Tag: wine review

Bordeaux Wine Region Breakdown

Before I leave Bordeaux and move on to other French regions (and the rest of the wine world), I want to do a little regional breakdown of Bordeaux. And, if you can stay with me through that, I have a wine review (or two) at the very end…

Courtesy Fernando Beteta


To set the scene, The Dordogne and Garonne rivers combine to form the Gironde Estuary and divide Bordeaux vineyards into three broad areas. The wine growing regions to the west and south of the river is called The Left Bank. It includes the Médoc, Graves, and Sauternes districts.

Médoc can be further divided into two regions, if you will. The northern portion, called the Bas-Médoc (typically simply labelled Médoc on labels), is home to more clay-based soils. Thus, plantings in this northern portion of Médoc are predominantly Merlot, the blends Merlot-based, and the wines produced are mostly intended for early-drinking.

The more southern portion of the Médoc is called Haut-Médoc; it is considered the more “highly rated” of the two Médoc areas. Within Haut-Médoc, there are several smaller appellations, the most renowned being:

  1. Saint-Estéphe
  2. Pauillac
  3. Saint-Julien
  4. Margaux
Courtesy Fernando Beteta

It is here we find the more gravelly soils. Therefore, the dominant grape variety in these appellations is Cabernet Sauvignon; the blends here have a higher percentage of the grape variety. The wines tend to have that classic core of black currant, complemented by flavors and aromas of oak. They often have grippy tannins in their youth that smooth and soften elegantly with age.

Graves and Pessac-Léognan

This was a bit confusing for me at first, but to be clear, Pessac-Léognan is actually a region inside the larger region of Graves.

Courtesy Fernando Beteta

In Graves, as you may be able to tell from the name, the soil is also quite, well, gravelly. And, again, the dominant grape variety is Cabernet Sauvignon. However, it’s noted that the wines are bit lighter in body and more fragrant than those found to the north in the Haut-Médoc.

Graves and Pessac-Léognan are permitted to produce both red and white wines, but it is Pessac-Léognan, which is in the northern portion of Graves, that is most noted for premium white wine production, with many wines eligible for cru classé status. (Note: The larger Graves appellation does produce white wine, typically Sauvignon Blanc in an un-oaked style.)

As noted in a previous post, like the red wines of Bordeaux, most whites are blended wines, predominantly Sauvignon Blanc with Sémillon, with some including a touch of Muscadelle as well. Sauvignon Blanc adds the citrus and green fruits as well as provides the acidity; Sémillon adds the body, texture, and lends to the ageability of these wines; Muscadelle, when used, provides a subtle touch of floral perfume.

The white wines of Pessac-Léognan are usually fermented and/or aged in oak, often with a certain percentage of new oak. So, these wines will be medium to full bodied and have notes of toast and other flavors indicative of oak usage.

FUN FACT: Médoc and Sauternes can also produced dry white wines, but they have to be labelled under the generic Bordeaux appellations as opposed to their specified appellation.


See my previous post talking all about botrytized sweet wines and learn more about Sauternes and the production of noble rot-influenced sweet wines.


Personal Fact: I find that I much prefer wines from the Right Bank. That being said, I am young in my wine career, so welcome the opportunity to change my mind about that in the future. But the thing is, the Right Bank, with it’s clay-based soils is dominated by Merlot and second place goes to Cabernet Franc—which I love.

Courtesy Fernando Beteta

Fun Fact: It is in the Right bank where the garagiste movement was created. The term refers to small-lot winemaking (small batches from small plots)—with no expense spared in the vineyard or the winery—the result of which are full-bodied, incredibly ripe wines.

St. Émillion

St. Émillion has three distinct soil types.

  1. Vineyards on a plateau to the north and west of the town of Saint-Émillion are planted warm, well-drained soils and it is here where Cab Franc (and to a lesser extent Cab Sauv) can thrive.
  2. Vineyards on the escarpment to the south and east of town are planted on clay limestone soils.

Note: It is from these two areas where the most prestigious wines known to St. Émillion come from. Wines have high to medium tannins, but compared to the Left Bank, they have a softer, richer mouthfeel, and include complex red berry fruit aromas, and, with age, develop notes of tobacco and cedar. Yum.

3. The vineyards located on sandy soils at the foot of the escarpment are usually a source of lighter-bodied, less prestigious wines. (Wallet friendly.)


Pomerol is significantly smaller than St. Émillion, but both the wines and the reputation of Pomerol are similar to that of St. Émillion. However, because of a slight difference in soil type, the wines tend to be a bit richer and spicier.


There is a group of “lesser known” red wine appellations that have collectively agreed to share the name Côtes de Bordeaux:

  1. Blaye
  2. Cadillac
  3. Castillon
  4. Francs

Similar to the Bordeaux appellated wines, these wines tend to be Merlot-based and intended for early drinking.


