Chief Wine Officer, Alti Wine Exchange
Today we’re exploring what you need to know about the wines from the Bordeaux left bank, the famous chateaus of the 1855 Classification, the Château Margaux, Mouton-Rothschild, Lafite and many more.
This is a 4-part series to give you all of the essential facts and keys to understand where are the best and most expensive wines around the Bordeaux region, and more importantly why some wines are better than others, what are the key differences in style, age-worthiness and ultimately, price.
After we looked at the right bank with the wines from Saint-Émilion & Pomerol, let’s explore the great estates from the left bank, the Médoc in particular.
Learn about the Best Left Bank Wines in Video
What makes the Left Bank special?
When we talk about the left bank, we talk about two areas mainly that are on the Southern side of the Garonne River, its left bank indeed considering it flows North-eastern ward towards the Atlantic.
These two areas are the Médoc to the North West of Bordeaux city, and the Graves to the South.
At some point during geological times, there was a tectonic movement that made the right bank higher than the left bank, which in turn made that the clay subsoil was covered with gravels and sand on the left bank – but not on the right bank.
That’s why Pomerol and Saint Emilion have clay and limestone soils, while on the left bank’s terroir is about gravels and sand mainly, a big difference in terroir – despite both being close by around Bordeaux city.
This soil difference in turn causes the grape-focus to be different.
Merlot is the predominant grape variety on the right bank because it works better on clay and cooler soils. The left bank however is mainly about Cabernet Sauvignon that needs the heat reflection from the warm gravels and sandy soil to ripen fully and make great wines.
Yet, Bordeaux, as a region, is not nearly as warm as most parts of California, Australia, Chile or Argentina, other countries that produce a lot of very good Cabernet Sauvignon also. On the left bank of Bordeaux, Cabernet gets just ripe enough to be good, but it doesn’t get cooked or get very rich.
This is precisely what makes the unique finesse of the wines from the Left bank, and what has made the great Chateaus of Medoc and Graves so special, what’s made their winemaking success through History.