Bordeaux: Articles on France's Bordeaux Wine Region

Aging Wine, Part II: Five Wines Worth the Wait

Well-aged wine. The very thought of it stirs the spirit and whets the tongue. Older wine takes on a special character in our minds – not only has it been preserved over time, often lovingly tended by a patient caretaker, but it is a vestige of an era long past. It bears memories of the time when it was produced, the time when it was purchased, and all the time since when you’ve been waiting to enjoy it. There’s simply something special about old wine that captures our fancy in a way that new wine doesn’t.

Set the Dials on the Bordeaux Wayback Machine

Remember Peabody’s Improbable History from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show?  That dorky kid, Sherman, who’d probably be an internet billionaire today, would do whatever Mr. Peabody, the dog, told him to and off they’d go, visiting Attila the Hun or the Spanish Inquisition in the Wayback Machine.  They’d screw history up but manage to get it all back together eventually and the whole result was some fine campy humor that delighted my juvenile mind.

Costly Thy Bordeaux as Thy Purse Can Buy

I casually turned over the bottle in my hand. The most storied chateau in France, Mouton Rothschild. The most storied year in French wine history, 1945. This indeed was a bottle above all other bottles. Just imagine it, over 50 years old, this wine was vinted during the Nazi occupation of Bordeaux and France. I was holding history, liquid history.

And I turned the bottle over and saw…$13,000.

Bordeaux: A Question of Vintage

“My dear Greco! You surely aren’t serious!”

We were dining at Chez Panisse with the Count and Countess Ferrari, whom Anne, my better half, had met at some highbrow fundraiser to save vegan single mother whales. The Ferrari’s had latched on to her, representing themselves as the last in the line of the noble House of Ferrari. I thought I smelled a couple of phonies.

Once Upon a Time in Bordeaux

I think the book was one of those Europe-on-five-dollars-a-day books that were so popular when I was a lad of seventeen. Mine was a used copy from a garage sale and my makeshift bookmark, a torn page from my high school yearbook, was stuck in the section on Bordeaux. The torn yearbook page had Musette’s picture on it; the French exchange student from my school two years prior, the most exotic girl I had ever met up to that time, the girl who kept those fancy French cigarettes and a flask of vodka in her purse. And here I was, with her photo in my ratty travel guide standing on the banks of the Gironde River in some little place called Pauillac.

Bordeaux Right Bank Vintage Chart

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Sailing the Wine Dark Sea: Misadventures in Bordeaux

Bordeaux. The word conjures up everything elegant and rich and confusing and unknown if you’re the normal semi-literate wine snob-in-training, like me. The confusing and unknown aspects are part of the reason why so many Americans don’t enjoy these crown jewels of the wine world and the elegant and rich parts are why so many Americans should enjoy these wines.

That being said, Bordeaux wines ARE confusing. I have no idea how to pronounce the names of all those Chateaux in the first place, except in the rather pathetic French accent I stole from Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau character.

Happiness is a Bold Bordeaux: France’s Obsession with Wine

No country has a greater love affair with the art of winemaking than France.  The passion with which the French enjoy a perfect food and wine pairing is an absolutely unparalleled experience.  The average American can’t possibly understand the rooted history of this obsession, or the extent to which the French have gone to preserve their winemaking heritage.  These folks are serious about many things, but none play second fiddle to the fermentation of the all-mighty grape.

Swoop into any world-famous or mom and pop restaurant in France, and you’ll likely spy the volumes of bottles way before you lay eyes on the food.  Chef superstars like Alain Ducasse and Joel Robuchon wouldn’t dream of a prix fixe extravaganza without the ideal wine accompaniments for each and every dish. 

Bordeaux Classifications

The 57 appellations of Bordeaux are not classified in a single official ranking. But the Médoc, Sauternes and Barsac, Graves, and Saint-Emilion districts do have their own official internal classification systems. Pomerol, one of Bordeaux's greatest assets, was not included in the 1855 Classification, and remains unclassified to this day. However, Château Pétrus is often included with the First Growths (Premiers Crus) of the 1855 Classification.

The Classification of 1855
Much like our World's Fair today, Napoléon III's 1855 Expositon Universelle de Paris was a chance for France to display its very best for the world to see. The Gironde Chamber of Commerce requested that a classification system be devised to accompany their display of the fine wines of Bordeaux. The Bordeaux Wine Brokers' Union went to work on the project and came up with what we now refer to as the Classification of 1855.

Bordeaux Wine Region in France: World's Most Famous Fine Wine Region

Bordeaux is arguably the greatest wine region in the world.  Great cellars around the world are filled with wines from the different chateaus of the region.  America’s first wine connoisseur, Thomas Jefferson, not only drank wines from here, but made it a point to visit the region and see for himself what made these wines so great.

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