Search Restaurant

what-to-drink

Cheatsheet to Bordeaux wines

by CheeK

inSing.com - 17 May 2013 5:55 PM | Updated 20 May 2013

Cheatsheet to Bordeaux wines

Wine glossary

Bordeaux = Actually the name of an important port in the French west coast. It gives its name to a large wine region that produces some of the world’s most expensive and sought after wines. But also some really lame ones. There, it had to be said.
Dry = Wine speak for “not sweet”.
Off-dry
= Often used to describe a wine that has a hint of sweetness in it.
Appellation = The French system of using geography or geographical delimitation to designate its better quality wines. Some famous examples in Bordeaux are Margaux, Haut-Medoc, Saint-Emilion, Pauillac, Moulis.
Old World
= ‘Traditional’ wine producing countries like France, Italy, Spain, Portugal.
New World
= USA, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa are some of the well-known New World wine producing countries.
Tannins
= A chemical compound found in the fruit and bark of trees. It adds astringency (or “siap” in Hokkien) to wines.

My first experience with a glass of Bordeaux wine wasn’t pleasant.

My face and tongue protested on the first sip: it felt like I had taken a mouthful of very strong Chinese tea – the Bordeaux was tannic and very dry with a bit of blackberry flavour. I promptly declared that I didn’t like Bordeaux wines (who cared if it was expensive?)  – a premature  conjecture, as I soon found out.  

There nothing I love more than a good glass of Bordeaux wine with my steak these days. Bordeaux wines, as with most Old World wines, are made to be enjoyed with food. A good Bordeaux wine comes alive with food. Of course, the big Bordeaux ‘brands’ are not cheap, but affordable and delicious Bordeaux wines can be found, too. This appellation covers a large area and there are many different wines on the market; it’s not just about the Chateau Margauxs or Lafites.

Where should you start? At the recent World Gourmet Summit 2013, I tasted twenty-six different Bordeaux wines, and settled on my top five. Here are the picks, each suitable for an occasion. To add, some are relatively affordable: 

 

 

Chateau Camensac 2006 Bordeaux

Chateau Camensac, 2006, $71
Best for picnics
Tastes like:
A happy surprise – lively red berries so it’s fruity yet creamy, slightly tannic and dry with a spicy finish.
What to drink with:
Hard cheeses, dried fruits and big steak sandwiches laden with butter and Dijon mustard. Sounds like a good picnic basket to us.   
How to drink:
Best open or decant for at least one hour before drinking.
Fun drinking notes:
Chateau De Camensac from Haut-Medoc is one of the best introductions to Bordeaux wines at an affordable price. It has the same owners as Chateau Chasse-Spleen.
Where to buy:
Cold Storage | Address: 1 Kim Seng Promenade, #B1-18/19, Great World City | Tel: 68335802 | Opening hours: Daily 9am-10pm

 

Chateau Chasse-Spleen 2010 Bordeaux

CRITIC’S PICKChateau Chasse-Spleen, 2010, $88
Best for a lazy day
Tastes like:
Red berries, dry, with just a hint oak. You know, the easy drinking feeling you get when you are enjoying a carefree day.
What to drink with:
A light meal of salty, crisp-skinned roast chicken. Preferably on a  lazy weekend afternoon with good friends.
How to drink:
Best open or decant for up to three hours before drinking.
Fun facts: This is my sentimental favourite. It is from the smallest commune, Moulis, in the famous Haut-Medoc area of Bordeaux. The name of the chateau is literally translated to mean “chase away the blues or melancholy”, which, coincidentally, is probably one of the best reasons to have a glass of wine. It is also one of the wines featured in the popular Japanese manga Kami no Shizuku (Drops of God).
Where to buy: Top Wines | Address: 33 Tembeling Road | Tel: 64683866 | Opening hours: Mon-Fri 10.30am-7.30pm; Sat 1-6pm (Minimum order $800) 

 

Chateau CClerc Milon 2010 Bordeaux

Chateau Clerc Milon, 2010, $165
Best for date night
Tastes like:
Rich, full of black fruit, strawberries, and dry with a lingering savoury taste. It’s like the glow after reading a long, well-written novel.
What to drink with:
Chunky, juicy, medium-rare beef steaks, and a long engaging conversation with your date.
How to drink:
Best open or decant for at least an hour before drinking.
Fun facts:
This chateau in Pauillac, Bordeaux has two very two famous neighbours: Chateau Lafite-Rothschild and Chateau Mouton Rothschild. To wine lovers – especially the French who believe in the concept of terroir or a ‘sense of place’ – this chateau shares the latter two’s climate, soil and levels of exposure to the sun, leading to quality and unique wines.
Where to buy: Top Wines | Address: 33 Tembeling Road | Tel: 64683866 | Opening hours: Mon-Fri 10.30am-7.30pm; Sat 1-6pm (Minimum order $800)

 

TIP: Typically, a good bottle of Bordeaux wine will need at least 5 to 10 years upon its release to be ready for drinking. If you want to drink a bottle after it is bought, open or decant a bottle for 1 to 3 hours before you drink it. The changes to the tastes and flavours as you drink the wine can happen by the minute."

Chateau Brane-Cantenac, 2010, $187
Best for a rich dinner
Tastes like:
Perfumed, dark berries, velvety smooth and off-dry. An easy drinker this one is, like an early morning walk in a garden full of blooming flowers.
What to drink with:
A six-course dinner featuring meat stews and fish cooked in rich sauces.
How to drink:
Best open or decant for at least one hour before drinking.
Fun drinking notes:
Chateau Brane-Cantenac is one of the more forward-looking chateaus in Margaux. A QR code can be found at the back label of the bottle; when scanned it brings you to an online ‘guest book’ that features information about the chateau and perhaps, more importantly for us, recipes for food that goes well with the wine.
Where to buy:
Top Wines | Address: 33 Tembeling Road | Tel: 64683866 | Opening hours: Mon-Fri 10.30am-7.30pm; Sat 1-6pm (Minimum order $800)

 

Chateau Clos Fourtet 2010 Bordeaux

CRITIC’S PICKChateau Clos Fourtet, 2010, $241
Best for a special occasion
Tastes like:
Intriguing, multi-layered, buttery, creamy yet fruity and dry with a hint of herbs and mineral; it’s that smile when you wake up with the lingering memory of a beautiful dream.
What to drink with:
A juicy piece of medium rare roasted lamb with rosemary.  Take your time – this should be a special occasion wine.
How to drink:
Best open or decant for at least an hour before drinking.
Fun facts:
Clos Fourtet, or ‘Camp Fourtet’, was once a fort in the Middle Ages designed to protect the town of Saint Emilion. It is also arguably one of the prettiest towns in Bordeaux, where this wine is from. The Cuvelier family has owned the chateau since 2001 and no expense has been spared to improve the vineyard and wine quality since their takeover. 
Where to buy: Top Wines | Address: 33 Tembeling Road | Tel: 64683866 | Opening hours: Mon-Fri 10.30am-7.30pm; Sat 1-6pm (Minimum order $800)

 


CheeK is a creative professional with a serious wine habit. He is known for his works in film and television like Chicken Rice War and The Kitchen Musical. Less well known is the fact that he holds an Advanced Certification in Wines and Spirits from the Wines and Spirits Education Trust UK (WSET) and is closing in fast on the Diploma.