What is the difference between a claret and Bordeaux wine?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

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

France Bordeaux Ask Dr. Vinny

More In Dr. Vinny

What is the benefit of “keeping wine on the dregs”?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains what a wine's "dregs" are and why some wines …

Jan 30, 2023

How do you soften a hard cork?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains what happens after a wine bottle is opened, and …

Jan 24, 2023

How long can Champagne be stored in a wine cooler?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains what happens as sparkling wine ages, how long it …

Jan 17, 2023

I shook a bottle of wine with sediment and now it's cloudy. Is it ruined?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains where sediment comes from, and what to do if …

Jan 9, 2023

Can a cork-tainted bottle of wine cross-contaminate other bottles in my cellar?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains how and when cork taint or TCA contamination …

Jan 3, 2023

Dr. Vinny’s Wine Care Clinic: Top Tips for Safekeeping Your Wine Bottles

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny answers all your wine storage and serving questions!

Dec 27, 2022