Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Wine-Down Wednesday- The Other Bordeaux

[Skillet Roasted Cardamom Apples, Chicken with Braised Radicchio and Cumin Lentils]

‘Partners In Wine’ Club have already visited a few countries in the recent weeks of Wine-Down Wednesday, so let’s hop over to France, and try a glass of something big and bold!

After reading an article in the NY Times, I decided it was interesting enough to share their point of view along with mine...

“Such is business in Bordeaux. Regardless of the periodic, upheavals that shake out the Bordeaux trade, the region continues to pour out an enormous amount of wine annually. Yet most of that wine is routinely ignored in the public discussion… Instead, the spotlight is on the top tier, the leading Chateaux that account for a very small percentage of the Bordeaux production and yes receive 99 percent of the world’s attention.

But what about the other Bordeaux”
?, the writer Eric asks his readers…

  • Wednesday, January 20th issue- Wine of the Times, Exploring Bordeaux's Other Side, Eric Asimou. You can read the whole article online at
This article raises some good points. There are some good budget Bordeaux's out there that should get attention. From you- the consumer. They should have their day in the spotlight with a good dish on their arm! This caused me to wrap myself up into looking at what my local area stores offer by way of $20, or under French Bordeaux. First, deciding what ingredients to match up, I could look at bottle tasting notes, and take suggestions from retailers to see if the purchases would come close to a well paired arrangement.

In spite of taking Eric's food pairing recommendation, I re-created my own recipe for our tasting.

 [Chateau Lafite Rothschild in Pauillac- from website]

A Bordeaux wine (Wikipedia) is any wine produced in the Bordeaux region of France. Average vintages produce over 700 million bottles of Bordeaux wine, although in good vintages, this total can exceed over 900 million, ranging from large quantities of everyday table wine, to some of the most expensive and prestigious wines in the world. 88% of wine produced in Bordeaux is red (called 'claret' in Britain), with notable sweet white wines such as Chateau d'Yquem, dry whites, rosé and sparkling wines (Crémant de Bordeaux) all making up the remainder. Bordeaux wine is made by 10,000 producers or châteaux from the grapes of 13,000 grape growers. There are 57 appellations of Bordeaux wine.

Unless you are a Bordelais (French for ‘of Bordeaux’); an inhabitant of the city Bordeaux, you will find this wine is one of the most expensive on the market. Why? Because the price is set by demand, and how the vintage is rated by those who sample each year’s vintages. Burgundy is more expensive, and very good. I feel equally towards both when it comes down to opening a bottle, because Bordeaux's less expensive, or little brother as Adrienne would say is more readily available. I feel the wine should match the food I have prepared, or am having out, and you cannot usually find a true Burgundy under $50 unlike a Bordeaux. Once you get familiar with what to look for on a menu or in the store it is worth it!

If you have not had a glass of Bordeaux, please try one of Eric’s and my recommendations below*.

Starting a Bordeaux novice off with an “introductory” wine in the $10-$15 range as a good gradient for training the palate to pick up and appreciate the more subtle nuances of this Old World style is the best way. Finding some ingredients seasoned with specific flavors is also a good way to encourage the novice. To pair this complex wine, so that they get a good feel to see if they can go to the next tier in these big, bold wines.

The articles suggested flavor combination of chicken with lentils, radicchio, and cumin (my addition of cardamom apples) absolutely exploded on their own in the combined plating. The same held true in my kitchen. Once the wines opened up; it was just as described in the post-

"Hardly show offs the Bordeaux wines priced less than $20 are workmanlike, perhaps a little brash but they are fine to accompany a straightforward plate of food". (posted with article above, NYTimes)

Personally, I hardly call cumin and earthy lentils straight forward, but I will explain more in the following post that will include the recipe; as well as more under $20 Bordeaux's...

Eric's Bordeaux Recommendations:

Best Value- Chateau Picau-Perna St. Emilion $16, Fragrant and balanced; juicy and refreshing now, will improve for several years.

Chateau Liversan haut-Medoc '05 $20, Fine, supple texture with savory aromas and flavors of cassis, and flowers

Partners In Wine Club Recommendations: (Cool Vines & Joe Canals, Princeton, NJ)

Chateau Deyrem Valentine Margeaux Cru Bourgeois '00 $48 (great buy for a regular Bordeaux; drinkable now, or aging for a few more years; worthy of a special meal)- will pair it down the road.

Landot Haut-Medoc '04 $17, Paired well with Cardamom Apple Skillet Roasted Chicken, and Cumin seasoned Lentils. The more it breathed, the better it became as it opened up; dark berry flavors with hints of woodsiness that went well with the chicken, and balanced out the sweetness of cardamom apples sauce I spooned over chicken and side; we felt it could have aged a few more years, and was better the next day.

As an extra we purchased a White Bordeaux, which on many occasion I have enjoyed White Burgundy as well- We opened this with the dish as well. Definitely went with cardamom apple chicken, but not with the nuttiness of the side. Great with white chocolate covered cherries we ate for dessert!

White Chateau du Champ des Treilles '08 $14.50, Typically as you know white wines do not have the stems and seeds present when aging, hence they are not red in color (only in case you were wondering the difference), but what differs the white from red in Bordeaux are the grape varietals used-


The rich ruby Bordeaux is usually a varied tri-blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot grapes. With flavors infused with black fruit and wood flavors, each variety’s delicate blend and sundry aging offers its own unique taste once it hits the bottle.


The grapes used in whites are the Sauvignon Blanc- dry, citrusy, grassy flavors with lots of acidity; Sémillon- usually blended with Sauvignon Blanc, its figgy, nutty flavors make up the honey and apricot aromas and rich flavors of sweet whites; Muscadelle- one of the sweetest grapes you can add to make this blend smooth.