What's the difference between the "Left Bank" and the "Right Bank" in Bordeaux?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

What are the differences between the "banks"—the left and right? All I know is a river separates them.

—Alisha

Dear Alisha,

The main river in Bordeaux is the Gironde; two smaller rivers, the Dordogne and the Garonne, feed into it. Together, the rivers are shaped almost like an upside-down Y. If you're standing in Bordeaux facing west, toward the ocean, the "Left Bank" is south of the Garonne and Gironde rivers, and the "Right Bank" is north of the Dordogne and Gironde Rivers. (The area in between is known as Entre-Deux-Mers.)

While red Bordeaux wines are blended together from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot grapes, the Left Bank vineyards are dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, while the Right Bank ones focus more on Merlot. This means that the Cabernet-based Left Bank wines tend to be a bit more tannic, while the Merlot-based Right Bank wines tend to have more restrained tannins.

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny

More In Dr. Vinny

Can I ask a restaurant to store my own bottle of wine there for a few weeks before I come in to drink it?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers advice for corkage and BYOB etiquette.

May 3, 2021

How long does it take a new vineyard to yield grapes?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains how long it takes a grapevine to produce …

Apr 26, 2021

Which wines are “clean”? What does that even mean?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains that there are no "unclean" wines, and the term …

Apr 19, 2021

How many gallons of wine are in a ton of grapes?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains how many barrels, gallons, cases and bottles of …

Apr 12, 2021

Does wine age the same under synthetic and natural corks?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the pros and cons of a variety of wine closures, …

Apr 5, 2021

Does Champagne age well?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains what happens to sparkling wine as it ages.

Mar 29, 2021