Bordeaux clairet is the name given to red wines from the Bordeaux region of France. Lying in the South West of France along the banks of the Garonne, which flows north and drains into the Bay of Biscay.
The word clairet, meaning clear, is the origin of the term Claret, used mainly in the UK for any red wine from the Bordeaux region. Clairet was a popular wine in England the Middle Ages, thought to have been brought to England after the marriage of Eleanor, duchess of Aquitaine to Henry II of England, because the Plantagenets were the rulers of Aquitaine, wine trade between Aquitaine and England was encouraged, and the wine from the region was usually drunk fairly soon after it was produced, since the wine did not contain enough tannin to act as a preservative. However, Bordeaux clairet is not a red wine, neither is it a rosé.
The wine is produced in a similar manner to rosé wines, but the grape juice is allowed to stay in contact with the grape skins for a longer period of time, giving not only some extra colour, but also extra body. While for rosé wines the skins are macerated for often only a few hours, this time is increased to one or two days for a typical Bordeaux clairet. Bordeaux clairet could be reasonably described as a rosé wine for the red wine enthusiast.
The wine is made from the same grapes that the more famous Bordeaux reds are produced from; Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, with Merlot being the most common. with Because it is in contact with the grape skins for a shorter period of time than the reds, it contains less tannins and correspondingly more fruitiness than the reds, while being darker and more full bodied than rosé wines.
Bordeaux clairet has a good aromatic bouquet, with a preponderance of berry aromas, and often with a floral scent. It is smooth and velvety to the palate, with lustrous clear colours.
Up until the 1700’s, it was the predominant type of wine produced in the region, when the Dutch became the biggest importers of Bordeaux wines. They brought improvements in the production process which resulted in the grape juice staying in contact with the grape skins for a longer period of time, which in turn resulted in longer fermentation times and the production of the rich, dark reds that the region is most well known for nowadays.
Being fuller bodied than a rosé, a Bordeaux clairet is likely to be a better choice to accompany a meal, especially for tropical and eastern dishes, or fish, although many people enjoy drinking these wines on their own as an aperitif, to appreciate the subtle fruit aromas and the soft round flavours.
Bordeaux clairet is the AOC for Bordeaux that is defined as ‘clairet’, and all the major producers are entitled to produce wine under this classification. There is a separate, more common designation for Bordeaux rosé wines, so it is not just any rosé wine from Bordeaux.
This article was written by Nic who writes and works for interestinwine.co.uk and carries a selection of fine wines.