luxury Bordeaux wines
The drinking of wine has been an enjoyable part of human culture since humans first realised what happened if you fermented fruit and sugar together. Certainly, wine-drinking is a deeply embedded part of European life. I must admit that having a glass of really good wine with a restaurant meal enhances the whole experience, and whilst I'm not a wine snob by any means, over the years I have come to know what I like and what I don't.
For preference, I will always choose French wine, as I think they have the most flavour. Many people like New World Wines, such as those produced in Autralia, Chile or South Africa, and yes, they are good and consistent in their quality, but for me they are still somehow lacking in that certain inexplicable 'something' that makes French wines so special. The climate where most New World wines are produced is often drier and much more stable than in the Bordeaux region of France, which has high humidity, bringing with it the risk of diseases affecting the grapes. Thus French wines vary in their quality year to year, whereas the New World wines vary much less. French wines are often made using traditional methods, whereas New World wines often use much more modern techniques, leading to them being dubbed 'chemistry set' wines by some.
Bordeaux wine, refers to any wine made within that region which is situated on the left and right bank of the Girondelle Estuary. In an average vintage (year's worth of wine) the region produces around 700 million bottles of wine, but in a good vintage around 900 million bottles could be produced. Most of Bordeaux's wine production is red wine, with a little sweet, dry and sparkling white, but mainly when one thinks of Bordeaux one thinks of the rich, full bodied reds which are produced there.
The region has 57 appellations, written on bottles as 'appellation d'origine controlee'. This translates as 'controlled term of origin,' which the French governement has granted to certain foods and wines and which means that the wine has been produced in the area it says it has. Sometimes this can be as specific as being produced in a certain Chateau. A little like the campaign in the UK to make sure that pies labelled Melton Mowbray Pork Pies, have been produced in Melton Mowbray.
Bordeaux wines (often called Claret in the UK, although I tought this was becoming old fashioned now -I may be wrong) are usually made of a blend of three grapes. The blend varies depending on whether they are left-bank wines or right-bank wines. A typical left-bank Bordeaux blend, contains 70% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, 15% Cabernet Franc and 15% Merlot grapes.
My all-time favourite wines happen to be right-bank Bordeaux wines, namely St Emilion, although Pomerol ar good also. These tend to be 70% Merlot grapes, with 15% Cabernet Franc and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. St Emilion wines come from some of the most prestigious Chateau in France, and prices range from affordable to gold-plated!
I deeply offended a French wine waiter at the Hambleton Hall Hotel on Rutland Water once with my poorly pronounced French. I asked for a 'San Emilion'. The poor chap looked stricken and repeated with a heavy note of sarcasm SanT Emilion, whilst at the same time clicking the heels of is very shiny shoes together before strutting away.
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The St Emilion area has a mixture of limestone, clay or gravelly soil and gently rolling hills. The appellations tend to vary considerably, so it's worth trying several to see which you like. If I ever see a St Emilion Grand Cru on a wine list it's a foregone conclusion which wine I'll chose. however, restaurants will charge you dearly for the privilege. My local Hotel, The White Hart, Moretonhampstead, charges over £30 for a bottle, whilst £40 to £60 is not unusual. however I think it's worth is for the mixture of ripe fruits, such as blackcurrant, strawberry and cherry, with just the right amount of tannins and not too acidic.. we did buy a superb St Emilion Grand Cru from Dart's Farm a little while ago which cost £20; very good value.
Wine buffs will tell you to choose a different wine with each course, such as white wine with fish, maybe a bordeaux with the very fine wild Hare which I sampled most recently whilst dining out, a sweet wine with dessert etc, but to be honest. few of us could afford a separate bottle with each course, so I tend to just choose one really good wine that I like and enjoy it will all courses.
However, when you're spending twenty or thirty quid on a bottle of wine, it's important to be able to savour it. Maybe you will just have one glass of divine wine a day, or maybe you can afford to have a different wine with each course of your dinner, thus having several bottles each with only one glass drunk. Either way, you will need a wine stopper to prevent your wine from going off.
As soon as wine is opened, oxygen in the air causes it to oxidize and taste vinegary and sharp. using a wine stopper will prevent this, but in the world of wine stoppers all is not equal, so I have done a little research and told you which wine stoppers I would recommend - learn more!
If the chef in our household (not me) is cooking a special meal we'll probably buy one bottle of wine to go with it. Moat recently we tried a Bordeaux Classique Ginestet, 2005, which boasted Bordeaux delivered in a modern way. Well, I don't know about that, but it was very smooth, with plenty of ripe berry flavour and an aroma of blackcurrants, all in all a really good wine, which cost us around £9.
My local Hotel also sells a very good Chateau Beaumont Haut-Medoc, which has all of the qualities I like in a Bordeaux wine, but at around £7 for a small glass I don't try it very often, it's definitely a special occasion wine.
Luxury doesn't have to mean expensive, and most supermarkets stock luxurious Bordeaux wines at reasonable prices, such as the Ginestet mentioned above, so it's always worth shopping around and trying a few.
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