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Chateau Rollan de By 2010
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
One of the most—if not the most—famous red wine regions of the world, the Medoc reaches from the city of Bordeaux northwest along the left bank of the Gironde River almost all the way to the Atlantic. Its vineyards climb along a band of flatlands, sandwiched between the coastal river marshes and the pine forests in the west. 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 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 lean towards a highly structured and earthy style whereas New World areas (as in the ones named above) tend to produce bold and fruit-forward blends. Either way, Bordeaux red blends generally 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 in specified percentages, the New World is free to experiment. Bordeaux blends in California may include equal amounts of Cabernet Franc and Malbec, for example. Occassionally a winemaker might add a small percentage of a non-Bordeaux variety, such as Syrah or Petite Sirah for a desired result.