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Wine 101 - Red Bordeaux«Back to View Articles | Back to All Articles
The 3rd Article in the Series
1/20/2009 - Northern Neck Mystery Diner

WINE 101 – Cabernet Sauvignon   …French Red Bordeaux

This is the third in the series WINE 101.  Click HERE to read the previous articles.  Click HERE to review the wine terms used in this article.

Bordeaux produces some of the world’s most expensive and prestigious wine   …although they have their share of junk like everyone else.  The region is in Southwest France near the Atlantic coast bordering on the Dordogne and Garonne Rivers and the Gironde Estuary. 

Bordeaux is sub-divided into about 60 different “APPELLATIONS” and sub “APPELLATIONS” producing between 700 to 900 million bottles of wine annually; roughly half red and half white.  It will take you awhile to get to know Bordeaux’s wines, but a very worthwhile effort.  The characteristics of each “APPELLATION” vary considerably, but most share some common attributes.

Characteristics of Red Bordeaux

The great Bordeaux are “ROUND” with exceptional “BALANCE”.  That is, all of the sensory characteristics are in near-perfect harmony.  Nothing dominates and absolutely no sharp edges.  While Red Bordeaux is primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, many Chateaus (producers) will blend up to 30 (+ /-) percent of some ratio of Merlot and Cabernet Franc.  These grapes tend to help balance the wine and reduce “TANNIN”.  Bordeaux are lighter “BODIED” , more feminine and “ELEGANT” than California Cabernet Sauvignon.  It’s a matter of taste …and your mood.  Always serve Red Bordeaux at cellar temperature (about 65 degrees F).

Red Bordeaux pairs well with crusty bread and cheese   …particularly cheddar, blue cheeses, and mozzarella.  Osso Bucco, veal chops, lamb chops, duck, roasts, cream sauces and strawberries also pair well.  That’s what the experts say. But remember, wine and food are very subjective.  Bordeaux is a magnificent wine that works well with most food in my judgment …so Bon Appetite!

The Wine Glass

Like California Cabernet Sauvignon, serve Red Bordeaux in a large bowl glass. 

Red Bordeaux producers

Where to start?  Bordeaux is sub-divided in to several main districts or “APPELLATIONS” and each again into sub “APPELLATIONS”.  Here are the main red wine districts, some of the sub-districts and a sampling of the more well -known Chateaus:

  • The Medoc
    • Haunt Medoc appellation
    • St.-Estephe appellation
      • Chateau Cos D’Estournel
      • Chateau De Pez
    • Pauillac appellation
      • Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste
      • Chateau Lafite-Rothschild
      • Chateau Latour
      • Chateau Mouton-Rothschild
    • St.-Julien appellation
      • Chateau Beychevell
      • Chateau Gloria
      • Chateay Lagrange
      • Chateau Talbot
    • Margaux appellation
      • Chateau Giscours
      • Chateau Lascombes
      • Chateau Margaux
  • Graves appellation
    • Domaine De Chevalier
    • Chateau Haunt-Brion
    • Chateau La Mission-Haunt-Brion
  • Saint-Emilion appellation
    • Chateau Angelus
    • Chateau Belair
    • Chateau Bellevue
    • Chateau Cheval Blanc
    • Chateau Dominique
  • Pomerol appellation
    • Chateau Beauregard
    • Chateau Clinet
    • Chateau La Conseillante
    • Chateau L’Eglise-Cilnet

And that’s just a small sample.  The most famous Bordeaux producers are probably Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, Chateau Margaux,  Chateau Latour and Chateau Haunt-Brion.  Be prepared for a shock if you attempt to purchase one of these wines.  The sell in the range of $200 to $2,000!  But don’t be discouraged; you can purchase an outstanding bottle of Bordeaux for under $20.  More about that later.

The Bordeaux wine label

Chateau’s quality classification   …see below  


Bordeaux quality classifications

Unfortunately, wines from Medoc, Graves, Saint-Emilion, and Pomerol have different quality classifications.  The most famous and most reliable quality classification is in the Medoc.  The,  so-called, 1855 Bordeaux Official Classification groups wine into 1st growth (grand cru classe), 2nd growth, 3rd and 4th.  Any wine with one of these growth classifications is outstanding.  The difference between them is subtle and was based upon the price the wine brought in 1855.  A complete description of Bordeaux quality classifications is beyond the scope of this article.  If you are interested, a Google search on Bordeaux wine classification systems will cover you up with information.  Good luck!

Some Bordeaux to consider

Again, I suggest trying wines from the better known producers.  Here are some suggestions:


As previously mentioned, the great Bordeaux are :

  • Chateau Lafite-Rothschild
  • Chateau Mouton-Rothschild
  • Chateau Margaux
  • Chateau Latour and
  • Chateau Haunt-Brion
    …but be prepared to pay hundreds of dollars per bottle!


  • Chateau Beychevell  …about  $50


  • Saint-Roch, Saint-Estephe 2005 …about  $25
  • Chateau La Grange Clinet 2005   …about  $15
  • Chateau Jonqueyres 2005   …about  $18

Where to Purchase

Click HERE for suggestions on where to purchase wine.

The next installment will describe Cabernet Sauvignon from Virginia, Chile, and Italy.

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