Entre-Deux Mers—located between the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers (clever name, no?)—is a white wine only appellation. Here, the wine is typically made from Sauvignon Blanc—an exception to the “Bordeaux wines are always a blend” rule. They are made in a fresh, unoaked style.

For more information about Bordeaux, be sure to read about the Bordeaux Classification System.

How’d I do? Anything you want to add about any of these Bordeaux appellations?

You made it! Congrats. Here are two wine reviews. One, from Bordeaux and another a Bordeaux inspired blend from Sonoma. And, yes, if you can sort of make out the background of each photo, they were both paired with the same duck dish—both provided a wonderful pairing. Cheers!

About the Wine: Chateau Miqueu 2016 Haut-Médoc

Flavor Profile:

Appearance: pale ruby

Aroma: developing aromas with medium (+) intensity: black currant, terragon, black cherry, cloves, smoke, sweet tobacco, a hint of leather and meatiness

Palate: dry; high acid; medium (+) tannins; medium alcohol; medium body; with medium (+) flavor intensity: black currant, black cherry, smoke, pepper, licorice, capsicum; medium (+) finish.

Conclusion: Based on the WSET criteria, I concluded that this wine is very good and that you can, indeed, enjoy it now, but does have the potential for aging.

About the Wine: Benziger Family Winery 2016 Oonapais

Flavor Profile:

Appearance: medium ruby

Aroma: developing aromas with pronounced intensity: cranberry, chocolate, black cherry, black plum, smoke, eucalyptus, black currant, licorice, and a hint of leather

Palate: dry; high alcohol; medium (+) body; medium (+) tannin level; medium (+) acid; and medium (+) flavor intensity: black cherry, anise, blackberry, smoke/toast, cedar wood, black pepper, hint leather, eucalyptus, kalamata olives, chocolate; finish is medium (+)

Conclusion: Based on the WSET criteria, I concluded that this is an outstanding wine that can be enjoyed now but certainly has the potential for aging.

PERSONAL NOTE: Between the two? I’d recommend (and reach for) the Benziger over the Haut-Médoc.

BriscoeBites officially accepts samples as well as conducts on-site and online interviews. Want to have your wine, winery or tasting room featured? Please visit the Sample Policy page where you can contact me directly. Cheers!

**Please note: all reviews and opinions are my own and are not associated with any of my places of business. I will always state when a wine has been sent as a sample for review. Sending samples for review on my personal website in no way guarantees coverage in any other media outlet I may be currently associated with.**

Wine Regions of Burgundy and a Wine Review

In a previous post, I explored potential Australian alternatives to Burgundian Chardonnay. This was in response to part one of a WSET Level 3 practice question. Before I move on to part two, which (spoiler alert) takes a deep dive into the wines of Bordeaux, I want to finish up my tour of Burgundy with a quick look at the regions not discussed in that prior post.

Map of Burgundy; Courtesy Fernando Beteta


Wine Region Climates, Disney Princesses, and a Wine Review

Alright, so as you all know I am studying for the WSET Level 3. Exciting? Yes. Am I confident? Well, not yet. You ever notice when you studying for something—anything, really—you’re all about whatever chapter, section, topic you’re currently reading. But it seems like by the time you get to the end of the book, all the stuff from the beginning of the book somehow moved to the back of your brain so, if you were to be tested on Chapter 1 (which, is usually foundational stuff you went into the course already knowing), you’d probably fail that test. I use the word ‘you’ but really I mean ‘me’ here.

Por ejemplo, the last chapters of the WSET 3 book covers sparkling wine (production and regions), Sherry, Port, and fortified Muscat. So, now that’s in the front of my brain.

Fun Fact: Sherry must be aged in 600 liter oak barrels, called (get this) butts. (*Snort*)

I like big butts and I cannot lie…

The fact of the matter is, with this test, you’re really meant to be able to combine that FOB material with the EOB information. Take a look at this sample WSET 3 question:

Identify the climate of Champagne. Explain how the climate in Champagne impacts on the fruit grown and why this makes the wine produced suitable for the production of traditional method sparkling wines.

Pop Quiz! Let’s take a second to answer this question while we’re here…

Champagne has a cool, continental climate. Cool meaning the average annual temperature—during the growing season—is about 16.5°C or below; continental meaning there are large annual temperature variations (extremely warm or hot summers, extremely cool, often frosty, winters), or, in other words, high continentality. Also, as the name pretty much implies, these areas are found away from large, moderating bodies of water. (Fun Fact: This climate condition is far more common in the Northern Hemisphere than the Southern, when talking about vineyard locations.) Continental regions are also usually characterized by short summers with a very quick drop in temperature in the autumn. Put that together with an overall cool climate, and regions like Champagne are most at risk for spring frost, cold growing season temperatures (which can affect flowering, fruitset, and ripening).

