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

How can I make sure my wine is at the right serving temperature?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers a few simple methods for accurate temperature …

Feb 22, 2021

Can a wine stored in ideal conditions outlast its recommended drink window?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains recommended drinking windows for aging wine.

Feb 15, 2021

Are new oak barrels toasted and filled with wine before they’re sold?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains why barrels are toasted, and how a wine barrel's …

Feb 8, 2021

How do you open a bottle of wine that has a wax capsule?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains how to deal with wax-topped wine bottles, …

Feb 1, 2021

Where do wine club wines come from?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains where private label wines come from, and what …

Jan 25, 2021

What’s the difference between Brix, Baumé, Oechsle and residual sugar?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains why measuring sugar content in grapes is so …

Jan 18, 2021