The Lowdown On Bordeaux Wines

It is home to some of the world’s most prestigious and expensive wines, from famous châteaux including Margaux, Petrus, Latour, Mouton Rothschild and d’Yquem, which few of us will be fortunate (or rich) enough to taste. But it’s a huge area, with more than 8,000 producers making around 500 million bottles a year, so there is plenty of wine to go around – and a series of recent high-yielding vintages means there are some bargains to be had from less famous châteaux. Having said that, quality varies wildly, so it’s worth doing some research before parting with your money.

Some 85% of Bordeaux’s production is red wine, usually blends based on cabernet sauvignon and/or merlot. They are traditionally made in oak barrels, with the best meant to be cellared for 10 years or more, but some modern styles are made with little to no oak influence, so are fresher and good to drink when young.

Whites are made from sauvignon blanc, sémillon and/or muscadelle, made crisp and refreshing, rich and opulent, or into wonderful dessert wines – look for appellations including Sauternes, Loupiac, Cadillac or Cérons. There is good sparkling wine, too, called crémant de Bordeaux, made using the same traditional method as champagne but sold at a fraction of the price.

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Bordeaux will never be the hipsters’ choice but clever shopping rewards those who enjoy long-standing tradition.

Bordeaux wines to buy

Château Pey La Tour Réserve 2019

Bottle of Chateau Ley La Tour red wine from Bordeaux

Fantastic value for this benchmark modern merlot-based Bordeaux. Plenty of ripe, brambly fruit, some peppery spice and silky tannins. It’s full-bodied but very well balanced and maintains a certain freshness that belies its hefty 14.5% ABV.

Étoile de Timberlay Crémant de Bordeaux

Bottle of Étoile de Timberlay Crémant de Bordeaux

Easy on the pocket and easy on the palate, a crowd-pleasing fizz with lots of bright bubbles carrying crunchy apple and zesty citrus fruit with a soft, yeasty finish. Drink by itself for a celebratory aperitif, or add a splash of fruit liqueur (try blackcurrant or passion fruit) to make something really special.

Tutiac ‘Lion & The Lily’ Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Bottle of Lion & The Lily sauvignon blanc from Bordeaux

Tutiac is Bordeaux’s largest cooperative, working with more than 500 growers from across the region and doing sterling work to improve the sustainability of their wines. This aromatic, refreshing 100% sauvignon blanc is more subtle than so many from New Zealand: unoaked but with just a little richness to its peach and gooseberry fruit. Try it with the grilled goat’s cheese with hot honey and pink peppercorns.

Speedy serve

Hot sloe gin negroni

Using sloe gin adds a fruity depth but also extra sweetness. Use a dry vermouth rather than the sweet red in the classic recipe.

Graphic outline of a hot sloe gin negroni in a tumbler glass

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