We’ve been watching British television and one of our favorite shows is “Grand Designs.” The host, Kevin McCloud, kept referring to “claret.” Being idiot Americans, we had no idea what sort of beverage it was (other than it was a deep purplish-red color). Thanks to the magic of the internet, we learned it is “a red wine from Bordeaux, or wine of a similar character made elsewhere” (according to Merriam-Webster). After that moment – and visiting France’s other wine regions (Burgundy, Cotes du Rhone, Alsace, Champagne) – I wanted to go see what could make stoic Brits wax rhapsodic about this wine. Luckily, it was pretty easy to convince Wildcat and Hokie to take an girl’s road trip.
A few hours into our trip, they might have started to regret it. To get to Bordeaux from Geneva, you have to drive across all of France to the Atlantic. We broke down in the middle of nowhere on our way (for more, check out their accounts here and here). We arrived in Bordeaux just in time to get a good night’s sleep so that we could begin our “education” bright and early the next day.
Bordeaux is larger and more complex than France’s other wine regions. It has an astounding variety of different appellations (recognized types that correspond to demarcated zones that were established in 1855 by Napolean III) in part because the region is large. It is also topographically and climatically diverse. It’s soils are geologically complex and vary significantly from one appellation to the next. Its location on the Atlantic coast and on rivers further inland (the Gironde River and its tributaries, the Garonne and Dordogne) creates dramatically different weather conditions across the region.
Bordeaux wines are all about blending. Part science, part art, the results are pure magic. The grapes in the blends should complement each other and make a complex, interesting, balanced and harmonious blend. The goal is to make the blended wine better than the individual grapes that contribute to it. In other words, the whole (the blended wine) should be more than the sum of its parts (the individual grapes).
The grapes most commonly used in blending Bordeaux wines are: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The Merlot grapes give the wine color, roundness and suppleness. The Cabernet Sauvignon grapes provide the tannins, the wine’s backbone and structure. In young wines, it is very aromatic and provides increasing complexity as it ages. The Cabernet Franc grapes add a gentleness, a counterpoint to the Sauvignon.
If you haven’t already guessed from the definition of “claret,” most of Bordeaux’s wines are red (around 85%). Bordeaux is the world’s number one producer of both Cabernet and Merlot grape varieties. Sante!
Bordeaux wine is a good example of a gestalt. I saw a portion of Burgundy when I visited France (Beaune, Volnay, Pommard). Bordeaux, and the rest of the French wine regions are on my list.
I think the wine education was well worth the trip.
Definitely. Thanks for reading. Plus, any road trip needs a good story or two. A breakdown in France definitely qualifies. Thanks for reading.
Bordeaux, I should have known it was either from France or Italy when I saw countless vowels strung together like that. Wonderful pics! Lovely post. Feel free to come to my blog and leave a link to your blog in comments on any of my posts. http://www.bradstanton.com My post for today is really gross, about vampires, but only true stuff, I think.
I would try this wine, some cheese and accompany with ants culonas santandereanas. For reference I comment left the following post:
Enjoyed your post. The big questions are – did you get to try much of the local Claret? …and did you like it?
Yes and yes. I’ll be posting about our visits in upcoming posts. Thanks for reading.
A nice post with great pics, thanks.
To share with a friend, a cheese platter and a bottle of smooth mellow port, is just short of heaven.
I create very few cartoons about wine, but this is one of them……………….
Very informative – thanks for posting! I have my own mishap stories of road trips in France, one involving getting stuck going downhill on what my husband refers to as a “pig trail.” The GPS maps were out-of-date. Ha! ❤
It’s been a while since I’ve indulged my wine addiction. Seems like a perfectly good excuse to fly to France on a whim, non?
Thanks for sharing!
Mais oui. Thanks for reading.
Very interesting and informative. I enjoyed the slight humor as well =]
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Your trip sounds amazing in all the right ways! I have had to deal with a bus driver running out of gas in Belgium, it’s all in fun.
Where in Belgium? Near a friterie?
We were on a bus from Dusseldorf (Germany) to Rennes (France). I would recommend both cities. I would not recommend being on a bus for that amount of time. We had to pull off a main highway, I apologize for not knowing anymore specifics!
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Seemed like a very interesting article as I read the first sentence but then when the author stereotyped himself, me and all Americans as being idiots, I knew there was no need to read any further. NO VALUE.
So sad that one of the alternative accounts is now a dead link.