In terms of producing fine wines Bordeaux is the largest and most important region of France for the best French wine. Throughout its long history Bordeaux has had connections with England, and during a 300-year spell from 1152, was under English rule.
Bordeaux lies on the rivers Garonne and dordogne, which join to become the Gironde, before flowing into the Atlantic. The climate, influenced by the sea and rivers, is mild, slightly humid and summers tend to be long and warm.
The soil in Bordeaux is generally gravel, clay or sand and limestone. Gravel’s warm and well-draining properties suit Cabernet Sauvignon, and can be found in the Haut-Médoc, while the clay and limestone soil of St Émilion and Pomerol is preferable for Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The Petit Verdot grape adds ‘seasoning’ to the wines of theMédoc and Graves (Left Bank), while Malbec contributes colour and fruitiness in both Left Bank and Right Bank wines, such as those from the Côtes de Bourg. These grape varieties are blended together in varying percentages from château to château, to make Bordeaux red wines.
The white French wines of Bordeaux are made from three main varieties of grape: Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle, with some Colombard and Ugni Blanc being incorporated into the lesser wines. Sémillon’s lemon characteristics and relatively high alcohol content make it a popular choice for both dry ans sweet dessert wies. Lowish in acidity, it’s often blended with the early ripening Sauvignon, which is lively both in aromatics and acidity. Muscadelle adds a certain peachy, musky, and floral quality. Bordeaux also produces Rosé and Claret for the best French wine.
Bordeaux’s most famous red wines are the classified first growths, Cru Classé of the Médoc, such as Château Latour, and the Merlot-dominated wines of St Émilion and Pomerol, such as Château Cheval-Blanc and Château Petrus. Outstanding dry whites include Château Carbonnieux, but it is the sweet wines of Sauternes, which are proably better known, such as the first growth of Château d’Yquem.
Shopping for French wine can be quite a challenge, as there is often an immense range to choose from. Sometimes a little planning will be in your favour. Just knowing the type or style of a French wine you want will make your buying decision that much easier.
Brescia is not a DOC wine but a wine area around the town of the same name and the famous Lake Garda.
The region of Brescia encompasses the following denominated (DOC) wines: Botticino, Capriano del Colle, Cellatica, Garda, Garda Bresciano, Garda Classico, Franciacorta, Lugana, and San Martino della Battaglia. From this it is apparent that this region produces a large number of different types of wine so that it is impossible to describe them all. Below are some pointers for each denomination to make choosing a little easier.
This is a geographical area that has the village of this name at its epicentre. The vines grow on the rocky hills around Brescia on soil that is clay, marble, and chalk. The wines are made using Barbera, Marzemino, Sangiovese, and the many varieties of Schiava grapes. The Botticino wines are generally ruby red with hints of granite red, and are warm in bouquet and taste and extremely pleasing. Drinking temperature is 55.4-59°F (13- 15°C).
Because most Garda DOC wines are made in the province of Veneto, I described them there.
This wine is only made on the Brescian side of Lake Garda and this DOC has existed for thirty years. The vineyards receive ample sun and moisture and the surroundings here are always green. The geology though is complex, without one definite soil type.
White, red, pale red, rose, and spumante wines are produced here under this DOC label. Garda Bresciano Bianco is made with Riesling Halico and/or Riesling Renano supplemented with up to 20% of other grapes. The wine is pale golden yellow tinged with green. The nose is aromatic and slightly herbal while the taste is soft on the palate and almost velvet, with a clear bitter note and hint of salt. Drinking temperature is 50-53.6°F (10- 12°C) .
Garda Bresciano Rosso is made with Gentile, Santo Stefano, Mocasina, Sangiovese, Marzemino, and Barbera. Single varietal wines can also be found but others contain two or more types of grape.
Consequently the range of possible taste for these wines run into thousands. A ruby red colouring and bitter note in the finish are characteristic of the area though. Drinking temperature is 53.6-60.8°F (12-16°C), depending on the individual type of wine.
