Ugh. Bordeaux. I have images of aristocratic Brits circa 1890 declaring that the claret (a old, British term for Bordeaux when it was a much, much lighter red) they are enjoying is fine but needs another ten years in the cellar. (And everyone in the gentlemen's club nods in agreement.) So maybe you get past the image of Bordeaux as the stuffiest of wines. Then you are confronted with a most intimidating label, like the one pictured above. I have worked in the wine industry for nine years and I am still mystified by these wines. Let's recap:
Grand Vin de Bordeaux
Fleur de Fonplégade
Saint-Emilion Grand Cru
Huh? And then I have to tell you it's approaching $50 a bottle. Now my job as a wine retailer just got exponentially more difficult. Now I know why we sell oceans of Yellow Tail; not that I'm for dumbing it down, but the French sure don't make it easy. Fortunately, the Fleur de Fonplégade has a back label. Where I find out that this is a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. Like most wines from the right bank of Bordeaux, of which Saint-Emilion is one of the most prestigious sights, they are Merlot-driven. And Merlot is not the devil nor the foundation of all wines insipid; I can't believe that obnoxious movie Sideways still casts a shadow over the world of wine. I should also note that the Fleur is the second wine of Chateau Fonplégade. Often many of the most prestigious wineries of Bordeaux make a second wine that used to be an afterthought, but now has the same degree of care and quality that made the first wine so notable. This is where you find (relative) bargains in Bordeaux. Oh, and Grand Vin at the top of the label? It looks impressive and sounds regal, but it's really a meaningless classification. Most importantly, this is not a wine that needs to be cellared for decades before it can be enjoyed. This is a lovely, elegant red that is drinking beautifully now. And it's not some tannic beast that chips your enamel and makes you gums bleed. The Fleur is, simply, a true pleasure. And though versatile enough that you can enjoy it with heartier fish such as salmon (maybe with a side of grilled mushrooms), it certainly would be exceptional with rich, fatty meats like duck. Bordeaux: now less confounding, more delicious.