Bordeaux wines are perfect for cozy winter meals, lending a satisfying complexity when paired with braised dishes, hearty baked pastas, or roasted vegetables and meats. Though 90 percent of grape varietals grown in Bordeaux are red, the region also boasts interesting whites, including Sauternes, a delightful dessert wine.
A popular region in France, Bordeaux comprises two distinct areas split by the Gironde River Estuary. Nearly all Bordeaux wines are a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, bringing out the best in each varietal. These varietals are also grown here in the New World, but don’t expect them to taste like their Old World counterparts. Due to differences in terroir (growing conditions), a Bordeaux can taste completely different than a Napa Cab.
Familiarizing yourself with regional areas is helpful in identifying desired flavor profiles, as French wine labels rarely list varietal names. In the left bank’s Medoc region, Cabernet Sauvignon, a thicker-skinned grape that produces a heartier, more tannic wine, grows well. On the right bank, in St. Emilion and Pomerol, clay soils are better suited to growing Merlot, resulting in a mellower, more velvety profile.
White Bordeaux wines blend Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc, resulting in a refreshing dry white that pairs well with white fish or a light pesto. Excellent white Bordeaux bottles are produced in Pessac Leognan (right bank) and Medoc (left bank).
According to Advanced Sommelier Matt Brown of V. Mertz, “Food and wine have a very dynamic relationship.” Pay attention to the flavor and texture of both the wine and the food. Do the flavors complement or contrast? For example, wine’s natural acidity can cut through heavy dishes, whereas fat helps reduce tannin in wine so you can taste other nuances.
Classic red Bordeaux left bank pairings include red meat and hearty or spicy dishes that complement the darker, more tannic notes in the wine. Right bank Bordeaux offerings pair beautifully with roasted duck, pork, or Asian flavors. For dessert, Sauternes is a stunning partner for peaches.
If you enjoy red wine, do yourself a favor and try a bottle or two of Bordeaux. When in doubt, ask questions. Wine experts—whether in your local spirits shop or favorite restaurant—are happy to help.