There is no such thing as a bad time to drink wine. Fact. Whether it’s the voluptuous reds that keep you warm through winter or a perfectly chilled white on a balmy summer evening, there is a time, place and season for every bottle. Now, whilst Bordeaux wine and springtime might not necessarily seem at first to be the most natural pairing (those bold Bordeaux reds being exactly what we crave in the dark depths of the winter months), the plethora of wines produced in this iconic French region can in fact be just what we need to herald the much-anticipated arrival of (slightly) warmer weather. There’s so much more to Bordeaux than just the hefty reds of the famous châteaux – not that Pomerol and Pauillac don’t have their place in our hearts (and glasses) but we mustn’t forget that Bordeaux produces world-beating wines in every colour and style! So, in the spirit of that time of year where it’s out with the old and in with the new, here’s our guide to some of the most exciting and unexpected Bordeaux wines to drink this spring.
The ultimate in status and style, red wine is the logical place to begin when discussing Bordeaux, with vin rouge production in the region dominating vin blanc by almost ten to one. With the right name on the label, these iconic blends of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot can fetch eye-watering prices; but having said that, there is plenty of reasonably-priced red Bordeaux out there which drinks fabulously and doesn’t quite command the same price tag as a Petrus or Cheval Blanc (it’s hard to come by a decent bottle from either producer that’s not priced in the hundreds, if not thousands!).
In spring we naturally start to gravitate towards lighter wines as those glorious long evenings creep in, and whilst Bordeaux reds aren’t usually quite on the same level of elegant ballerina-style delicacy as the Pinot Noirs of the world, there are plenty of delicious (and realistically-priced) red Bordeaux wines which more than fit the bill for a sunny springtime roast dinner. In fact, younger red Bordeaux and a delicious joint of roast lamb are a match made in heaven thanks to the full-bodied fruitiness which defines these wines. The blackberry notes in the reds of Saint-Émilion are for me the ultimate match for meat (spend £15 - £20 for a really decent drop), and if you want to get ahead of the curve then now is the time to get to grips with the Merlot-dominated wines of the Cotes de Blaye, the affordable yet exciting rising star of the Right Bank.
Now, as I mentioned, it’s important to remember that Bordeaux isn’t just about Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The white grapes grown here are numerous, with the most well-known being Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Muscadelle, alongside some smaller parcels of more niche grapes such as Colombard and Ugni Blanc (don’t worry if those names don’t ring any bells, you aren’t alone!) However, usually Bordeaux whites are Sauvignon Blanc dominated and offer something very different to the intensely aromatic New Zealand Savvy B’s that we consume with such gusto in the UK.
Bordeaux whites have a sophistication and serenity that is an ideal partner for all the best spring foods, such as asparagus and seafood (fresh asparagus sautéed in butter with a chilled glass of Bordeaux Sauvignon? Perfection!). They tend to be delicate and citrus-fruity, with notes of gooseberry and honeysuckle and gentle acidity – some of the best examples come from Pessac-Leognan, where they are imbued with a little more intriguing minerality and richness. This Chateau La Louviere demonstrates these characteristics perfectly and is a great place to begin your white Bordeaux journey!
Onto the rosés of Bordeaux and a little bit of history. Traditionally, Bordeaux pinks ranged in colour from red to deep rose pink known as clairet (which is in fact where the catch-all term ‘claret’ for red Bordeaux originates from), that were usually seen as not much more than an unfashionable by-product created in the pursuit of the revered ruby reds. However, as rosé has become more and more popular the world over, Bordeaux has reassessed its approach to pinks and now produces some outstanding rosés from its pantheon of red grapes.
Rosé is of course the ultimate in springtime drinking and is produced in a range of styles here – interestingly, thanks to the unique terroir of the region, the youngest, freshest rosés carry a hint of blue, whilst others deepen into a decadent rose petal pink closer to the original clairet. Some of the very biggest names in Bordeaux are on board with the rosé revolution, such as 2nd Grand Cru Classé estate Leoville-Barton with their Initio Rosé de Garde (only produced in certain years and hard to acquire), but never fear … accessible pink Bordeaux is everywhere, from Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Bordeaux Rosé – a steal at £8.00! – to the gorgeous pink grapefruit-y tones of this Château Haut Jonset Les Dunes Rosé.
Whilst France’s most famous fizzy export is undoubtedly the sparkling wines of Champagne, a number of other regions, including Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Loire Valley, also produce great ranges of crémant (sparkling) wines using the same traditional method as the Champenoise. Whilst Crémant de Bordeaux only represents a miniscule percentage of the region’s output, demand for these wines is on the rise as we seek alternatives to the proliferation of prosecco that’s dominated our fridges for quite some time.
Sparkling Bordeaux is produced in both white and rosé from a whole range of Bordeaux’s many grapes, from Sémillion to Cabernet Franc, and is just the ideal kind of fresh, easy-drinking fizz that’s best served as an aperitif at a spring party or celebration. These wines take the buoyant fruitiness of a prosecco and elevate it to something a little more otherworldly, with fresh floral flavours complimented by a deeper, more sophisticated creaminess thanks to the time the wine spends aging in the bottle. Ocado’s Calvet Crémant de Bordeaux is a beautifully balanced example – the perfect cork to pop to celebrate spring!