Bordeaux is arguably the most famous wine region in the world and has been captivating wine lovers since Roman times. For some, it’s home to the most sought after wines on the planet, but for others, it’s an impenetrable fortress of quirky French wine laws and old fashioned red wines.
The truth, of course, is somewhere in the middle.
While Bordeaux is a little quirky, it also produces a surprising array of styles, from big, bold reds, to supple fruity numbers, crisp whites and some astonishingly luxurious sweet wines. In smaller quantities, it also makes some rather fine rosés and sparkling wines.
Bordeaux can be an intimidating region to tackle in terms of food matching, but there is no reason to hang back.
While it may not seem as approachable as some New World styles, with a few handy pointers, you can easily match Bordeaux wines and your favourite meals.
You don’t even need to save your Bordeaux for a special occasion-it matches so well with all your favourite everyday dishes!
Charcuterie makes a great starter or is the perfect food for a laid back alfresco lunch. Cold, cured meats and pâtés are light in texture, and have a lovely salty freshness that can be overwhelmed by a tannic red. Here you want a wine with lots of juicy fruit and smooth tannins to compliment the savoury meat flavours.
A good choice would be a wine with a high proportion of Merlot, which is a softer and less tannic grape than Cabernet Sauvignon. The Blaye region is on the right bank of the Gironde river, where Merlot is King and young wines from here, like the Château Crusquet De Lagarcie 2016, would make a great match for charcuterie. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, why not try pairing our charcuterie with a white wine. A crisp white really complements the rich, smoky flavours, something like this herbaceous Bordeaux Sauvignon would be perfect.
Roast Chicken is full of flavour, especially if served with all the trimmings, but has a beautiful soft texture that can easily be lost if paired with a more robust, tannic red.
Another appellation on the right bank of the river is Saint Emilion, again where Merlot is the dominant variety and the wines tend to be a little softer and full of plummy fruit flavours as opposed to the big, bold blackcurrant wines from the left bank.
Saint Emilion and its neighbour Pomerol, offer some excellent wines, but it’s worth checking out the Saint Emilion satellite appellations such as Lussac St Emilion, St Georges St Emilion and Montagne St Emilion, where you can find wines with all the character and smoothness of their more illustrious neighbour, but often offering better value for money.
Historically, the rosés from Bordeaux tended to be dry and fresh with good acidity, although a little darker in colour and richer in fruit flavour than their Provence counterparts. However, with the growth in popularity of the incredibly pale rosés from the South of France, Bordeaux has followed suit and now produces an increasing amount of this more modern style.
Bordeaux Rosé can pair well with a variety of food, from salads and pasta to spicy food and cheeses, however it is especially good with fish and seafood. A winning combination is Salmon and rosé.
If your salmon is raw, like ceviche or sashimi, a light, pale rose with crisp acidity is excellent against the freshness of the dish. For seared or pan fried salmon, you can be bold and go for a weightier rosé to stand up to the texture of the cooked fish. This Cabernet Sauvignon dominant pink from Chateau Haut-Rian would be a perfect partner.
When opting for red meat, you can afford to go big in your wine choice. The left bank of the Gironde is where Cabernet Sauvignon thrives on the gravelly soils. Although pretty much all Bordeaux reds are blends (mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc), here the Cabernet Sauvignon takes precedence, producing wines with bold blackcurrant flavours and plenty of tannins.
This is where you want to look for a bottle to pair with a rich steak. You need a wine that can stand up to the meaty texture and not be intimidated by strong flavours. A good option would be a wine from the Medoc region, like this classic Haut-Medoc from Chateau St Gemme with all the character and class that you expect from this world renowned region.
It can be easy to overlook the white wines produced in Bordeaux, but they really are worth seeking out. The region makes some deliciously crisp and grassy whites, with Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon both featuring.
Risotto is a creamy and comforting dish, so you need a wine that can stand up to this, without overpowering the delicate flavours, particularly if using vegetables to flavour your risotto.
The region of Pessac Leognan produces some complex and well rounded whites that are perfect for a rich dish like risotto. Here Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon are used to make wines that are aromatic and intense, with fresh fruit flavours and a long finish. A great choice if you want to try a rich white wine, but are not a fan of Chardonnay.
Bordeaux has a unique climate and geography which makes it the perfect place to make the highest quality sweet wines. Here the ‘noble rot’ causes the grapes to lose water and so the sugars become ultra concentrated, producing some stunning dessert wines.
While sweet wines are traditionally paired with desserts, they also go brilliantly with some savoury dishes. Generally, anything that is super rich, like foie gras or very salty, such as blue cheese, are great with sweet wine. It’s the same concept as with Port and Stilton: two contrasting flavour profiles can actually work really well together.
Sauternes is the best known of the Bordeaux sweet wines, and this gem from Castelnau De Suduiraut would be great with blue cheese, however there are several more worth trying, like Loupiac which is made from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon and is beautifully aromatic, with ripe peach and blossom flavours and a hint of marmalade.
While Bordeaux is famous for its bold Cabernet Sauvignon dominant reds, there is so much more to it. Whether you’re a committed Bordeaux drinker, or just dipping your toe into something new, there is a diverse range of styles waiting to be discovered.