Toast­ing wines from the world’s most cel­e­brated wine re­gion

Wine & Dine Cookbook - - CONTENTS - WORDS LILY SEE

Noth­ing is beyond be­ing paired with wines. Even fast food.

Un­like its New World coun­ter­parts, Bordeaux wines can be quite the enigma for the novice wine drinker. For starters, there are no in­di­ca­tions of va­ri­etals; a prob­lem for those used to the straight­for­ward con­ve­nience of toast­ing Chardon­nays and Caber­net Sau­vi­gnons. Bordeaux’s nu­mer­ous ap­pel­la­tions and crus can also be con­fus­ing and in­tim­i­dat­ing, es­pe­cially when you can’t pro­nounce the names. Last but not least, prac­ti­cally every­thing on the la­bel is in French, which is surely not help­ful in this part of the world.

But good things come to those who try. Bordeaux wines, like all good wines, re­quire a lit­tle pa­tience and un­der­stand­ing.


While most peo­ple may know it for its cel­e­brated châteaux such as Lafite Roth­schild and La­tour, Bordeaux is much more than th­ese iconic names. For starters, Bordeaux is the largest wine-pro­duc­ing re­gion in France with about 111,150 hectares un­der vine. It also has 65 ap­pel­la­tions, the largest num­ber in France, and pos­si­bly Europe.

Known as the Ap­pel­la­tion d’ Orig­ine Con­trolle or AOC, the ap­pel­la­tion sys­tem was first cre­ated by the French govern­ment to recog­nise ar­eas for their ge­o­graph­i­cal unique­ness, or ter­roir, show­cased in their pro­duce. To qual­ify for the ap­pel­la­tions, the chateau must ad­here to strict rules—from grow­ing only des­ig­nated va­ri­eties of grapes and al­low­ing for a pre­scribed max­i­mum yield dur­ing har­vest to mak­ing the wines in spe­cific ways. Above all, the vine­yards must fall within stated ge­o­graph­i­cal bound­aries. Typ­i­cally, wines bear­ing an ap­pel­la­tion fea­ture grapes grown within the said ap­pel­la­tion, and they are also pro­duced within the area. The aim is sim­ply to pro­tect and high­light the unique char­ac­ter and iden­tity that ter­roir be­stows on the prod­uct, in this case, the wine.

The sheer size of area un­der vine in Bordeaux means di­verse mi­cro­cli­mates and soils, which give the var­ied char­ac­ters of wines pro­duced in its 65 ap­pel­la­tions. In gen­eral, wines from an ap­pel­la­tion will man­i­fest some­what sim­i­lar styles and char­ac­ter­is­tics. For ex­am­ple, Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur wines are made from mostly Mer­lot grapes, and they are meant to be easy-drink­ing every­day wines. Me­doc wines are typ­i­cally big and bold, and go well with strong meaty flavours. Of course, there are al­ways ex­cep­tions to the rule, which makes drink­ing wine all the more ex­cit­ing.


While its ap­pel­la­tions may give an in­sight into the char­ac­ter of the wine, for the novice wine lover, it is far more use­ful to know the dif­fer­ent types of wines pro­duced in Bordeaux.

There’s a rea­son why Bordeaux wines are not con­ve­niently cat­e­gorised by va­ri­etals. Un­like wines from other re­gions, es­pe­cially the New World, Bordeaux wines are a blend of sev­eral grape va­ri­eties. In broad terms, Bordeaux wines fall into the fol­low­ing cat­e­gories: red, Clairet (made like a red, but much lighter in colour; think of it as a heavy­weight rosé), rosé, dry white, sweet white and sparkling.

Bordeaux red wines are typ­i­cally a blend of Mer­lot—the most widely planted va­ri­ety in Bordeaux—Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon and Caber­net Franc. Oc­ca­sion­ally, other va­ri­eties such as Mal­bec, Petit Ver­dot and Car­ménère find their way into the mix.

Bordeaux whites, mean­while, are broadly cat­e­gorised into dry and sweet. Most whites are tra­di­tion­ally blends of Semil­lon, Sau­vi­gnon Blanc and Mus­cadelle, with sec­ondary va­ri­eties such as Mer­lot Blanc and Ugni Blac for dry whites. Sau­vi­gnon Blanc tends to be the dominant va­ri­ety in dry whites while in semi-sweet and sweet whites, Semil­lion take cen­trestage.

Each of the va­ri­eties have dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter­is­tics that, to­gether, con­trib­ute to the over­all taste pro­file of the wine. Mer­lot, for in­stance, gives smooth wines scented with red fruit, while Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon gives tan­nins and struc­ture in a wine. Semil­lon boasts hon­eyed aro­mas and be­stows rich­ness on a wine; Sau­vi­gnon Blanc pro­vides acid­ity and fresh­ness, es­pe­cially in the dry white wines.


Bordeaux have a for­mi­da­ble rep­u­ta­tion— read: they are ex­pen­sive. Or are they? While top Bordeaux wines and vin­tages can go for hun­dreds or thou­sands of dol­lars per bot­tle, there are more af­ford­able op­tions for every day drink­ing as well.

Says Stéphanie Rigourd, som­me­lier and ac­cred­ited Bordeaux wine ed­u­ca­tor, "It’s an un­der­stand­able but wrong im­pres­sion. Well-known wines of Bordeaux in Sin­ga­pore are only the 'Grands Crus Classees' for which prices are out of this world most of the time. But we have to bear in mind that the 'Grands Crus Classees' of Bordeaux rep­re­sent less than three per cent of the en­tire Bordeaux wine pro­duc­tion. Bordeaux has so much more than the Grands Crus to offer.

"In fact, the av­er­age price of a bot­tle of Bordeaux wine is 6.50€ (about S$10.50)... so Bordeaux wines are not ex­pen­sive," she adds. "The se­cret is to see fur­ther than the tip of the nose and to un­der­stand that Bordeaux of­fers large va­ri­eties of wines from its var­i­ous and rich ter­roir, 65 dif­fer­ent ap­pel­la­tions to explore and dis­cover, and many wines that come at rea­son­able prices."

But where does one start? Rigourd says that the same rules ap­ply when it comes to hunt­ing down your next favourite bot­tle, in Bordeaux as in every other wine re­gion in the world. "The most im­por­tant thing is to look at who made the wine—i.e. the wine pro­ducer," Rigourd ad­vises. "Look for wines that are not nec­es­sary clas­si­fied and think out of the box. Stop drink­ing la­bel, ap­pel­la­tion or grapes; drink the wine for its wine pro­ducer. It’s his his­tory and phi­los­o­phy that he is of­fer­ing you, and the only way to know about it is to open up the bot­tle." Some good-value Bordeaux wines that she rec­om­mends in­clude Château Le Puy Em­i­lien, Francs Côtes de Bordeaux; Moulin de Ci­trans, Haut-Mé­doc; and La Rose Belle­vue, Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux.

In­deed, our ax­iom to drink by: Price is by no means an in­di­ca­tor of qual­ity; the only way to judge the qual­ity of a wine is to drink it.


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