Garda Bresciano Chiaretto is a pale red wine (claret, clarete, clairet), made using the same grapes as the Garda Bresciano Rosso. The colour is usually cherry red and the taste is normally very smooth and rounded with a bitter almond finish. Drink at 50-57.2°F (10- 14°C) .
Garda Bresciano Groppello is a ruby red wine made with Gentile, Groppellone, and varieties of roppello grapes. This too is fully flavoured, smooth and rounded, and has a pleasing bitter aftertaste.
In 1770 the vines of Marbuzet were part of the considerable inheritance that Sylvestre Fatin left to his two daughters, Pétronille and Rose. In 1825 the property was sold to the MacCartny family, who were descendants of Irish Jacobites. In 1848, a bitter succession dispute led the MacCarthy family to sell the land in separate parcels. The Poissonier family acquired a seven-hectare parcel and named it Haut- Marbuzet. A hundred years later, in 1952, Hervé Duboscq bought the property under the viager system, paying a monthly sum until the death of its owner. Though without training in agriculture and oenology, he had a natural talent for viticulture.
With its Ionic peristyle, monumental staircase and classic facade, Chateau Margaux is as imposing as the celebrated cru of the same name. Nobility of balance and size, and a sumptuous style aptly define both this architectural jewel and the wine produced by the vine-yards that surround it. This distinguished residence housed Edward III, King of England; at the time it was one of the most imposing fortified chateaux in Guyenne. In the twelfth century, when it was known as La Mothe, it was owned by the powerful Albret family. Later it belonged to the Montferrand family, then to the Lords of Durfort.
In the mid-eighteenth century Chateau Margaux became the property of Monsieur de Fumel, a Bordeaux military commander who played a large part in building this magnificent estate's reputation. When the Marquis de la Colonilla acquired the property in 1802 he had the gothic manor house torn down and ordered the construction of the present chateau.
Everyone has heard of Chateau Margaux of course, the showpiece from this appellation. The AC Margaux includes the communes of Margaux, Arsac, Cantenac, Labarde, and Soussans. The underlying soil of Margaux is extremely poor gravel with some larger stones. The microclimate is somewhat different to the other areas. Firstly Margaux is more southerly than the other Grand Cru vineyards which means more warmth and quicker ripening of the grapes. Equally important though is the role that the islands and sand banks play for Margaux. These protect the area against the cold northerly winds, creating ideal conditions for producing great French wine.
The French wines of Margaux are excellent for laying down of course but their charm is rather more in the finesse and elegance than in their tannin. Margaux is perhaps the most feminine French wine of the Medoc, being soft, delicate, subtle, sensual, and seductive. Certain characteristic aromas include red ripe fruit, cherry, plum, spices, resin, vanilla, toast, gingerbread, coffee, and hot rolls. Drink this Margaux French wine at: 17- 18°C (62.6- 64.4°F) .
We leave the right bank behind and complete our journey through the French wine region of Bordeaux in the Medoc, on the left bank of the Gironde. Medoc is more or less a peninsula with vineyards, bordered by the waters of the Gironde in the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the north-west, and the city of Bordeaux to the south-west, with the extensive forest of Les Landes to the south.
Soil and climate
The sand and gravel-bearing strip of land of about 5- 10 km (3-6 miles) wide provides a broad assortment of terroirs and microclimates. What is locally known as 'graves' is actually a complex mixture of clay, gravel stone, and sand. The stones have been deposited by the Garonne and some come from the Pyrenees (quartz and eroded material from glaciers). Some material is of volcanic origin from the Massif Central (quartz, flint, sandstone, igneous rock, sand, and clay) which has been carried first by the Cere and then the Dordogne. Here and there calciferous clay breaks through the gravel.
This cru is an example of a family-run vineyard. The property of the Hervé family for many generations, it took its present form at the end of the nineteenth century. The fifteen hectares of vines in the Saillans commune, part of the Fronsac AOC, are particularly well positioned. Jean-Noël Hervé, who has a great respect for tradition, has devoted himself since 1977 to bringing out the best in this outstanding terroir, and to producing wines typical of the appellation.
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