Know Your Bordeaux Wine: Left vs Right Bank

Posted by Beau Farrell on May 17, 2018 11:18:24 AM

Bordeaux wineBordeaux wine — talk about a classic. We could stop there and you’re already thirsty for a glass or three.

But if you’re willing to pause for a minute and explore the Left Bank and the Right Bank of Bordeaux, you may find it easier to pick the exact Bordeaux wines that make you and your palate happiest.

First of all, what is Bordeaux wine?

A Bordeaux wine is one from the Bordeaux region of southwestern France.

This is among the most popular wine regions in the world — and the reds and whites from this region are some of the most desired.

What’s the Difference Between Left and Right Bank Bordeaux Wines?

The major factor in Bordeaux is the Gironde Estuary, shaped like an upside down "Y" by the Garonne River on the left (west) and the Dordogne River on the right (east). That’s why they’re called banks — as in riverbanks.

Here’s a key word in winemaking and wine tasting circles: terroir. Because of a location’s climate and soil, similar grapes can create different flavor profiles.

Terroir is the combination of the natural environment’s soil quality, precipitation, elevation, and weather, all working together to produce a unique grape profile.

Here’s how that translates into Bordeaux Left and Right Bank wines:

Left Bank Bordeaux Terroir

The Left Bank is composed of more gravely, rocky soil with limestone further underground.

The dominant style on the Left Bank is Cabernet Sauvignon, with a small smattering of Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Carmenere. These wines have more tannins, which may be a little on the bitter side for some drinkers.

If you visited the Bordeaux region, you might notice lots of castle-like chateaux — the classic European countryside structures associated with vineyards. On the Left Bank, they’re often larger structures with more land.

Right Bank Bordeaux Terroir

The Right Bank features more clay and limestone soil near the surface. That means less struggle for the grapevines as they produce the smooth, soft fruit flavors.

The dominant style of the Right Bank is Merlot. There are also portions of Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. You’ll notice the chateaux of the Right Bank are generally smaller and on less land than the Left Bank.

Famous Bordeaux Vineyards from Left and Right Bank

Big name vineyards (and prices) from the Left Bank include Medoc, Chateaux Margaux (white wine lovers, take note), Lafite, Mouton Rothschild, St. Julien, Pauillac, St. Estephe, Haut Medoc, and Pessac Leognan.

Well-known Right Bank vineyards include notoriously pricey Petrus, Cheval Blanc, Bordeaux Superieur, Cotes de Bordeaux, Cotes de Francs, Lalande de Pomerol, St. Emilion, and Cotes de Bourg.

Is Left Bank or Right Bank Bordeaux Wine Better?

It depends on what you’re looking for.

If you want a wine that will age well and offer more complexity, you’ll probably be satisfied with a Left Bank Bordeaux. To enjoy a more approachable, straightforward Bordeaux without waiting, consider the Right Bank’s smooth wines. Can’t decide? Try another glass of each. We don't blame you for wanting to do thorough "research."

For assistance finding the right Bordeaux for you, stop by any Haskell’s location to explore Bordeaux with the friendly expertise of staff.

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Topics: Behind the Wine, Types of Wine