What is the difference between a claret and Bordeaux wine?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

What is the difference between a claret and Bordeaux wine?

Manny M., Humble, Texas

Dear Manny,

Oh boy! Two of my most oft-asked-about terms in one question! Well played.

Claret is a rather old-fashioned name that British wine lovers gave to the red wines from Bordeaux, France, dating back to the 1700s. Hundreds of years later, the term has become a more generic way to refer to “Bordeaux reds,” or just “red wines,” or even “the color of things that remind one of red wine.” I’m not sure why the term has stuck around or suddenly is popping up again—the popularity of Downton Abbey, perhaps?

If you’re not sure what I mean by “Bordeaux,” I’ve gone over the term before, but legally, it just refers to the wines from the Bordeaux region of France (most famously red blends made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot). Some people also use the word as casual shorthand for wines made in that style—more or less—from all over the world, often referred to as “Bordeaux-style,” though this is not an official designation.

As an aside, one of the other most asked about terms is adjacent to this conversation, and that’s “Meritage” (rhymes with “heritage,” no kidding), a trademarked name for wines blended from Bordeaux grape varieties.

—Dr. Vinny

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