A Virtual Wine Tasting: Learning about the Wines of Bordeaux

Bordeaux (credit: Pixabay)

It’s been about five years since we last visited Bordeaux, France, considered by many to be the wine capital of the world. But each time we sip a glass of Bordeaux wine, now primarily at home under lockdown, it evokes memories of our visits. 

In Bordeaux, options for enjoying local wines are endless, including: fine dining establishments; wine chateaux nestled in the countryside, tastings at wine shops, or enjoying a glass at a table beside the river at the Marche des Quai, paired with fresh oysters from Arcachon Bay.

Arcachon oysters at the Marche des Quai
Oysters at the Marche des Quai (Credit Jerome Levine)

We had hoped to return to Bordeaux this past year and dig deeper into the Aquitaine region, especially looking forward to visiting the La Cité du Vin, a living museum that showcases the rich history and culture of wines. Opened in the spring of 2016 (after our last visit), National Geographic named it one of the best museums in the world.

Magnificent architecture of La Cite du Vin (credit: Anaka, Cite du Vin, XTU Architects)
Magnificent architecture of La Cite du Vin (credit: Anaka, Cite du Vin, XTU Architects)

The pleasures of a virtual wine tasting at home

Of course, with travel on pause, both the wine industry and consumers have suffered—all of us having to adapt to the changed environment. 

A recent article in Wine Enthusiast noted how guided wine tastings have filled a gap, creating unique opportunities to learn about wines virtually, at home. At the same time, these types of wine education classes provide opportunities to interact and connect with other people who share a love of wine, cuisine and travel.

We were afforded such an intimate opportunity when we were invited to a virtual wine tasting via Zoom hosted by Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite), a family whose name has been associated with luxury wines for six generations. The tasting was led by the very knowledgeable and gracious Olivier Tregoat, technical director of DBR (Lafite) and hosted by Dana Bruneau of Cuvée & Co.

Chateau Lafite Rothschild (Credit: Taub Family Selections)
Chateau Lafite Rothschild (Credit: Taub Family Selections)

Virtual wine tasting: Six DBR wines

Virtual Wine Tasting (Credit: Pixabay)

Tasting six different DBR wines offered us the chance to explore some different grape-growing areas between the Dordogne and Garonne rivers. There are 58 different appellations in Bordeaux, with enough wines with different tastes and aromas to please almost any palate.

Château Rieussec

R de Rieussec 2018

guided tasting
R de Rieussec

Although Bordeaux is predominantly known for its red wines, this dry white wine was one of my favorites. Grown high above the Garonne River in an area with a famous Autumn mist, it is well-balanced with a blend of 54% Sémillion and 46% Sauvignon Blanc grapes. Aged in oak barrels for five months, it can be consumed now but will also be good to hold for three or four years. This fresh wine pairs well with light foods: Asian dishes, fish, shellfish (especially oysters), or chicken. Rated one of the top 50 wines of 2019 by VinePair.

From the winemaker’s tasting notes:

Beautiful pale yellow color with glints of green. The nose presents tremendous aromatic intensity, Exotic fruits predominate over the citruse notes. 

Retails for – $44

Château Paradis Casseuil

Château Paradis Casseuil 2017

Chateau Paradis Casseuil
Chateau Paradis Casseuil

This blend of 70% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon is grown in the Entre-deux-Mers (literally, between the seas) vineyard, located on the hillsides located between the two rivers (Dordogne and Garonne). The wine’s name alludes to the oak forest, the Vines of Paradise, where the Merlot grapes are grown in rich limestone soil  Fifty percent of the batches are barrel aged in oak giving it an intense, toasted aroma. We found this wine very drinkable and were happy to learn that it is available in the U.S. It pairs well with game, lamb or hearty stews.

From the winemaker’s tasting notes:

Deep purple color. The nose is flattering, dominated by soft spicy notes, grilled almonds and discreet toasted sense with pepper aromas at the end. It is well-balanced with a round, medium structure with soft tannins.

