Who drinks Bordeaux?
A rising interest in European wines, especially Bordeaux, has retail wine buyers like me very, very excited. What is curious about the trend toward Bordeaux are the disparate groups behind it — they range from the health-conscious to adventure seekers to experienced wine consumers. The health-conscious fans drink Bordeaux because they are looking for cleaner wines with lower sulfite levels and minimal processing ; fewer calories means drier wines, and lower alcohol gives a lighter load to the body. The adventure-minded sippers relish in the newness and the challenge of the unknown. These shoppers give me a mental whiplash because their young and fearless attitude toward wines they can’t pronounce nor understand is admirable. These seekers enjoy adventure whether abroad or at home because they value experiences and stories. Lastly, savvy and more experienced consumers are finding value with Bordeaux wines of all types because the market has become favorable to buyers.
What’s exciting about Bordeaux?
This is an exciting and fortuitous time to buy Bordeaux, because what all consumers can expect from this year and in the continuing future is a better and broader selections at a vastly discounted price. So, how do we as consumers take advantage of this exciting time? First, we must dispel a couple fears and misplaced assumptions surrounding Bordeaux and the “process” of buying these wines. Second, we have to learn some basic rules and key concepts about Bordeaux. Third, we have to know what we like. Finally, purchase and taste some Bordeaux! France’s most important holiday, Bastille Day, falls in the month of July. We’re featuring Bordeaux of all classifications in our At-Home Tastings this month. All the kits will be made available for the entire month of July, instead of their usual weekly limits.
Remember: Once you learn the basic rules of Bordeaux, it turns into a game — a winnable game in which you can taste victory!
Bordeaux seems harder than it is and more pretentious than it needs to be…
Many shoppers have confessed their fears and misgivings of Bordeaux because of (1) the unfamiliar names of the regions and the fancy schmancy labels, (2) the “highfalutin” classification system, and (3) not knowing what grapes are in the bottles.
The best way to combat the unfamiliar is to start looking at labels. In the beginning, just try to identify repeated words throughout a section such as “Bordeaux Superior” vs. “Bordeaux AOC”, “Medoc”, and “Saint-Émilion.” The truth is that the vast majority of Bordeaux wines are meant to be your daily bread and butter sort of wines. Spending less than $20 a bottle means a narrower regional option.
There is one important rule in Bordeaux AOC that is worth remembering: there is a limited and fixed permissible set of grapes only for red and white wine production.
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Cabernet France
- Petite Verdot
- Sauvignon Blanc
- Ugni Blanc
*Carmenere is mostly found in Medoc.
Most red wines under the Bordeaux AOC, Bordeaux Superior, Medoc, and Saint-Émilion AOCs typically include just Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and maybe a little Cabernet Franc. For white wines, they’re mostly Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, or a blend of the two.
What is the Bordeaux style?
Bordeaux wines compared to California wines tend be more structured, less fruity, drier, and show some earthy qualities. If you purchase a wine from Bordeaux Superior, Merlot is the dominant blend, followed either by Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc. The Merlot dominant blend offers a softer and more fruit forward flavor than wines from Medoc, which are made mostly from Cabernet Sauvignon and exhibit more structure through tannins and acidity. Most Cabernet Sauvignon drinkers find themselves unwittingly enjoying wines from Bordeaux Superior (Merlot-dominant). Alexander Valley Cabernet drinkers have latched onto Bordeaux Superior because it’s lighter and softer. Many Napa Valley Cabernet and Red Blend drinkers have latched onto either Medoc, with its intense flavors and structure, or Saint-Émilion wines, due to their intense richness and flavors with a smooth or supple texture. If you love your New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, the Bordeaux white wines Top Ten offers are made 100% with Sauvignon Blanc. They’re modest in their citrus notes, cleaner and snappier on the finish. They make for a better partner in food pairings than the sometimes aggressive or boldly-flavored NZ Sauvignon Blancs. Lastly, if you love your desserts, sauterne or sauterne-like styles of wine will be the perfect nightcap for your evening. Or, add it to your lemonade in lieu of sugar; some have even added it to their sparkling water.
Start your Bordeaux Kit at Home
Throughout the month of July, our At-Home Tasting kits will offer an entry level crash course in Bordeaux wines and will feature a range of styles. Kits will be available throughout the month, not just on one specific week, so you’ll have plenty of options all month long!