What does the term "Bordeaux-style" mean?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

What does “Bordeaux-style grape” mean? I know what they are, but can you define the term “Bordeaux style”?

—Jan H., Fairview Heights, Ill.

Dear Jan,

The term “Bordeaux style” is typically used to refer to a wine, not directly to grapes, but it implies something about the grapes used to make the wine. In the actual Bordeaux region of France, red wines are blended from the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petite Verdot grapes. (Bordeaux-style whites are blended from Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Muscadelle.)

Versions of these kinds of wines are made all over the world, and outside of Bordeaux, they’re often referred to as “Bordeaux-style.” But it’s not a regulated term, so whether and how it’s used will vary from vintner to vintner. Typically, it describes a proprietary blend, most often one that’s based on Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. Most Bordeaux-style blends use only the approved grapes of the Bordeaux region, but some invoke the “spirit” of blends and add in Zinfandel, Syrah or other grapes.

Some people also refer to Bordeaux-style reds as “claret,” an old term that goes back to the wine trade in England. Others use the term “Meritage” (which rhymes with “heritage”), a trademarked name for registered wines that are blended from Bordeaux grape varieties.

—Dr. Vinny

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