The Diversity of Bordeaux wines for today’s consumer

 

THURSDAY 23RD MAY 2024 I BY ANA JACKSON MW

BORDEAUX'S EVOLUTION: EMBRACING CHANGE AND DIVERSITY

Let’s put aside the Bordeaux EN Primeur conversation that is already getting extensive coverage and talk about the rest of Bordeaux!

 

In the last few years, I have been involved with the consumer events organised by the Bordeaux producers and CIVB and I have certainly noticed some trends. For me, there is nothing more valuable than having a conversation with the person ending up drinking the wine, whether that conversation is taking place at a trade show or in a shop. One thing I clearly noticed is that the wines of Bordeaux are attracting a new younger demographic and there is a certain ‘coolness’ (i.e trendiness) about the region and its wines. It is ‘cool’ to be drinking Bordeaux!

 

EXPLORING BORDEAUX'S TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCEMENTS: FROM VINEYARD TO CELLAR

In the past few decades, due to climate change which resulted in consistently riper grapes, the wines have progressively become riper in fruit and tannins, plus the region is doing more activities to engage with the younger demographic, at least in the UK! The producers themselves are certainly not standing still and are investing in the most recent technology available, optical sorters in the vineyard (that were certainly used in 2023 vintage, by those who had them), concrete eggs and amphora clay containers in the cellar, long term experimentation with screwcaps at the very top end production– all of this is certainly looking pretty ‘cool’!

Instinctively, I believe it is to do with the evolution of styles or reds, towards a riper, more generous fruit – a broad generalisation of course, as there is plenty of diversity in the appellations and within vintages, but this has to attract the younger, more engaged audience. Additionally, Bordeaux carries a lot of tradition, a reputation which is reassuring for someone looking to explore. 

FROM MERLOT TO CABERNET: NAVIGATING BORDEAUX'S DIVERSE RED BLENDS

Some newcomers may be looking to enter the world of Bordeaux wines through Merlot (to note Bordeaux is the largest wine producer of Merlot in the world) perhaps through the Merlot dominated blends of accessible juicy Bordeaux Supérieur, into smooth Saint-Émilion and its satellites and up to velvety Pomerol, at higher price points. Or perhaps they prefer drinking more structured, bolder, premium Cabernet blends, from say, South Africa (or other New World wines but I mention South Africa as it is more savoury, a little closer to the European style than say, Napa Cabernet!) and want to explore a similar blend from Europe. There are some great options in the Medoc and Haut-Médoc.

TRADITION MEETS INNOVATION: UNVEILING BORDEAUX'S APPELLATION DIVERSITY

There are then the established consumers who are comfortable in their own choices and stick to the style they like, perhaps you are a Pauillac person with its pencil shaving and cigar box character or prefer the more fragrant Margaux, or the tighter knit structure, long lived Saint-Estèphe (Saint-Estèphe is the northernmost of the four important communal appellations in the Haut-Médoc, with cooler soils that delay ripening – wines tend to display higher acidity in warmer, drier vintages, can be a little austere in youth but are very long lived and certainly suit the recent warmer vintages). I personally have a soft spot for Saint-Julien which I think is rather under rated due to its two immediate world-famous neighbours, Pauillac to the North and Margaux to the South. There is no first growth in Saint-Julien to steal the limelight, but there are some superb second, third and fourth growths. A recent delicious bottle of wine that I really enjoyed was the Château Lalande-Borie Saint-Julien 2016 which was plump and juicy, with sweet tobacco, silky tannins and an impressive length! I enjoyed it with a group of friends that normally don’t drink Bordeaux and they loved it. 

UNRAVELLING BORDEAUX'S WHITES: FROM UNDERRATED GEMS TO FOOD-FRIENDLY DELIGHTS

Less acknowledged but equally delicious are the dry whites, which are certainly underrated. These wines are very food friendly. There are 1,600 producers in Bordeaux that make dry whites. Until 1970, Bordeaux was producing more whites than reds! The wines are bursting with character, from well-structured, rich classified growth wines (some made in barrel or clay amphora) to lively, fruity whites that are refreshing on the palate. 
This diversity is a strong marker of Bordeaux's identity. The freshness of the Atlantic Ocean and its powerful Westerly winds are distinctive of the white wines’ identity. 

BORDEAUX BLANC: A SYMPHONY OF SAUVIGNON BLANC, SEMILLON, AND MORE

The main white grapes are Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris, Semillon and Muscadelle. There are also some experimental grapes allowed, one being Alvarinho (otherwise know as Albariño) – now that is pretty ‘cool’! Some of the wines are made from single varietal Sauvignon Blanc that are clearly labelled with the grape on the front label, for ease of grape recognition and appeal.

The whites I personally enjoy are the characterful oaked (barrel fermentation and barrel maturation) blends from Gaves, Pessac Leognan. The Château Crabitey from Graves that we list is a must try!

 

BORDEAUX AND CLIMATE CHANGE

The arrival of newly permitted grape varieties across the region, is an acknowledgement of the change that climate change is bringing. Since 2021 six new varieties are allowed, four red and two whites. Whilst only 10% can make up the final blend of the finished wine, it is a new direction for Bordeaux. 

 

PERSONAL FAVOURITES: A SELECTION OF BORDEAUX REDS AND DRY WHITES

So, there is certainly a real diversity of styles for a new consumer, but equally excitement for any current lover of Bordeaux.

Here are some personal favourites of mine from our range, a mixture of reds and dry whites (the rosé, sweet and sparkling wines are for another conversation!).

 

Try our selection: