Comparisons between Australian and French wines

Red wines

Bordeaux
The majority of these are cabernet sauvignon–dominant, with lesser amounts of merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot – but always some; these are informally called Left Bank, meaning they come from the left (or western) bank of the Gironde River, and merlot/cabernet franc–dominant if they come from Saint-Émilion or Pomerol, the right (eastern) bank. None of the Bordeaux wines is 100% cabernet sauvignon, which is made extensively in Australia and California’s Napa Valley. But if you compare an Australian cabernet sauvignon with a Haut Médoc or Graves wine of similar age, the Australian wine will be smoother, less tannic, and have more obvious berry fruit flavours. On the other side, the French (Bordeaux) wine will have more complexity and structure conferred by the terroir and climate, and expressed through the tannins (and new oak) in the wine. Burgundy
Red Burgundy is 100% pinot noir, and its Australian counterparts are likewise 100% pinot noir. The colour of Burgundy is always far lighter in depth than that of Bordeaux and the hue has more red than purple. It also changes more quickly, with red/brown notes appearing, but this does not mean the wine is past its best; often the contrary is the case.

The most simple rule is to regard the colour of Burgundy as unimportant and no guide to its quality. Australian pinot noir from its cool regions (particularly southern Victoria and Tasmania) has similar characteristics. For both Burgundy and Australian pinot noir the aroma – the perfume – of the bouquet is of extreme importance. The Burgundians say, ‘Get the bouquet right, and the palate will look after itself’; Bordeaux winemakers take precisely the opposite view – ‘Get the palate right, and the bouquet will look after itself.’

This does not mean the palate as a whole is irrelevant for Burgundy. The finish and aftertaste are as important as the bouquet. 

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