The gold standard for wines

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Bordeaux is the benchmark by which many wines are judged

By Al Begin - It is time for you to try what many would consider the gold standard of wines – Bordeaux.   

Bordeaux wines have a cult-like following around the world and their vintage wines can go for astronomical amounts at wine auctions. 

Red and white Bordeaux wines are blended wines. Yes, there are white Bordeaux wines! A Bordeaux will have more refinement than the ‘fruit bomb’ blends from Australia and California that are growing in popularity.

A Bordeaux will likely have more ‘bite’ and character than the Baco Noir or Pinot Noir we recently explored. A Bordeaux will tend to have more tannins (that puckery feeling at the front of your mouth from the grape skins) and you may also feel a Bordeaux in the middle/roof of your mouth (from the oak barreling).

Bordeaux is the benchmark by which many wines are judged, and the standard to which most wineries aspire.  Bordeaux wines have some of the best aging potential of all wines.


What is a Bordeaux?

Bordeaux is a particular wine region in France encompassing more than 303,000 acres of vines. It is located midway between the equator and the North Pole (which may, or may not, belong to Canada). The climate is moderated by the warm Gulf waters nearby, and there is very little risk of frost.

Emperor Napoleon III had the Medoc wines divided into five classes for the International Exposition of 1855 (“The Classification of 1855”). There has only been one change to the top wines since 1855, and the five estates in the top class (“Premier Crus”) are Château Lafite-Rothschild, Château Latour, Château Margaux, Château Mouton Rothschild, and Château Haut-Brion. The reputation of these estates has grown to mythic proportions over time, and you would be hard-pressed to be able to afford any wines from these five estates today!

It is believed that the Romans planted the first vines in Bordeaux in the year 50 A.D. Haut Brion was established in 1533. The Bordeaux region has tons of wine history.


What grapes are used to make a Bordeaux wine?

The primary grapes for red Bordeaux are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Petit Verdot provides the tannins that give many Bordeaux wines their longevity. Red wines account for 85 per cent of the Bordeaux wines.

The primary grapes for white Bordeaux are Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Muscadelle.


Good Bordeaux vintages

As with other farms crops, there are good growing years and there are poor growing years.  If you are shopping for a nice red Bordeaux, advises that the following recent vintages were “excellent” so you should look for those years in the wine store: 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010.  The years 2007, 2011 and 2012 were not as good so you should expect lesser cellar life and quality from them.



The term “Bordeaux” is vigorously protected from use by other wine regions in the rest of the world. To get around this protection, and still be able to produce similar wines, the wineries in the United States came up with the term “Meritage.”  This is a wine that uses the identical blending principles and grapes as used in Bordeaux wines, but simply given another name to avoid the Bordeaux trademark issues.


The China Factor

The growing middle and upper classes in China are showing an insatiable appetite for fine wines, and they have taken a particular liking to Bordeaux wines.

This has resulted in a couple of consequences – the proliferation of knock-off Bordeaux wines in China, and the outright purchase of complete Bordeaux Chateaus by some very rich Chinese. 

There is a fear by some in the wine world that the Chinese could consume/purchase a substantial percentage of all of the available Bordeaux in the world, leading to a (complete) shortage in other parts of the world. What may counter this fear is the fast growing number of vineyards sprouting up in China itself to feed some of that demand.


Book Recommendation

For an interesting read on the world of forged wines, you should read “The Billionaire’s Vinegar” by Benjamin Wallace (ISBN 978-0-307-33878-5).

It is a best-selling tale of the world’s most expensive bottle of wine – a 1787 bottle of Chateau Lafite Bordeaux that allegedly belonged to Thomas Jefferson. It provides great insight into the world of Bordeaux collectors, Bordeaux history, the crazy world of wine auctions, Thomas Jefferson’s fascination with wine, and the steps that people will take to create forged wines.


Wine Review

The Extravagant Truro Daily News Wine Tasting Panel recently tasted the 2010 Chateau Lamothe de Haux. It is a Grand Vin de Bordeaux and it is available from your local NSLC for $18.49.    

It is made from 60 per cent Merlot, 30 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10 per cent Cabernet Franc grapes.    

This wine has a lush and full nose of leather, plum and blackberry. It tastes of tobacco, oak and rich berry. There is a hit of tannins at the start but they smooth out over time. 

This Bordeaux is meant to be consumed with food. It should be paired with red meat or lamb. 

This wine is a good example of a wine that ages nicely as you consume the bottle. It will help to decant this wine for 30 minutes prior to your meal.

Brix is the measurement of sugar levels in grapes. The minimum level for harvest in Nova Scotia is 15 brix. The Extravagant Tasting Panel rated this Bordeaux wine 15 brix out of 20, and it’s score climbs to a 16 out of 20 as the tannins subside and the wine develops a smoother balance.      


Al Begin is the chief grape stomper for the Extravagant Truro Daily Wine Tasting Panel, and you can send your wine questions or recommendations to him at


Organizations: Daily News

Geographic location: Bordeaux, California, Australia China France North Pole Canada United States Nova Scotia

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