Bordeaux is a wine with baggage. I always assumed it was an out-of-reach, snobby wine that was too expensive and available only to collectors and le wine buffs with deep pockets. And while it's true that some Bordeaux wines are indeed expensive (top-of-the line Bordeauxs are snapped up for hundreds or even thousands a bottle!) it's just not true across the line. This wine-producing area in the southern part of Western France includes over 60 appellations, or wine-producing areas.
Another common assumption: Bordeaux wines are all red. Nope. Although Bordeaux is best known for its reds, wines from the region can be white, rose, and they can also be sweet.
I asked Laurie Forster, a wine educator who also calls herself "The Wine Coach" some questions about this misunderstood wine.
Can you give us a quick "Bordeaux 101"? The red wines of Bordeaux are always blends of five different grape varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, and Malbec. The left bank wines tend to have more Cabernet Sauvignon, while the right bank wines tend to have more Merlot and Cab Franc, and tend to be softer than left bank wines. We like to generalize about Bordeaux, but they can be very different based on the geography—the soil really makes its mark on the wine.
What makes Bordeaux wines particularly exciting right now? There have been a number of great vintages in the last five years. Thanks to lots of production and a domestic shrinking of consumption, this is the perfect storm for finding value for your money. There's also such a great balance of old tradition and innovation going on right now. Innovation with Biodynamics, packaging—wine tubes, appellations for example—Cotes de Bordeaux and marketing aimed to draw in the U.S. market.
Can you recommend some bottles in a reasonable price range worth seeking out (and drinking) now?
Chateau St Marie Entre-Deux-Mers 2009 $13
164% Sauvignon Blanc, 28% Semillon and 8% Muscadelle. White flowers, citrus and fresh acidity.
Clos Puy Arnaud Cotes de Castillon 2005 $25-30
This is a biodynamic wine from the right bank. Red fruit-ripe berries, plum, cherry. Generous texture and velvety tannins.
Chateau Dutruch Grand Poujeaux 2005 Moulis-en-Medoc $27
This is a left-bank wine, where the soil is more gravelly. It's a blend of 57% Merlot, 41% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Petit Verdot. Still elegant tannins, more mineral, earthy with black fruits.
Aureus de Sauternes 2006 $26
This is an affordable Sauternes with flavors of crystallized fruit and hazelnuts. Sweet wines aren't just for dessert—I would try pairing this with foie gras, blue cheese, or grilled poultry.
About the author: Kara Newman has written about wine and spirits for such publications as Wine Enthusiast and Sommelier Journal magazines, and is the author of Spice & Ice, which explores 60 tongue-tingling cocktails.