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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Bordeaux and Bordelaise on the Menu, and Bordeaux AOC/AOP Wines on the Wine-List.

Bordeaux  -  Bordeaux
Behind the French Menu
Bryan Newman

The center for much of South-Western France’s finest cuisine, and home to many of the most famous wines in the world.
Bordeaux is France’s 9th largest city and the largest port on France’s Southern Atlantic coast. Bordeaux is also a beautiful city with some 50% of the old city center a UNESCO world heritage site.

The inside of the Cathédrale Saint-André, Bordeaux.
Photograph courtesy of byb64.

Cuisine Bordelaise: the cuisine of Bordeaux.

    Many of the dishes created in Bordeaux, or created elsewhere to honor Bordeaux will contain the word à la Bordelaise in the dish’s name; à la Bordelaise indicates dishes prepared in the manner of the people of Bordeaux as the locals are called Bordelaise.  

restaurant in the Place du Parliament, Bordeaux.
Photograph courtesy of  Roger Wollstadt.
    One or more of Bordeaux’s popular and traditional dishes will be on all local menus as well as the menus of most French restaurants around the world. I am noting just seven from the many your menu may offer:

   Cèpes à la Bordelaise – Local, wild, porcini mushrooms, from Bordeaux’s pine forests, fried in butter with shallots, garlic and parsley; this recipe is, surprisingly,  made without Bordeaux wine. 

   Entrecôte Bordelaise – One of the greatest steak dishes in France and for that matter anywhere. Here a grilled entrecote, a rib-eye steak will be served with a Sauce Bordelaise.  Sauce Bordelaise is made with a veal stock, a Bordeaux red wine, butter, shallots, and herbs. When the sauce is made with the addition of moelle, bone marrow, then the menu will note Entrecôte Bordelaise à la Moelle.


Entrecote Bordelaise a la Moelle
Photograph by Monkey Business through Yay
   Then bone marrow will have been added to the sauce and more may decorate and flavor the steak when it is served. 
Lamproie à la bordelaise,
one of the most famous Bordelaise dishes.
   Lamproie à la Bordelaise – A stew of lamprey, a rather odd a fresh-water and sea-water creature that is, in fact, neither fish nor eel.  The stew includes red Bordeaux wine, leeks, onions, butter, olive oil and depending on the chef either bacon or ham. This is a dish that, unfortunately, is seen less and less; the lamprey must be carefully skinned, and many chefs do not have the trained staff for this traditional dish. Look for Lamproie à la Bordelaise from February through April when the lampreys are caught as they swim along the rivers Dordogne and Garonne to the Atlantic on their annual migration. 

    Pavé de Filet de Bœuf  Bazas– A thick steak cut from the  Bœuf de Bazas IGP,  also called the Bœuf Bazadaise Label Rouge IGP, one of the best beef cattle in France.

A Bazardais bull
Photograph courtesy of compagnonbruno.

    Rouget de Méditerranée Sauté Bordelaise – Red Mullet from the Mediterranean Sea prepared in the manner of Bordeaux. Here, the red mullet will be lightly fried  with a white Bordeaux wine sauce.

   Cannelé de Bordeaux  or Cannelé Bordelais - A traditional cake from Bordeaux; you will find the cannelé  being offered as a street snack as well as a  dessert served in fancy restaurants. In some Bordeaux restaurants,  it will be served flambé; that seems to have been created for the tourists. However, that’s OK as most of us are tourists! 

    Carré d'Agneau de Pauillac A rack of lamb from the label rouge, red label, highly rated lambs raised along the meadows  close to the coast of the wine growing region of Pauillac.  These lambs are raised by their mothers and considered one of the finest of France’s many excellent lambs. If you are in the region on the last Sunday in May consider joining in the Fête de l'Agneau de Pauillac; the fete of Pauillac lambs, held on the Sunday before Whit Monday.


A rack of lamb cut into 3 lamb chops.
Photograph courtesy of Michael Fletcher.
See more of Michael’s photographs at
   In France Whit Monday is a secularized national holiday and  the French Government Tourist office will give you this year’s exact dates. At the fete apart from enjoying many dishes in local restaurants dedicated to their unique lambs, you may watch sheep dog trials and taste the famous wines of Pauillac. 

