Bordeaux Question on Blending (Grand Vin versus 2nd Wines)

Just reading a bit about some of the practices of the various estates with regards to blending and I am curious as to what do they do with the grapes that don’t make the cut. For example, Lafite grows has about 70% of their estate planted to Cabernet Sauvignon yet it is not uncommon for them to make a wine that is over 90% CS. In 2003, VCC made a wine that was 80% CF yet the vineyard is planted to only 30% CF. It doesn’t seem plausible to make a second wine that is then mostly Merlot so at a guess I think they must just sell the fruit they don’t use? Apparently they only made 1/3 the normal amount of VCC in 2003 (800 Cases) so maybe they just didn’t pick all the Merlot? Anyone have more intimate knowledge?




Not an expert Jack, but the second wine may contain a disproportionate amount of deselected grapes, or they can be sold off in bulk to negotiants.

I guess the larger question is that the typical routine? - a cursory look shows for 2022 the mix for Lafite is 94% CS, 5% Merlot, 1% PV and for Carruades 53% cabernet sauvignon, 40% merlot, 4% cabernet franc and 3% petit verdot. Maybe my epiphany is that it has always been that way for Lafite with their second wine being more Merlot based. I suppose I never considered that these estates have second wines that are so dissimilar in blending mix - I always thought it was more just deselected fruit across a broad spectrum. I guess the question is why doesn’t Lafite just plant more CS to put into their first wine since the ROI seems like it would make sense.

Some other data points:

2018 Cos: 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot
Pagodes: 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc

2014 Margaux - 36% of the year’s total production and is a blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot.
2014 Pavillon Rouge - 22% Merlot, 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Petit Verdot

2008 Margaux - again 36% of production 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, and the rest Petit Verdot
Pavillon has 26% Merlot in the blend.

2016 Lafite - 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot
2016 Carruades - 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 49% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot

At least for Lafite as I dig into this question a bit more they actually have some plots of Merlot designated for the Carruades so it is typically much more Merlot based.

2022 Palmer 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, and 4% Petit Verdot
2022 Alter Ego (which they don’t say is necessarily a “second wine”)
51% Merlot, 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 6% Petit Verdot.

So Palmer is more what I might expect with the blend not too different - Lafite obviously consistently makes their second wine with more Merlot and Margaux appears to vary based on what nature gives them although also often putting more merlot in the Pavillon (for the '22 vintage it is 24% vs 6% in the Grand Vin). Sure these are broad generalizations but it reminds me that the second wines aren’t necessarily just slightly inferior versions of their siblings but actually can be very different in composition. And if you like Merlot then maybe you should look for the second wines!

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22 21 20
Grand Vin Merlot 41 50.3 42.8 45%
CS 50 38 39.7 43%
CF 9 11.7 17.5 13%
Le Clarence Merlot 62.1 70.4 60.1 64%
CS 21.9 18.2 31.7 24%
CF 14.5 11.4 6.7 11%
PV 1.5 1.5 2%

Here is for Haut Brion vs. Second wine for the last 3 years - looks like this is what the Bordelaise do - more Merlot in their second wines and less CS. Never knew that!

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2003 was a very difficult year for Pomerol. It was too hot and dry. Much of the Merlot either did not ripen, or was cooked and not suitable for VCC. Cabernet Franc.

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Each estate handles it differently. And it varies from vintage to vintage. For example, you might find higher percentages of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc in 2023 as the Merlot suffered from mildew this year.

But, simply put, what is not placed into the Grand Vin goes into the second wine. Which explains why second wines from the Left Bank are often dominated by Merlot.

If the grapes do not make the cut for the second wine, they go into their third wine, or are sold off as bulk wine. A few properties now make 4th wines as well.

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