When travelling in France, if we cannot find a local varietal of wine to enjoy I will reach for a Bordeaux Blend. The Bordeaux Wines, in my opinion, are some of the best in the world. Many of the varietals are grown in South Africa which makes them very familiar to me. I also love our visits to the Médoc region having spent time barging and driving through the area. I am sure many people are familiar with Bordeaux blend wines, and here I go through the red grapes that traditionally make up the blend.
On the palate you will find brambleberry, cassis, plum, raspberry and blackberry. You might even taste herbs, red flowers, cocoa, red capsicums and spices. On the nose it is floral with plum, blackberry, cassis, spice and leafy aromas coming to the fore. If the wine smells of green peppers you can suspect that the grapes were picked before fully ripe. This grape is grown world-wide and succeeds where Cabernet Sauvignon might not. Once made into wine, Cabernet Franc is very aromatic and can be enjoyed as a single varietal. In a sense you feel like you are drinking autumn and is a great wine to pair with food. In the blend it adds an earthy mouth feel.
Considered the noble grape, Cabernet Sauvignon will grow in all sorts of climates. It is successfully grown in France, South Africa and the Napa Valley and the grape itself lacks genetic diversity. You can spot this grape by its thick skin, which is what makes it so easy to grow and harvest. As a single varietal the wine will be rich in colour and have depth of aroma, with the most notable taste being black cherry and blackcurrant. You might even notice black pepper, tobacco, licorice, vanilla or violets. If you can smell green capsicums then the grapes have been grown in a climate cooler than is ideal. Amazingly, the aroma of the wine could even tell you where the grapes are grown. In the blend it adds a powerful rich flavour that lingers on the palate. It is also responsible for the tannins.
Merlot is by far my favourite single varietal and has a gentle hue with rich flavour. This opulent wine is redolent of black cherry, raspberry and plum together with hints of pencil shavings, cedar, tobacco, vanilla, clove and mocha. The jammier the wine tastes, the riper the grape was before picking. This fruit forward wine can be aged for up to 24 months in oak. In a Bordeaux blend it adds fruitiness and a velvet mouthfeel. It softens the blend making it vital to the success of the wine.
When tasting a Malbec look for brambleberry, pomegranate, plum, raspberry and blackberry. You might even get hints of lavender, violets, leather, black pepper and tabasco. You would describe this wine as being lush or full of ripe, juicy berries and purple fruits. It will smell herbal or of anise and have floral notes that will remind you of violets. The colour will be a deep purple and is used mainly in the Bordeaux blend to add colour. Needing better weather conditions than those offered in the Sud-Ouest region of France it grows with great success in Mendoza. And because of this, it is slowly working its way out of the blend. The grape itself is thick-skinned and produces an intense, full-bodied wine.
I refer to this late ripening grape as the fixer. It adds acidity to a blend, as well as tannins. A little bit can fix a blend, producing a winning wine that will last well in your wine rack. However, because this grape so seldom reaches its full phenotic ripeness it is too, like the malbec, is being phased out of the blend. In warmer climates such as South Africa, this grape will grow better, producing dry full-bodied wines, full of bold fruit. On the nose you will find plum, blackberry, blueberries and maybe even a hint of black cherry. The taste is of violets, lilacs, lavender, sage, and if aged in oak, vanilla, hazelnut and mocha.
Inspiration published on Lavender and Lime April 24:
Dave and I are overseas in France. We will be back at work on the 6th of May. I might not be able to read any blogs while we are away so please forgive my lack of visiting back. I will reply to comments when I can. You can follow our trip by taking a look at our holiday blog.