Quai Louis XVIII, Bordeaux.
Photograph courtesy of byb64

     Bordeaux Wine
   Bordeaux has a long and respected history, it was an important trading center and port long before the Romans came, with vines, to establish the Bordeaux vineyards 2,000 years ago.  Now Bordeaux is the most famous wine-growing region in the world with the wines labeled Bordeaux AOC/AOP representing 25% of all of France’s AOP wines. According to the experts the enormous diversity in the region’s soil and its many local micro-climates allowed for the creation of exceptional and distinctly different wines within a relatively small area. The wines of Bordeaux have always been emulated by the world’s vintners; even the shape of the Bordeaux wine bottles are copied in every wine-growing region, in the world.

Bordeaux Chateau: The Château Marojallia in Margaux.
Photograph courtesy of  epeigne37.
    A Château is the name for a wine estate in Bordeaux.  To test your memory, as  I have given up, there are over 6,000 different Châteaux in Bordeaux; with each Château producing wines under its own label. So remember if you see a 4 year-old or an even older Bordeaux wine in a French supermarket or wine shop at a low price, leave it. Just as, there are no free lunches, so there are no cheap, and good, old Bordeaux wines; the professionals will have snapped up all the bargains long before you or I arrived.
    The Bordeaux vineyards have, I believe, 57 different AOC/AOP appellations! That means 57 different types of wine, slightly less than Heinz actually has products! Thankfully, restaurant wine-lists are not divided into 57 different sections for Bordeaux wines, instead the Bordeaux wines will be shown in groups; the groups are based on the wine growing regions and on the types of wines.


Cabernet Sauvignon grapes on the vine in Bordeaux
Photograph courtesy of Steve.Hyde

The most famous Bordeaux wines:  
    Graves; reds and white with dry and semi-dry white wines as well as some dessert wines.
    Margaux; red wines.
    Médoc and Haute Médoc; red wines.
    Pauillac; red wines.
A bottle of 1994 Château Lafite Rothschild.  A wine from Pauillac.
Photograph courtesy of testastretta-999 

    Pomerol; red wines.
    St. Emilion; red wines.
    Sauternes and Barsac; sweet whites,
    St. Julien; red wines.
    St. Estephe; reds wines. 
    Crémant-de-Bordeaux; the sparkling white and rosé Crémants-de-Bordeaux AOC wines come from vintners in the Gironde part of Bordeaux. 
    Most of the names for the wines were simply taken from names of the villages and areas where the grapes are grown; look out for the villages of St-Emilion, Pomerol, Médoc, Haut-Médoc, Graves, and Sauterne among the others; visit the area, see the towns and villages, visit a Bordeaux chateau, meet the people and enjoy their wines, local cuisine and, of course, the countryside.
   While many of the Bordeaux Châteaux are not open to the public the local French Government  Tourist Information Offices are happy to provide maps with different routes de vin, wine trails. Their maps include the Bordeaux Châteaux that are open and  do have wine tastings; they also provide the addresses of local restaurants;  caveat emptor the wine tastings require a small contribution to the local economy.

    When you are in Bordeaux and do not know which wine to choose then consider the good, and relatively inexpensive, Vin de Pays de l'Atlantique.  This is a Vin de Pays from the Bordeaux area that many smaller restaurants choose as their house wine; it will often be a better choice than an expensive bottle of something unknown.

    When you need a break from wines and wineries consider the nearby sandy beaches of Pyla-sur-Mer just 35 kms and a little over half an hour by car or train from Bordeaux. Pyla-sur-Mer has excellent hotels, B and B’s, restaurants and tens of kilometers of sandy beaches; this is where the French go in the summer.
Photograph courtesy of caccamo.
 If you wish to explore beaches and oyster farms as well then look for hotels in the Bassin d'Arcachon, the Bay of Arcachon , it is famous for its oyster farms where you may visit, and  it is just about 45 minutes from Bordeaux. 
A plate of oysters from Arcachon
Photograph courtesy of Astacus
Bryan G Newman
Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2013.
For more about ordering oysters in France look at the posts:
 Ordering, Eating, and Enjoying Oysters in France I 
 Oysters II. How Fresh Oysters, in France, are Sold by Weight.

For information on the book behind this blog: