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 August 2019
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 city is 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 term.…à la Bordelaise indicates dishes made in the style of the people of Bordeaux, that means with local ingredients but not necessarily wine.  BTW the locals are also called Bordelaise. 

 Chaban Delmas Bridge over the Garonne River in Bordeaux.
Delmas was 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. The first vineyards were planted in Bordeaux when the Romans colonized France beginning in 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 the two 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 came with the immense changes of the 18th century.     
The inside of the Cathédrale Saint-André, Bordeaux.
Your 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.
Cèpes – French Porcini mushrooms.
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, home to a Pauillac red wine.
Lamproie à la Bordelaise –  Lamprey in the manner of Bordeaux.  A stew of lamprey, which is a rather odd a fresh-water and seawater creature that is, in fact, neither fish nor eel.  The stew includes red Bordeaux wine, leeksonions, butterolive 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 fillet, filet mignon, tenderloin, steak from the Bœuf de Bazas IGP,  also called the Bœuf Bazadaise Label Rouge, from the Bordeaux region and one of the best beef cattle in France.

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 as a street snack and since then has 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. 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 many historical Christian holidays, the dates move around every year. Whit Monday is, today, 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 uniquely tasty lamb, you may watch sheepdog trials and taste the famous wines of Pauillac. Apart from their taste to earn their red label, the lambs are raised by their mothers until weaned, and they grow free of antibiotics and growth hormones. 
A quay in Bordeaux Harbour
Quai Louis XVIII,
Originally built 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 their 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/AOPrepresenting 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 relatively small areas.  The wines of Bordeaux have always been copied by the world’s vintners; even the shape of the Bordeaux wine bottles are used in every wine-growing region, in the world.
There are over 6,000 different Châteaux in Bordeaux and some may be visited, the local Tourist Information Office will provide the details. Additionally, 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; an attractive label is not enough.  Be aware that 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, wine-lists will show Bordeaux wines in groups. The groups are based on the wine-growing regions, the types of wines and, of course, what the restaurant has in stock.
Baron Philippe de Rothschild Bordeaux Blanc AC
The high-shouldered bottle used for red and white 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 white wines.
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 France’s new wine labels click here.
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.  Look out for the villages of St-Emilion, Pomerol, Médoc, Haut-Médoc, Graves, Sauterne and others who gave their names to some of the world’s greatest wines.  

The market square in the village of St.Emilion, Bordeaux.
The French Government Tourist Information Offices are dotted all over the Bordeaux wine region.   They provide maps with different Routes de Vin, wine trails. Bordeaux Châteaux that are open and offer wine tastings, and, of course, the addresses of local restaurants. Caveat emptor the wine tastings require a contribution to the local economy.

If you are in Bordeaux and do not know which wine to choose, consider the generally good, and relatively inexpensive,  IGP Atlantique wines.  These were previously called the Vin de Pays de l’Atlantique, and there are reds, rosés, and whites. These are wines from the Bordeaux area that many smaller restaurants choose as their house wines; they are often a better choice than an expensive bottle of something unknown. Order a glass of the house wine before buying a whole carafe or bottle.

A beach in Bordeaux.

When you need a break from wines and wineries consider a day at the nearby sandy beaches of Pyla-sur-Mer. They are 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. The Bay of Arcachon is famous for its oyster farms which you may visit and sample the local production.  It is a 45-minute drive from Bordeaux outside the rush hour. For the background to the oyster world click here and for how to order oysters by weight click here.
A plate of oysters from Arcachon

Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2013, 2018, 2019

For information on the unpublished book behind this blog write to Bryan Newman

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