Bordeaux courting new drinkers online and in person

Good wine

Published: 1/27/2010 12:03 AM

Journalists are always on the hunt for something new.

So when my esteemed editor requested a column on the red wines of Bordeaux, France I thought "What could be new about a region that was documented in 379 A.D.; whose wines sailed aboard 17th Century trading vessels and became symbols of wealth and power throughout the globe, whose wines inspired imitators in the New World of Napa, Calif., Columbia, Wash., and Rapel, Chile that today garner more consumer appeal for their 'Bordeaux-style' than Bordeaux itself?"

What's new is that Bordeaux has recognized its steady decline in sales and is doing something about it.

Something like The Web site touts consumer-friendly Merlot, Cabernet and other Bordeaux grapes, (which French wine law restricts from labels), as much as regional designations such as Bordeaux Superieur and Medoc, (which the law requires).

And something like Bordeaux "MatchMaking" events - tastings where people with similar wine preferences meet each other and try new wines - are scheduled in major markets around the country. The next Chicago event is set for April 22; register at

And everywhere, Bordeaux is linked with food.

"The French have food on their minds when they make wine," says importer Mike Corso of Michael Corso Selections in Oak Park. "Bordeaux is lower in alcohol than New World Cab or Merlot, with more acidity to brighten food flavors. In general, they're not overripe, fruity wines that you find in sunny regions like California. They're earthy, with meaty or tobacco-like flavors accenting just-ripe fruit."

Red Bordeaux's restraint highlights food flavors in red and white meat dishes, from elegant roasts to burgers off the grill.

While Corso admits Bordeaux has taken a beating in the U.S., he reminds this reporter that - on the world scale - the word "Bordeaux" is magic, as much linked with quality and savoir faire as "Champagne."

To explore Bordeaux, he suggests staying away from "glamour wines," those top 100 or so properties, often labeled "Grand Cru" with grand prices to match, and focus on wines with simpler "Bordeaux" or "Bordeaux Superieur" designations.

Currently, there's an abundance of the excellent 2005 vintage for sale throughout the suburbs. So, if you enjoy Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and you're looking for something new, try red Bordeaux.

• Advanced Sommelier and Certified Wine Educator Mary Ross writes Good Wine. Write her at

Bordeaux Superieur

Chateau Lescalle


Bordeaux, France

• Suggested retail and availability: $18.99 at wine and spirits shops (distributed by Maverick Wine Co., Bensenville)

This super Superieur offers the elegance and complexity of Medoc (Bordeaux's most prestigious address), at a fraction of the price. Densely planted Merlot grapes and classic blending partners Cabernet and Petit Verdot are picked just-ripe. The juice is left to soak on grape skins, then aged in small oak barrels to yield concentrated plum, aged-meat and brown spice flavors with a firm and satisfying tannic grip. Serve with chicken or beef (especially braised a la bordelaise - in a rich red wine sauce), lamb or hearty dishes involving cepes, the locally grown mushroom.