Bordeaux AOC: Held to strict growing standards, both white and red Bordeaux AOC wines provide great bang for your buck. White Bordeaux is predominantly made from Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and Muscadelle, usually with judiciously light oak influence, giving them a little more versatility than other whites during the winter. Red Bordeaux, usually a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc (with up to 10-percent of Malbec, and Petit Verdot,), provides bright acidity and lively red and black fruits, making them perfect for any holiday get-together. And with some amazing values (even under $10 a bottle), it's no problem picking up a case to hand out as last-minute gifts.
Bordeaux Supérieur AOC: If bottles labeled Bordeaux AOC are your new everyday go-to wines, think of bottles boasting Bordeaux Supérieur as your weekend staples. Though the two appellations share the same geography and grapes, bottles labeled Bordeaux Supérieur must adhere to stricter rules of production, such as lower grape yields, and they are often aged in oak, two factors that lend them extra layers of complexity and more overall heft. Superior Bordeaux — now, there's a term that's easy to remember for wines that are easily memorable.
Crémant de Bordeaux: Here's your next bubbly discovery! Crémant de Bordeaux is Bordeaux's sparkling wine appellation, established in 1990. Since it's relatively new, there are only a handful of producers dedicated to making this traditional-method sparkler, especially since red wines dominate over 90% of production. Without a clear-cut style, each producer brings a personal touch to these wines. Crémant de Bordeaux is made from any of Bordeaux's red or white grapes, although it's more often seen in its white form. Who doesn't like to celebrate with some bubbly?
Fronsac: For friends and family looking to get you something special but without the deep pockets of a Rockefeller, look for wines from Fronsac. Situated to the northwest of more popular St-Émilion and Pomerol on the Right Bank, the wines are usually made up of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Fronsac wines can be wonderfully rich and robust, full of red fruit and oak, but with a structure that will let you hold on to them for a few years.
Haut-Médoc: If you're looking for a splurge that's decidedly Left Bank, Haut-Médoc wines are the answer. With five Grand Crus located here, these are some special wines without the special price tags. Cabernet Sauvignon dominates here, along with Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc (to name a few). These wines usually express dark cassis and cherry, along with earthy notes and strong tannins. If your loved ones have a bigger budget or want to spoil you, they can spring for wine from one of the Grand Crus (such as Margaux or Pauillac).
Bragging rights: Of course, there are plenty of options for the collector or show-off. Who wouldn't want to say they have a ridiculously rare bottle, just to turn a few heads (Château Le Pin, anyone?) But sometimes, bigger is better: large-format bottles. A magnum – that's 1.5L or the equivalent of two 750ml bottles – looks like a showstopper on the mantle above the hanging stockings. Bordeaux comes in three liter bottles and even six liter bottles. Now what better centerpiece is there for a holiday meal than a giant bottle of Bordeaux?
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