Retails for – $28

Château Odilon

Château Odilon Haut-Mėdoc 2016

Virtual tasting
Chateau Odilon

This wine’s name derives from that of the famous French symbolist painter, Odilon Redon (who lived on the estate for most of his life). Grown in clay-limestone soil and aged in oak barrels for 12-16 months, this elegant red is 85% Merlot with 15% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Because the vineyard is close to the Atlantic Ocean, the wine has an element of freshness. It pairs well with grilled beef and lamb, and other robust dishes.

From the winemaker’s tasting notes:

This wine offers aromas of black fruit, licorice sticks and delicate notes of orange blossom. On aeration, roasted scents and vanilla contribute to the nose’s complexity. The balance is characterized by good concentration with creamy tannins with excellent potential for aging.

Retails for – $35 

Château Duhart-Milon

Moulin de Duhart 2017

Moulin De Duhart

This wine from the prestigious Pauillac terroir is grown on the left bank in a small hamlet named after the Sieur of Duhart, a gun-runner to Louis XIV, who originally owned the property. It is vinified using traditional methods with destemming and crushing of the grapes taking place before fermentation in concrete and stainless steel vats. After fermentation the wines are aged in oak barrels for 12 months. Made with 62% Merlot and 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, it is easy to drink and pairs well with steaks and other meats. Critics have scored this excellent wine 91 points. 

From the winemaker’s tasting notes:

Bright, deep red color. Expressive nose with notes of fruit underscored by a hint of caramel. Delicate and silky, this is a beautifully rounded, well-balanced wine with a uniform finish.

Retails for – $60

Château L’Evangile

Blason de L’Evangile 2015

Virtual Wine Tasting - Blason De L'Evangile
Blason De L’Evangile

This château has a long and rich history, first appearing in a land registry in 1741; the 35-acre property was acquired by DBR in 1990. The surrounding vineyards have gravelly beds pitted with sand and clay. Composed of 61% Merlot and 39% Cabernet Franc, the wine has a deep, dense color with glints of violet. Because conditions for Pomerol wines were ideal in 2015, it can be somewhat challenging to find this exceptional vintage stateside. The wine pairs well with meats and other robust dishes.

From the winemaker’s tasting notes:

Very pleasant nose of black fruit, notes of Morello cherry and mocha. On the palate, the attack is refined, elegant, dense and structured.

Retails for – $75

Château Rieussec 

Château de Cosse 2017

Virtual Wine Tasting: Chateau de Cosse
Chateau de Cosse

This bright, yellow Sauterne is fresh and fruity with glints of green. It is grown high above the Garonne—enhanced by the Autumn mist, like the R de Rieussec 2018. A blend of 94% Sémillion, 3% Sauvignon Blanc and 3% Muscadelle, the grapes are pressed as soon as they arrive in the winery and blended before they are aged in oak barrels from the Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite)’s own cooperage. While this sweet wine is typically considered a dessert wine, it can also be enjoyed chilled as an aperitif. Admittedly, I’ve never acquired a taste for Sauternes but I’ve yet to try it chilled.

From the winemaker’s tasting notes:

The nose is already intense and reveals notes of fresh tropical fruits, such as mango and pineapple. Superb volume on the mid-palate and balanced and consistent through to the finish.

Retails for  – $30 

The virtues of a virtual wine tasting

There is so much to learn about the wines of Bordeaux, their châteaux, their terroirs and taste. But whether it is food or wine, taste is highly personal. I fell in love with the dry, white R de Rieussec 2018 and found it easy to drink and versatile. For a special meal calling for a red, perhaps on Valentine’s Day, I would opt for the Pauillac, Moulin de Duhart 2017

As a relative newcomer to the world of Bordeaux wines, this was a great introduction. Hopefully, there will be future opportunities to visit the region, learn more and taste these wines where they are grown. In the meantime, a virtual wine tasting is the next best thing to being there. 

Disclosure: We received wine for the tasting from DBR Bordeaux Châteaux but any opinions expressed in this post are our own. 



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