What makes a Bordeaux wine a true claret?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

What makes a Bordeaux wine a true claret?

—Peter W., United Kingdom

Dear Peter,

There is no such thing as a “true” claret. Claret is simply a British nickname that originated a few hundred years ago for the red wines of Bordeaux. It kind of peaked in usage around 1860 and has since gradually fallen out of fashion. If you’re ordering “claret” in restaurants, the chances that you’ll run into someone who knows you mean a Bordeaux (or Bordeaux-style) wine is pretty small.

There has been a tiny resurgence with the term lately—some in Bordeaux really embrace the tradition of their wines, and this term is part of it. I’ve read that some French producers are using the term to refer to lighter-styled, easy-to-drink versions of Bordeaux. But given that this term isn’t part of most wine vernacular, you’re best just ordering a Bordeaux (or Bordeaux-style) wine, or mention a couple of brands that you know you like.

—Dr. Vinny

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