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5 Tips to Finding the Perfect Bordeaux

by Helen Gregory



Bordeaux is one of the most famous wine regions in the world. Our favorite grape varieties (think Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc) originated in the Bordeaux region of France, and winemaking families have been perfecting them for centuries.


If you think Bordeaux is out of reach, you’ll be pleased to know that the region offers a wide range of quality choices for every budget, most under the $20 mark.

Here are five tips to finding the best Bordeaux wine for your wedding:



1. Start with the reds


Red wine usually accounts for 50% to 60% of a wine purchase for a wedding. Bordeaux reds (vin rouge) are fresh, dry, and fruit-forward and typically blend everyone’s favorite red grape varieties—Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot—with Petit Verdot. Beautifully made, Bordeaux wines are also great with food, making it easy to find a perfect menu pairing.



2. Consider the place the wine comes from


Unlike most wines from California or New Zealand, Bordeaux wines are not labeled primarily by grape variety, such as “Cabernet Sauvignon” or “Merlot” (for the reds) or “Sauvignon Blanc” (for the whites). Instead, look for the name of the appellation, or the place the grapes came from, to guide your decision. With 65 distinct appellations in Bordeaux to choose from, you’ll definitely find a great wine match. Check out this Bordeaux style guide to get started.



3. Try a range of popular choices from light to full-bodied


For light-to-medium-bodied reds at budget-friendly prices, look for Côtes de Bordeaux, Cru Bourgeois, Bordeaux AOP and Bordeaux Supérieur. Prefer more full-bodied and powerful wines? Look for Bordeaux’s Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant reds, including wines from Médoc and Haut-Médoc (Pauillac, Margaux, Saint-Julien and Saint-Estèphe). For Merlot lovers, Côtes de Bourg, Fronsac and Castillon-Côtes all offer affordable options, while Pomerol and Saint-Émilion are more luxury.


Looking for a sweet wine? Within the larger region of Bordeaux lies Sauternes, an appellation known for producing the world’s foremost sweet wines. What makes these wines unique is a natural phenomenon called botrytis, also known as “noble rot.” The Sauternes region—and neighboring Barsac—is situated south of the city of Bordeaux at the convergence of the Ciron and Garonne Rivers. This region produces a perfectly balanced sweet wine packed with aromas, acidity and character. Enjoy a glass as a sweet finish or pair Sauternes (like they do in France) with everything from oysters and charcuterie to foie gras, roast chicken and spicy Asian.



4. Get to know Bordeaux white wines


While reds may be the stars of the show, Bordeaux white wines (vin blanc) are crisp and fruity and will go the distance from the reception to the main course. Made primarily from Sauvignon Blanc, Bordeaux white wines are hidden gems, offering high quality and affordability that will appeal on every level. Look for the following place names: Bordeaux AOP, Entre-Deux-Mers and Graves.



5. Don’t forget the bubbly


If $40-plus per bottle of Champagne is out of your price range, look to Bordeaux’s sparkling alternative, Crémant de Bordeaux. Known for its creamy texture, Crémant de Bordeaux is made in the same “méthode traditionnelle” as Champagne, but at a fraction of the cost.

THE ART OF TASTING


If you’re looking to expand your Bordeaux palate, the four appellations of Graves-Sauternes offer outstanding value with an impeccable pedigree. Check out these recommendations for some of our favorite family-made wines.




CHÂTEAU DE CÉRONS
GRAVES BLANC 2020

BLENDED WITH SÉMILLON, SAUVIGNON BLANC AND SAUVIGNON GRIS, THE CREAMINESS OF THE SÉMILLON COMPLEMENTS THE BRIGHT GRAPEFRUIT NOTES OF THE SAUVIGNON BLANC IN THIS FRESH AOC GRAVES WHITE.

CHÂTEAU LARRIVET HAUT-BRION
PESSAC-LÉOGNAN ROUGE 2018

LOOK FOR CLASSIC BORDEAUX RED VARIETIES LIKE CABERNET SAUVIGNON, CABERNET FRANC AND MERLOT FOR A BOLD BLEND WITH NOTES OF DARK BERRIES, CACAO, ANISE AND LEATHER.

CHÂTEAU GUIRAUD
SAUTERNES 2015

A LUSH AND BALANCED SWEET WINE FROM SAUTERNES, CHÂTEAU GUIRAUD IS MADE FROM GRAVES’ MOST POPULAR WHITE GRAPES, SÉMILLON AND SAUVIGNON BLANC. WITH EASILY IDENTIFIABLE AROMAS OF FRESH BOTRYTIS AND SPICES, THIS WINE’S SILKY TEXTURE COMBINES WITH NOTES OF FRESH QUINCE AND APRICOT LEADING TO A VERY DISTINGUISHED FINISH.