It’s the most famous as well as the biggest wine-producing region in the world; a Bordeaux bottle is expected on any decent wine list. Many of us order Bordeaux without thinking, accepting that it will be of the highest quality or taste within its category. But what if your date asks you the reasoning behind this choice, or perhaps you’ve started to wonder what is it you’ve been consuming all these years? We take a trip to French World Heritage Site, Saint-Emilion, where Domaine Clarence Dillion’s picturesque estate, Chateau Quintus, lies. Estate manager and wine expert François Capdemourlin gives us the lowdown on everything you need to know about the regions' offerings.
How did Bordeaux come about as a leading wine region?
The first vines were planted here some 2000 years ago, so it’s one of the most historic places in the world for wine, and not only that, it also possesses the perfect climate and soil for grapes. At Château Quintus for example, we have a history that dates back to the earliest days of Saint-Emilion. Our vineyard was considered as one of Saint-Emilion’s first growths, between 1868 and 1949, and was among the finest estates to earn the Gold Medal for Saint-Emilion in the Exposition Universelle de Paris of 1867.
How should wine be stored when bought home?
For the cellar, you’ll want to maintain a constant temperature of 13-15° C. If the temperature is too high, the wine will age quicker, so you need to keep it somewhere nice and cool. Now, in Singapore you especially need to take into account the humidity—try and maintain an ambient hygrometry of 70-80%, to avoid risking distorted or deteriorated corks.
Which Bordeaux wines are the most prestigious and why?
The most prestigious wines come from the Medoc and Pessac-Léognan AOC, with the growth wines—Saint-Emilion and Pomerol. All these wines are produced on magnificent terroirs.
What is the biggest misconception about Bordeaux wines?
That all Bordeaux wines are expensive. You can actually find very good Bordeaux wines in supermarkets or small wine shops for between 15 to 25 euros (23 to 38SGD) a bottle in Europe.
How does the sparkling wine from Bordeaux compare with Champagne?
Both of these have the same process of production, but it’s the grape varieties that are different. With Champagne—Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay are the main grape varieties used, but for Crémant de Bordeaux, we mainly use Sauvignon, Sémillon and Muscadelle.
A waiter pours a sample of wine for me to taste, what do I need to look out for?
There are a variety of factors but the main thing is to smell the wine. If it is corked (basically if it’s tainted) it will smell dark and mouldy, like a wet piece of cardboard. You want to avoid a wine like this.
How should I hold a wine glass?
You should hold a wine glass by the stem.
Do you have any tips when it comes to ordering wine with food?
Generally, with a seafood dish, I'd recommend a white wine with good acidity. For example, oysters are salty with an iodised taste of the sea, and so they demand something dry, crisp and fruity. For full-flavoured meats, I’d go for great aged red wines, but for chicken try the red wines of Saint-Émilion with soft tannins. There are lots of sweet dessert wines to choose from, but if you’re having a chocolate dessert I recommend a round and structured red that will really bring out the flavours, especially of dark chocolate.
Why should tourists visit Bordeaux?
Well, if you love wine, you’ll love Bordeaux. There are vineyards everywhere, and most of them like here at Château Quintus, offer wine tasting sessions, which are not only educational but a lot of fun. You’ll also pick up some quality bottles to take home with you—I think that’s the best souvenir of Bordeaux.