Bordeaux was pretty much the first wine area I realised I liked. I'd had wine previously, of course, but I'd never really got to know and understand a region; it was just "wine".
A long weekend break in Bruges via northern France found us stopping off on the return home to buy a bootful of wines from a local supermarket, all chosen pretty much at random.
It set a pattern that I have repeated for decades ever since: go to France and buy lots of lovely inexpensive wines based on what looks best from the local the area of wherever we happen to be.
The northern Pas-de-Calais region is not a wine-producing area, so the supermarket shelves there were mostly full of plentiful wines from the larger, better-known regions regions.
I had previously regarded Bordeaux as being all about exorbitantly-priced reds. What I found once I started opening up the various bottles we brought back was something completely different; inexpensive wines that were vibrant and fresh with plenty of stuffing. Sophisticated, yet accessible and easy to enjoy.
And Bordeaux is not just red wines, either; these days, there's rosé and fizz as well as whites, both dry and sweet. Far from monolithic, Bordeaux is pretty much all things to all occasions; there are very few situations it cannot cater for.
If the region's wines share a common trait, it is that they go well with food and have an ability to age, meaning that they often improve with a bit of air.
If you are used to ripe, fruit-forward New World wines that drink easily on first opening, you will find the fruit on Bordeaux often emerges more noticeably after an hour or two in the decanter.
Here are five mid-range Bordeaux wines that showcase the variety and versatility of the region.
Comtesse de Saint-Pey Brut NV, Crémant de Bordeaux (£14, L’ami Jac)
Bordeaux fizz has the complexity of traditional method sparklers with the ripe fruit of a warmer, more southerly region; a price tag somewhere below Champagne just makes it better value.
Sémillon / Cabernet Franc blend.
orchard fruits, fresh citrus, florality and white pepper; ripe pear, white peach and honeysuckle with some biscuity leesiness; fine mousse and a savoury persistence.
Serve as an aperitif or match with sushi, seafood or other light starters.
Château Haut Rian, 2019 Bordeaux Rosé (£13, Harvey Nichols)
Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon blend.
red fruits, cranberry and wild strawberry with fresh mint, grapefruit zest, white pepper and minerality. Pure and adept with good savoury underpinnings.
Match with picnic foods, salmon or shellfish.
L'Emigré Blanc 2020, Graves (£14.99, Virgin Wines)
From the Graves sub-region south east of Bordeaux, named for its gravelly soils; the wine is organic and sees a little of oak.
aromatic with white pepper and tropical fruits; intensely mineral and leesy with grapefruit, elderflower, lime kaffir and racy acidity; weighty, concentrated and long.
Demands food; match with salmon carpaccio or baked goat's cheese tarts.
Château Monconseil-Gazin 2018, Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux (£9.75, The Wine Society)
Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec blend from Blaye, just across the river from the Médoc.
forest fruits, plums, cherries and raspberries with sous bois earthiness and spice; fruit-forward and approachable; fresh, supple and easy-drinking with ripe, gentle-yet-firm tannins.
An easy-drinker, match with pizza, herby sausages, burgers or roast chicken.
SO Sauternes, Bastor-Lamontagne (£9.99, 37.5cl, Waitrose)
Botrytised dessert wine from Sauternes.
roasted buttery peaches with vanilla sugar, honeysuckle, beeswax and orange blossom; sweet, waxy and viscous with apricotty-peachy sweetness, sweet spices, ginger and tropical citrus freshness. Long, savoury and complex. And utterly delicious.
Very Good and Good Value.
Pour as an apéritif with tapas, or later in the meal with cheese and sweet puddings.
Finding value-for-money in Bordeaux 2020 by Liz Gabay: Finding value-for-money in Bordeaux 2020 - Elizabeth Gabay MW