Interpretive Taste (What You Need to Know About How A Bordeaux Blend Sounds)

Wine Judging

Happy Wine Wednesday Everyone!

I was geeking out with a group of sommeliers over a wine from Bordeaux when one guy turned to me and said, “you should write a musical tasting note and interpret this Bordeaux Blend artistically!” Due in part to the amount of Bordeaux that had been consumed at that point, this sounded like a smashing idea.

Here’s what you need to know. Back in 1855 Emperor Napoleon III asked for a classification system to rank France’s best Bordeaux wines. So they did, and came up with a system to guarantee the quality of wines by dictating among other things, what grape varieties can be grown.

There are only five red grape varieties allowed to be grown in Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, and each adds something unique.

  • Cabernet Sauvignon is a small thick-skinned grape with high tannins that adds aromas and flavours of blackberry, black currant, black cherry, bell pepper and green olive. It’s the most planted black wine grape in the world.
  • Merlot is juicy and full of currant, black cherry and plum. It’s slightly herbaceous, lower in acidity and provides a luscious mouth-feel. It’s the second most planted black wine grape in the world.
  • Malbec falls somewhere between Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It’s deep in colour, with ample tannins that brings plum-like flavours and complexity.
  • Cabernet Franc is thinner skinned, has lower acidity, softer tannins and can be fruitier and more herbal than Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Petit Verdot is dark is colour with dense fruit flavour and high tannins…it’s used like a spice, as little as 2% of a blend.

Bordeaux blends are a work of art, and I was pretty sure, as a sommelier and as a musician that I could interpret the blend musically.

This video is a live performance of my ode to the famous Bordeaux Blend. Listen for the tannic slap of Cabernet Sauvignon, the juicy hammer-on of Merlot and Cabernet Franc, the plush Malbec back-beat slap and the subtle finger-picking of Petit Verdot.

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