Courtesty Fernando Beteta

Cool, continental sounds dreadful, no? In fact there are grapes that can thrive in these conditions, namely those that bud late and ripen early, as they will more than likely “miss” the spring frost (and because grapes for sparkling wine production are harvested earlier than winegrapes for still wine—to maintain a higher level of acidity—the grapes will also “miss” the winter frost). Grapes that fit that profile include Pinot Noir—one of the three main grape varieties used in Champagne production. The other “cool” thing about the cooler conditions for these late budders is that it will, in fact, slow the ripening process a bit so sugars in the grapes (you know, the stuff that turns into alcohol) will stay pretty low, while (again) the acid will stay high. This is important for the production of Champagne, as the second fermentation process will add about 1.2% more alcohol to the base wine, so harvesting grapes low in sugar will help produce a lower alcohol base wine (somewhere in the neighborhood of 10% ABV).

Did I answer that question clearly enough? So, you see how you have to know things about climate conditions of Champagne in order to start talking about the production of it? They could go on to ask what grapegrowers do or what vineyard considerations they take to better assist the full ripening of their grapes in this environment. But…I think I’ll save that for another post. My point here is…the basics, the FOB material. So, here goes:

CLIMATE: The annual pattern of temperature, sun, and rain during the growing season (April through October int he Norther Hemisphere; October through April in the Southern Hemisphere) averaged over several years.

Cool:  Average temperature of 16.5°C or below

Moderate: Average temperature between 16.5°C and 18.5°C

Warm: Average temperature between 18.5°C and 21°C

Hot: Average temperature 21°C and above


Continental: The greatest difference between the hottest and coldest months (high continentality); characterized by short summers with large and fast temperature drop in autumn; dry summers; away from moderating influence of large bodies of water; relatively short growing season; frost hazards at the beginning and end. (Examples: Alsace, Burgundy, Chablis, Champagne, Northern Rhone, Upper Loire, Rioja, Piedmont, Columbia Valley, Finger Lakes, Mendoza)

Maritime: Cool to moderate temperatures and low annual difference between the hottest and coldest months (low continentality); rainfall is evenly spread throughout the year; temperatures typically warm enough to extend ripening into autumn; there are distinct seasons, but less drastic variations between them than Continental; close to large bodies of water; major risks are spring and summer rainfalls. (Examples: Bordeaux [and much of Western France], Northwest Spain, Willamette Valley, New Zealand, Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania)

Mediterranean: Low continentality, BUT summers are warm and dry (compared to Maritime); less seasonal temperature variation and distinction between seasons; long, hot growing season with little precipitation; can get good diurnal swings [ie: daytime-nightime temperature shifts]; because of the warmer conditions, wines are fuller bodied, riper in tannin, higher in alcohol, and lower in acid; major risks include low rainfall (which can be good for grapevine health, but can also lead to drought conditions) and, therefore, irrigation is much more utilized in these regions. (Examples: Mediterranean Region [duh], California, Chile, South Africa, South Eastern Australia

So how’d you like that bit of wine knowledge? It’s interesting that just knowing the climatic conditions of a region gives you a basic clue as to what the wine styles will be. Try that out at the grocery store.

Stay tuned for more. Let’s see what WSET question I pull out of the hat tomorrow for you cool kids. If you happen to have a Pop Quiz you want to give me, leave it in the comments…. Thanks for helping me study!

Oh…did you scroll down here for a wine review? Sure, why not…

About the Wine: 2017 Moon Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon by Ana-Diogo Draper (winemaker at Artesa Estate Vineyards & Winery)

(received as sample from NakeWines.com)

Flavor Profile:

Appearance: Medium Ruby

Aroma: Youthful with a pronounced intensity of aromas: black current, blackberry, blueberry, nutmeg, vanilla, eucalyptus

Palate: Dry, high acid, high tannin, high alcohol, full body with a medium (+) intensity of flavors: fennel, eucalyptus, black current, blackberry, blueberry, nutmeg, vanilla, and a background hint of smokey meat.

Medium (+) finish.

Conclusion: Based on the WSET criteria (and, as a side note, my personal opinion totally agrees with this conclusion), Ana’s Moon Mountain Cab is Very Good. You can drink this now but this wine 100% has the potential to age beautifully. (My personal note: I would recommend laying this down for minimum three years. Ana…save me a bottle to relive, ok? 😉 )

BriscoeBites officially accepts samples as well as conducts on-site and online interviews. Want to have your wine, winery or tasting room featured? Please visit the Sample Policy page where you can contact me directly. Cheers!


Madrigal Family Winery 2018 Sauvignon Blanc

Warning: Personal anecdote ahead. I recently moved from SF to the North Bay. (I will, very shortly be moving again from North Bay to winecountry proper…but that’s a diff story). Walking down the street of downtown Corte Madera, I came across the Madrigal Family Winery tasting room. It was a Sunday morning, the doors closed. My partner in wine crime asked if I knew who they were. Heard of them? Yes. Tasted from them, no. So, here is my first look at and taste of Madrigal Family Winery. (more…)