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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

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

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Updated October 2018
Entrecôte Bordelaise à la Moelle
A rib-eye steak with Bordelaise sauce 
flavored with the addition of moelle, bone marrow.
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 center for much of South-Western France’s finest cuisine, Bordeaux is home to the most important collection of famous wines in the world.  The dishes created in Bordeaux, or created elsewhere to honor Bordeaux will often contain the word à la Bordelaise in the dish’s name, but only some will include wine.  The term…à la Bordelaise indicates dishes made in the manner of the people of Bordeaux, that means with local ingredients; the locals are also called Bordelaise. 
 Chaban Delmas Bridge over the Garonne River.
Mayor of Bordeaux from 1947 to 1995 and Prime Minister 1969 to 1972.

One or more of Bordeaux’s favorite and or traditional dishes will be on all local menus as well as the menus of most French restaurants around the world.  While Bordeaux was always important, the first vineyards were planted here when the Romans colonized France in around 50 B.C.E.  The vines and their reputation grew, and so did Bordeaux.  Then, in 1152 Eléonore of Aquitaine (the ex-Queen of France) married Prince Henry Plantagenet and in 1154 became King and Queen of England and nearly half of France.  From then on for three-hundred years Bordeaux’s importance grew and grew, mostly because of the wine trade with England, with the English consuming far more wine than the French.  However, the beautiful old city of Bordeaux that you will see today began with huge changes in the 18th century.     
The inside of the Cathédrale Saint-André, Bordeaux.
You menu in Bordeaux may offer:

Cèpes à la Bordelaise – Cèpes, porcini mushrooms, from Bordeaux’s pine forests fried in butter with shallots, garlic, and parsley.
Entrecôte Bordelaise – Entrecote in the manner of Bordeaux.  One of the most fabulous steak dishes in France and for that matter anywhere.  A grilled rib-eye steak will be served with a Sauce Bordelaise.  Sauce Bordelaise is made with veal stock, a Bordeaux red wine, butter, shallots, and herbs.    

A Bordeaux Wine Chateau.
The Château Pichon Longueville Baron, a Pauillac red wine.
Lamproie à la Bordelaise –  Lamprey in the manner of Bordeaux.  A stew of lamprey, a rather odd a fresh-water and seawater 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 rump steak cut from the Bœuf de Bazas IGP,  also called the Bœuf Bazadaise Label Rouge IGP, one of the best beef cattle in France and from the Bordeaux region.

Bazardais bull

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.

Cannelé de Bordeaux or Cannelé Bordelais - A traditional single serving sponge cake from Bordeaux.  The Cannelé (or Canelé) began a few hundred years ago started as a street snack and graduated to a dessert served in fine restaurants.  Of importance is its corrugated shape and cinnamon accent.  In some Bordeaux restaurants, it will be served flambé though that seems to have been created for the tourists.

A Cannelé de Bordeaux

Carré d'Agneau de Pauillac – A rack of lamb from the label rouge, red label, rated lambs raised along the Bordeaux meadows close to the coast of the wine growing region of Pauillac.  These red label lambs are raised by their mothers until weaned, and they grow free of antibiotics and growth hormones.  If you are in the area 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.  The dates for this holiday are linked to the March equinox, which falls on the 19th, 20th, or 21st of March, and so like other historical Christian holidays, the dates move around every year.  Whit Monday is, in France, 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 sheepdog trials and taste the famous wines of Pauillac.


A key in Bordeaux Harbour
Quai Louis XVIII,
Originally used for shipping barrels of wine to the Bercy wine market in Paris.

Bordeaux Wines

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 representing 25% of all of France’s AOC 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.
There are over 6,000 different Châteaux in Bordeaux so you do need an up-to-date wine book or a real expert to tell you what each year from each Chateau is good value. Each Château produces wines under its own label.  So remember if you see a four-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 and those with up-to-date books will have snapped up all the bargains long before you or I arrive.

The Bordeaux vineyards have, I believe, 57 different AOC 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, the types of wines and what the restaurant has in stock.

Baron Philippe de Rothschild Bordeaux Blanc AC
The high-shouldered bottle used for Bordeaux wines is copied around the world.
For the wine and Champagne bottle shapes of France click here.
The most well-known of the many 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.     
Pomerol: red wines.
St. Emilion: red wines.
Sauternes and Barsa: 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. 

Château Mouton Rothschild, a Pauillac wine.
For the meanings behind the new wine labels click here.
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.

The market square in the village of St.Emilion, Bordeaux.
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 contribution to the local economy.

Then you are in Bordeaux and do not know which wine to choose then consider the good, and relatively inexpensive, IGP Atlantique (previously called the Vin de Pays de l’Atlantique) with reds, rosés, and whites.  This is the wine 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 and with house wines, you may usually order a glass before buying a bottle.

A beach in Bordeaux.
When you need a break from wines and wineries consider the nearby sandy beaches of Pyla-sur-Mer just 35 km (22 miles) 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.

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 which you may visit.  It is a 45-minute drive from Bordeaux outside the rush hour. 

A plate of oysters from Arcachon
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Bryan G Newman

Behind the French Menu
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