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Can I Tell What a Bordeaux is Going to Taste like by the Label?

Can I Tell What a Bordeaux is Going to Taste like by the Label?

One of the most common questions we get is “How do I read a wine label?” We aren’t going to attempt to answer that. The reason being, wine labels are vastly different and aside from listing the alcohol level and country of origin somewhere on the bottle, there are no constants.


In Europe, the rule is that the region is most often listed. The consumer (you) is then meant to know what “Barolo” or “Saumur-Champigny” tastes like if you see that area listed on a label. If the region is listed, there are specific laws requiring the producer to use specific grapes and age the wines for a certain length of time. This is the stuff we study in sommelier school and forget as fast we did trigonometry in high school so don’t feel like you need to order flashcards to get into wine.


The one major European red wine region that really is a challenge to know what’s in the bottle is Bordeaux. Bordeaux is the home of “the blend.” While most European regions focus on one grape such as Chablis (chardonnay), Red Burgundy (pinot noir), Beaujolais (gamay), Barolo (Nebbiolo), Brunello di Montalcino (sangiovese) etc. etc.Bordeaux is a region that takes pride in mixing several different grapes for their wines. The final blend is the decision of the winemaker, not the wine law. Think of it as an apple pie recipe, at the end of the day, everyone turns out some version of crust with cinnamon-flavored mushy apples but the exact combination of crust to apple and seasoning is left to the hands of the chef. So, if you have a Bordeaux and you’re looking to know exactly what’s in that bottle you just enjoyed trying to find something similar, it’s not about the grape but it’s about the winemaker’s choice of the blend in that year.


There are consistent blends amongst wineries within certain regions which can lead you to a consistent flavor profile too. In areas like Pomerol and St-Emilion, you’ll find mostly merlot and cabernet franc. In areas such Saint-Estèphe, Pauillac, Saint-Julien and Margaux, you’ll find blends led by cabernet sauvignon.


Here’s a list of the supposed blends of the great wines of Bordeaux.

What are the grapes of Château Margaux?

They say it’s 75% cabernet sauvignon, 20% merlot, 3% petit verdot and 2% cabernet franc.

What are the grapes of Château Mouton Rothschild?

5% cabernet sauvignon, 20% merlot, 3% petit verdot and 2% cabernet franc.

What grape is Petrus?

100% merlot.

What are the grapes of Cheval Blanc?

52% cabernet franc, 43% merlot, and 5% cabernet sauvignon.






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