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Ch. de Verdun Medoc 1998
One of the most—if not the most—famous red wine regions of the world, the Medoc reaches northwest from the city of Bordeaux along the left bank of the Gironde River. Its vineyards climb along a band of flatlands, sandwiched between the coastal marshes and the pine forests running along it to the southwest. The entire region can only claim to be three to eight miles wide (at its widest), but it is about 50 miles long.
While the Medoc encompasses the Haut Medoc, and thus most of the classed-growth villages (Margaux, Moulis, Listrac, St-Julien, Pauillac and St. Estephe) it is really only those wines produced in the Bas-Medoc that use the Medoc appellation name. The ones farther down the river, and on marginally higher ground, are eligible to claim the Haut Medoc appellation, or their village or cru status.
While the region can’t boast a particularly dramatic landscape, impressive chateaux disperse themselves among the magically well-drained gravel soils that define the area. This optimal soil draining capacity is completely necessary and ideal in the Medoc's damp, maritime climate. These gravels also serve well to store heat in cooler years.
One of the world’s most classic and popular styles of red wine, Bordeaux-inspired blends have spread from their homeland in France to nearly every corner of the New World, especially in California, Washington, and Australia. Typically based on either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot and supported by Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and/or Petit Verdot, these are sometimes referred to in the US as “Meritage” blends. In Bordeaux itself, Cabernet Sauvignon dominates in wines from the Left Bank of the Gironde river, while the Right Bank focuses on Merlot. Often, blends from outside the region are classified as being inspired by one or the other.
In the Glass
Cabernet-based, Left-Bank-styled wines are typically more tannic and structured, while Merlot-based wines modeled after the Right Bank are softer and suppler. Cabernet Franc can add herbal notes, while Malbec and Petit Verdot contribute color and structure. Wines from Bordeaux can be bold and fruit-forward or restrained and earthy, while New World facsimiles tend to emulate the former style. In general, Bordeaux red blends can have aromas and flavors of black currant, cedar, plum, graphite, and violet, with more red fruit flavors when Merlot makes up a high proportion of the blend.
Since Bordeaux red blends are often quite structured and tannic, they pair best with hearty, flavorful, and fatty meat dishes. Any type of steak makes for a classic pairing. Equally welcome with these wines would be beef brisket, pot roast, braised lamb, or smoked duck.
While the region of Bordeaux is limited to a select few approved grape varieties, the New World is free to experiment. Bordeaux blends in California may include Syrah, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, or virtually any other grape deemed worthy by the winemaker. In Australia, Shiraz is a common component.