Confusion Corner: Blaye, Blaye, Blaye

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Tucked away in a sleepy corner off the right bank of the Gironde Estuary, you’ll find the town of Blaye. Blaye is a picture-postcard-perfect town rich in history and charm. Wine lovers, of course, will recognize the name Blaye as a small-but-impressive area for the production of Bordeaux wine. And that’s where the confusion begins. There are three appellations d’origine contrôlée (AOCs) that go by the name of Blaye: Blaye AOC, Côtes de Blaye AOC, and Côtes de Bordeaux–Blaye AOC They all share the exact same location and all three—of course—produce Bordeaux wine.

And yet and still, each of these three appellations comes with its own unique twist.  Here’s what we mean:

Blaye AOC: The Blaye AOC is approved to produce still (non-sparkling) dry red wines only. Blaye AOC may be produced from any of the six “typical” red Bordeaux varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec (known here as “Côt), Petit Verdot, and/or Carmenère. There are, however, some interesting parameters set to the assemblage (blend): at least 50% of the blend must consist of the three principal varieties of the appellation—Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. The other three grapes (Malbec/Côt, Petit Verdot, and Carmenère) may only be found in concentrations of less than 50% (combined).

Photo of vineyards in Blaye by Michael Clarke via Wikimedia Commons

Côtes de Blaye AOC: The Côtes de Blaye AOC produces still (non-sparkling) dry white wines only. This appellation could be considered a loveable misfit of Bordeaux, as the wines are required to be based on Colombard and/or Ugni Blanc. You read that right! As a matter of fact, the wine must be produced using 60% to 90% (combined) Ugni Blanc and/or Colombard. The remainder may consist of Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris, Sémillon, and/or Muscadelle.

Côtes de Bordeaux–Blaye AOC: The Blaye sub-region of the Côtes de Bordeaux AOC produces still (non-sparkling wines) in both dry red and dry white. This appellation was created in 2015 when the late, great Premieres Côtes de Blaye AOC was absorbed by the Côtes de Bordeaux AOC.

The regulations for the red wines are similar to—but not exactly the same—as those for the Blaye AOC. Côtes de Bordeaux–Blaye AOC Rogue must contain a minimum (combined) 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot; Carmenère has a maximum of 10%, and Petit Verdot and Carmenère combined may not exceed 15%.

The white wines of the Côtes de Bordeaux–Blaye AOC somewhat reflect the requirements for standard dry white Bordeaux wines and may contain any combination of Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris, Sémillon, and/or Muscadelle (although it is likely to be heavy on the Sauvignon Blanc). Colombard and Ugni Blanc, while allowed, must be kept to a (combined) maximum of 15%.

The red wines of the Blaye AOC and the Côtes de Bordeaux–Blaye AOC seem awfully similar, so it helps to keep in mind that the Côtes de Bordeaux is considered one of Bordeaux’s over-arching regional appellations, and as such it maintains somewhat looser standards than those required for the Blaye AOC, as seen in the following examples:

  • Minimum potential alcohol:
    • Blaye AOC: 12%
    • Côtes de Bordeaux–Blaye AOC Rogue: 11.5%
  • Maximum yield:
    • Blaye AOC: 48 hl/ha
    • Côtes de Bordeaux–Blaye AOC Rogue: 52 hl/ha

Any questions?

References/for more information:

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas… missjane@prodigy.net

About bubblyprof
Wine Writer and Educator...a 20-year journey from Bristol Hotels to Le Cordon Bleu Schools and the Society of Wine Educators

2 Responses to Confusion Corner: Blaye, Blaye, Blaye

  1. uncorkedgourmet says:

    Jane,

    This is a very good explanation on a rather confusing set of AOCs. Why in the world do they still have all 3!

    Roy

    >

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