A sumptuous steak dinner washed down with a glass of Bordeaux can lift your spirits even after the most stressful and exhausting day. Before you chug that entire bottle of red, learning a bit more about Bordeaux might make you better appreciate every sip of this delicate French drink.
But first, the basics. It’s common for diners to be quite confused about the term “Bordeaux wine.” If you go to a fancy restaurant and order a bottle of Bordeaux, the waiter would probably ask you what type of Bordeaux you want.
Bordeaux is a region in France that’s considered to be the largest wine-growing area in the country, with more than 120,000 hectares of vineyard area. Any wine coming from that region falls under the Bordeaux wine category. Though 90% of Bordeaux wines are red, there are also white varieties produced in that region.
The most popular varieties of red Bordeaux are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. These wines are best served at around 65°F or 18°C, or slightly below room temperature. The correct serving temperature showcases the wine’s black currant, plum, graphite, cedar, and violet flavors. Connoisseurs advise decanting red Bordeaux for 30 minutes before serving.
White Bordeaux, on the other hand, typically comes in the form of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Muscadelle. These whites have flavor profiles dominated by grapefruit, lemon-lime, gooseberry, lemon curd, and chamomile.
History of Bordeux
The roots of Bordeaux wine production could trace back to the Ancient Roman times. The Romans cultivated vineyards in the region called Burdigala back in 60 BC. The region’s location and ground composition worked well to its advantage; its soil was perfect for grape cultivation, and it was near the Garonne river, which was the main dock where ships depart and arrive to and from Rome.
Wine from this region earned fame in 1st century AD, not only among Roman soldiers but also among inhabitants of Gaul and Britain. The excellent reputation of Bordeaux wine continued to be well-known throughout the rest of Europe. Today, the region continues to be the most influential wine-producing region in France, producing an average of 900 million bottles per year.
Where Bordeaux Wines are Produced
The Bordeaux region is composed of different districts, each having distinctive soil and weather qualities. Medoc and Graves, also known as the left bank, has gravelly soils and graphite-driven red wines. The district produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.
Libournais, also known as the right bank, has red clay soils that result in bold, plummy red wines. Bordeaux blends from this district include Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Famous Bordeaux Wine Bottles
Château Lafite Rothschild Pauillac is produced in the Medoc, which is known to be one of the most famous red wine districts worldwide. This wine is typically made with 80 to 95% Cabernet Sauvignon grape variety, 5 to 20% Merlot, and 0 to 5% Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. It’s aged in new oak barrels, with 16,000 cases produced every year. A bottle of this wine would set you back somewhere between $416 and $632, according to an online wine database.
This bottle is produced in the district of Sauternes, which is known for its sweet white wines. The producers describe this wine to have a “rare and precious background of acidity.” Yquem offers a wide variety of wines, including vintages that span back to the 1890s, which could cost around $6000 per 750 ml. On the other hand, a bottle of their young variety, 2014, comes at a much more affordable $250 price tag.
This wine is produced in St-Emilion, a district known for its fine red wines. The drink consists of 65% Merlot grape variety, 25% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Their annual production of 70,000 bottles come from their grapevines more than four decades old. A bottle of this wine would set you back around $230 per bottle.
This bottle is produced in the small but distinctive district of Pomerol, famous for luxurious Merlot grape wines. The wine is made of 80% Merlot grape variety and 20% Cabernet Franc, grown in an estate of gray clay and sandy gravel, resting on red clay. The wine is aged in new, French oak barrels. A bottle typically costs $190.
This white wine is also made in the Medoc district. It’s made of 100% Sauvignon blanc grapes, making for an elegant and fruity number that’s fresh on the palette. This pale gold wine offers a subtle aroma of broom flowers and acacia blossoms and a flavor that features fruity, citrus nuances. This is one of those white wines that could age well. Aged bottles offer flavor hints of butter, brioche, and warm stones.
Bordeaux Wine Food Pairings
Here are some of the foods that will enhance the flavor profile of Bordeaux wine, categorized by flavor profile.
Left Bank Red Bordeaux
Cabernet Sauvignon grapes dominate wines from the left bank with hints of tobacco, truffle, smoke, earth, spice, and cherries.
- Entrees: sirloin steak, grilled and roast lamb with garlic and rosemary, steak pies, red wine stews, filet mignon, caramel chicken
- Cheese: Cheshire, red Leicester, French Mimolette, Cheddar, Gouda
Right Bank Red Bordeaux
Most bottles produced in the right bank are dominated by Merlot and have subtle hints of chocolate, floral, and licorice notes.
- Entrees: steak, barbecue pulled pork sandwiches, tournedos Rossini, zucchini, sweet red bell peppers, and even some root vegetables, burgers, barbecued chicken, roast duck, roast turkey, Asian-style pork chops
- Cheese: Cheddar, Gouda
The term “lunchtime claret” is used to pertain to inexpensive everyday Bordeaux wine.
- Entrees: paté, terrines, roast beef, game pie, steak and fries, sausage and chips, lentils, shepherd’s pie
- Cheese: Brie, goat and sheep cheeses, Camembert, Cheddar, Gouda
Old Bordeaux wines have faded primary fruit notes.
- Entrees: mild-flavored stews, gently-flavored lamb, duck, partridge, pheasant, mushroom and truffles, mint and thyme-flavored dishes
- Cheese: hard sheep cheeses, blue cheese, Cheddar, Gouda