lily, honey, roasted hazelnut, fresh walnut, green apple, vanilla …
It is present in all Bordeaux whites and especially so in the liquoreux (Sauternes).
Medium size, cylindrical, winged bunches, with medium spherical berries, golden white turning to pale pink when fully ripened; the skin is thick, the juice abundant with a hint of Muscat.
A variety rich in sugars. In the Sauternes area it produces excellent white liquoreux.
In the Entre-deux-mers area it gives a dry perfumed white wine, very aromatic, very delicate, well-balanced, musky, high in alcohol.
Aromas of apricot, bitter almond, pineapple, rosewood, blackcurrant bud, box, blackcurrant, exotic fruit, spices, fennel, blackcurrant leaf, orange flower, cut hay, broom, mango, honey, musk, orange, straw, grapefruit, fresh apple, flint, violet, citrus zest …
Small bunches in the shape of a truncated cone, compact and sometimes winged, with small, ovoid berries, turning beautifully golden yellow when fully ripened, thick pellicle and melting flesh with a special flavour reminiscent of Muscat.
• Ugni blanc
A variety found in the Blayais and the Bourgeais (in the Charentes they use it in the production of Cognac), it produces a pale yellow wine, dry, rather fine and vigorous, always acidic and not very aromatic. Aroma of banana …
Very large bunches, winged, narrow and cylindrical, with peduncles already woody at the base; the berries are medium size, spherical, golden yellow even brassy on the very sunny slopes; the skin is thin but tough, the flesh juicy and abundant.
Gives a delicate fine wine, with a strong perfume reminiscent of muscat although more discreet. Aromas of acacia, honeysuckle, musk …
A very difficult variety as it is susceptible to rot. It is present as a supporting agent in all blends of white wines, be they dry or very sweet.
Bunches are large truncated cones, loose with medium size spherical berries, of a greying pink, spotted when fully ripe. A hint of Muscat.
A variety found only in the Blayais and the Bourgeais, it gives a fine and robust white wine.
Aromas of citrus fruit, box, lemon, exotic fruit, grapefruit, peach, rhubarb.
Medium size winged cylindrical bunches, with medium ovoid golden white berries, juicy pulp.