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

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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

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