There has traditionally been much mystique surrounding wines from Bordeaux in South West France. Expensive, tannic, not easy to drink, unhelpful front labels, elitist, ‘what are class growths’ etc. These are all words used about the wines of this region unless you’ve been lucky enough to try them with someone who has unraveled the mystery!
However, the mystery is easily dispensed with because as with all wines it’s about flavour and taste and finding a wine you like. If you like fresh crisp white wines made from Sauvignon Blanc, you could try a white wine from the Graves region in Bordeaux or if you enjoy Merlot or Cabernet wines try a red Bordeaux. They’re also good value for money and well made by young winemakers using modern winemaking with traditional grape varieties allowed by the region’s wine laws. Check out wines from regions called Fronsac, Cotes de Bourg or Blaye.
For many wine drinkers it’s a surprise that this region uses these grape varieties as their wine labels look secretive bearing only the name of the chateau and the area of production. This has created the mystique that has shrouded these wines making them appear only for knowledgeable wine drinkers. This is especially as most of the news and PR about Bordeaux wines expresses the high prices attained for each vintage of the top first growth wines e.g. Chateau Lafite and Chateau Latour.
My recent wine trip to Bordeaux was very different to previous visits as the wine producers were very open and welcoming to visitors. ‘Vente direct’ and ‘degustation’ – open for sales, taste before you buy – signs proliferated at the winery entrances enticing passers by to drop in and taste and hopefully buy the wines they liked attracting new and traditional Bordeaux wine drinkers to give them a go. Previously producers made their traditional wines and sold through traditional négociant, wine trade routes to market. However, these traditional sales routes have been eroded by the appealing, easy to understand wines from Australia, New Zealand et al that spell out on their front labels exactly what they are listing grape varieties etc.
The wine laws that govern production have prevented the grape varieties used from appearing on the label so identifying the style of wine is difficult unless the consumer has prior knowledge. Now, however although the labels still don’t give much away, but back labels now appear with some detail.
The wide range produced in the Bordeaux region varies from crisp dry whites that make great aperitifs to more full-bodied mouthfilling wines that are great with fish dishes or risottos. Look out for wines bearing the region name Entre Deux Mers and Graves. Roses are fragrant and fresh with lovely fruity flavours from Merlot grapes while the reds are more robust ranging from supple & fruity generic wines to rounded from the Merlot based wines from St Emilion & Pomerol. Those where Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant grape in a blend with Merlot & Malbec are intense and powerful and are delicious when paired with red meat, some cheeses or even chocolate!
Last, but by no means least, there are the luscious complex fabulous dessert wines from Sauternes, Loupiac and Sainte Croix de Mont that are in a class of their own and deservedly so! Often sold in half bottles they are a delight to round off a meal with cheeses, chocolate and coffee………….
I’ll finish as I started – just try Bordeaux and find some delicious flavours at all prices and quality levels – you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the value and range you find. September is Bordeaux month……….