When you start looking at Bordeaux you get told about the two banks; left and right. Right bank, including Saint Emilion and Pomerol, has the perfect terroir for producing the best Merlot in the world. The left bank, including Margaux and Pauillac, is perfect for Cabernet Sauvingon. That’s right, isn’t it? Well apparently not quite…
Amongst the changes occurring in Bordeaux plantings that make more headlines, like the climate change enforced spread of Cabernet Franc and Malbec, it’s the increase in Merlot in blends that is really changing styles on the Left Bank.
One reason is the rise in second wines. Sometimes using younger vines, or different plots of vineyards on the property, they are designed to fit the modern style and be earlier drinking. That means Merlot. Tourelles De Longueville, 2ndwine of Chateau Pichon Baron (and my personal favourite second wine in Bordeaux) was 65% Merlot and only 20% Cabernet Sauvignon in 2014, and is drinking beautifully already.
Another reason is the rise in the use of drone technology to map out the soils of Bordeaux. The famous gravel topsoils and limestone bases of the Médoc is a dream for Cabernet Sauvignon. But more recently people have been working out that between these top and bottom layers lies varying depths of Merlot-friendly sand and clay. The greater the depth, the more Merlot will thrive, as seen by recent blends of Saint Julien’s Lagrange and Saint Estephe’s Lilian Ladouys, both with more Merlot than Cabernet Sauvignon.
This isn’t to say these wines don’t age as well, it’s more that you don’t have to wait 10 years before even looking at them.
So before you write off for that planning permission for the new cellar, have a quick look at your favourite bottles. Might save yourself a few quid…on the construction at least 😉
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