Lesson 5 – The Right Bank and Entre-Deux-Mers

 

Sommelier School

Lesson 5

The Right Bank and Entre-Deux-Mers

This week we will be covering the Right Bank and Entre-Deux-Mers. While the Left Bank seems very daunting with all of the classifications, the Right Bank only has one are with a classification. However what is regarded as one of THE best wines of all of Bordeaux comes from an area that doesn’t classify its wines. We will also cover some of the lesser known areas of the Right Bank and delve a bit into that “middle ground” known as Entre-Deux-Mers. Below is a map of all of Bordeaux to refresh your memory.

Used per GFDL Licence. Original uploader was Domenico-de-ga at de.wikipedia

 

First, let’s get into the Right Bank, or as the French call it Libournais after the city of Libourne. We start with a little area known as Pomerol. Pomerol is the home of what has been considered one of, if not THE, best wines in all of Bordeaux in recent times – Pétrus. Barely 5km (3mi) wide, Pomerol is tiny. Châteaux are close to each other and small family affairs.

Pomerol doesn’t have any kind of official classification. While Pétrus is considered the best there are plenty of other great Châteaux there. Some are even called “garage wines” in reference to the original garage wine of Le Pin started in 1979 by Jacques Thienpont who also owned Vieux Château Certan. Literally a cellar in the garage under a battered farmhouse. It’s fame grew quickly as a decadent wine made from 100% Merlot with 100% new oak. And challenged the lofty Pétrus for the price king.

The wines here are Merlot-based and much more approachable than their counterparts on the Left Bank. The other varietals used are Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malbec. Usually by 5 years, these wines are showing very well and 12-15 years are at their peak. Merlot is also an easier varietal to drink than Cabernet Sauvignon for most as it has softer tannins.

Soil here varies quite a bit for such a small area. From gravel to gravelly-clay, to clay & gravel, to sandy clay to sandy gravel. Even within a vineyard. The wines are more of an expression of the Château itself rather than a specific terroir. Pétrus’ soil itself if a sandy-clay over what is called molasse or sandstone.

Besides Pétrus and Le Pin, here are a few more of the better Chateaux in Pomerol:

 

  • Château La Conseillante
  • Château Beauregard
  • Château Trotanoy
  • Château Latour-À-Pomerol
  • Château La Fleur-Pétrus
  • Vieux Château-Certan

 

Next we will cover St-Émilion. The actual area of St-Émilion is much larger than Pomerol. However it is not as big as the Médoc. There are over 1000 Châteaux here and produces about two-thirds as much wine as the Médoc. Many of these Châteaux are part of the “garage wine” group that started in Pomerol due to the success of Le Pin.

Like Pomerol, the soil here is a mixture of many types. You will find clay, sand, gravel, limestone, and silt. And just like Pomerol, the soil within a vineyard will have variations. For much of the area you will find sandy or gravelly soil. However, the best area, which is mainly in the middle has the most variation.

St-Émilion wines are also a Merlot-based wine like much of the Right Bank, with Cabernet Franc the other main varietal. Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Carmenère make up the rest. The wines here tend to be more approachable than the Médoc just like Pomerol, but they take a little bit longer to mature than Pomerol.

In 1955 the first classificiation of St-Émilion occured, with the intent to update these classifications every 10 years. While they haven’t held to the 10 year timeline exactly, they have revised these classifications every decade with the most recent being in 2006. However some unhappy Châteaux complained about being demoted. They claimed that the tasters had a vested interest in the results. Through much legal wrangling and confusing rulings the 2006 classification was essentially thrown out and the 1996 Classification was re-instated with a few changes that were from the 2006 Classification. There are two main classifications. Premier Grand Crus Classés and Grand Crus Classés. The Premier Grand Crus Classés are subdivided into a Class A and Class B. Below are the Premiers Grand Crus Classés:

 

  • Class A
    • Château Ausone
    • Château Cheval Blanc
  • Class B
    • Château L’Angélus
    • Château Beau-Séjour-Bécot
    • Château Beauséjour-Duffau-Lagarosse
    • Château Belair
    • Château Figeac
    • Château Canon
    • Château Magdelaine
    • Château La Gaffelière
    • Château Trottevieille
    • Château Pavie
    • Clos Fourtet

 

Now we are going to talk about some of the lesser known and not normally discussed areas of the Right Bank. To the northwest of Pomerol lie Bourg and Blaye. People have lived in this area for hundreds of thousands of years. The Romans reportedly planted vineyards as soon as they got there. They even felt that this area held much more potential then the Médoc. Of the two, Bourg is considered the better with Blaye being more interested in caviare.

The soil here is dominated by clay with either a clay-limestone or clay-gravel makeup, or just clay. The main varietals are Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Sémillon. However, many other varietals are grown here, many that are not familiar to most people. They are Malbec, Prolongeau, Petit Verdot, Merlot Blanc, Folle Blanche, Colombard, Chenin Blanc, Muscadelle, and Ugni Blanc.

The Première Côtes de Blaye AOC can only use the main varietals for Bordeaux (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and Muscadelle). For the Blaye AOC the not-so-familiar varietals can be used also. In the Blaye AOC, Ugni Blanc has become the dominant varietal since 1997 and Merlot Blanc and Folle Blanche can no longer be used. For Côtes de Bourg AOC the quality and quantity of wines is higher though it is only 1/5 the size of Blaye. The varietals used here are Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Sémillon, Malbec, Merlot Blanc, Colombard, Muscadelle, and a maximum of 10% of Chenin Blanc.

Other areas are considered satellites of St-Émilion, other Right Bank AOCs, and an area known as the Fronsadais. The St-Émilion satellites are just that. Appellations that are allowed to append St-Émilion to the end of their names. These include St-Georges-St-Émilion, Montagne-St-Émilion, Lussac-St-Émilion, and Puisseguin-St-Émilion. Of these satellites, St-Georges-St-Émilion and Montagne-St-Émilion are considered the best.

Other areas of note are Fronsac and Côtes-Canon-Fronsac which are to the east of city Libourne Côtes-Canon-Fronsac considered the better of the two. On the easternmost part of the area you have Bordeaux-Côtes-de-Francs, Bordeaux-Côtes-de-Francs Liquoreux,and Côtes-de-Castillon. The last AOC is considered an AOC of quality and value. Bordeaux-Côtes-de-Francs Liquoreux is a style of Bordeaux-Côtes-de-Francs that must be sweet by law.

Finally, north of Pomerol are two AOCs – Lalande-de-Pomerol and Néac. While Néac is a valid AOC, no one in the area uses it preferring to use the Lalande-de-Pomerol AOC designation they are entitled to use now. In general the wines of Lalande-de-Pomerol are considered good wines, but no match for Pomerol.

On to Entre-Deux-Mers. Between the two seas. The area between the Left and Right banks is the largest district in Bordeaux. The wines here are mainly dry whites and value-priced reds, with some sweet whites thrown in for good measure. The soil here can be a variety of types; sandy, gravel, clay-gravel, clay-limestone. The main white varietals are Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle. Other white varietals grown here are Merlot Blanc, Colombard, Mauzac, and Ugni Blanc. For reds they use Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Carmenère, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.

Outside of being able to use the Bordeaux, Bordeaux Supérieur, and Premières-Côtes-de-Bordeaux appellations, Entre-Deux-Mers have 9 additional AOCs:

 

  • Bordeaux Haut-Benauge – dry, medium sweet, & sweet whites
    • Use Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle
  • Cadillac – semi sweet or sweet whites
    • Use Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle
  • Côtes-de-Bordeaux-St-Macaire – medium-bodied, medium sweet, or sweet whites
    • Use Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle
  • Entre-Deux-Mers – Crisp, dry whites. Mainly Sauvignon Blanc.
    • At least 70% Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle
    • No more than 30% Merlot Blanc
    • No more than 10% Colombard, Mauzac, and Ugni Blanc
  • Entre-Deux-Mers-Haut-Benauge – Dry whites, similar to Entre-Deux-Mers
    • At least 70% Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle
    • No more than 30% Merlot Blanc
    • No more than 10% Colombard, Mauzac, and Ugni Blanc
  • Graves de Vayres
    • Reds usually Merlot-based. Medium-bodied.
      • Use Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Carmenère, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot
    • Whites Dry & off-dry. Sometimes sweeter wines are made
      • Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle
      • No more than 30% Merlot Blanc
  • Loupiac
    • Considered best sweet whites in the Entre-Deux-Mers.
    • Use Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle
  • Premières-Côtes-de-Bordeaux
    • Reds are fruity and considered a step aboive Bordeaux AOC
      • Use Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Carmenère, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot
    • Whites must have some kind of sweetness. Not considered anything special
      • Use Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle
  • St-Croix-du-Mont
    • Considered 2nd best sweet-white in the Entre-Deux-Mers
    • Use Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle
  • St-Foy-Bordeaux
    • Reds medium-bodied and easy-drinking
      • Use Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Carmenère, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot
    • Whites are semisweet wines that are not considered anything special and decent dry whites.
      • Use Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle
      • No more than 10% Merlot Blanc, Colombard, Mauzac, and Ugni Blanc

 

This wraps up today’s lesson. I hope it was informative. Please feel free to leave comments below or click on the e-mail link. Next week we will begin the process of tackling Burgundy. Make sure you get your thinking caps on.

Thanks for stopping in,

Mark V. Fusco

Aspiring Sommelier in Training

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