Food & Wine

Great Northwest Wine: What is a ‘Bordeaux-style red wine?’

Kim and Blain Roberts own Westport Winery, a small producer on the Washington coast near Aberdeen. Their son, Dana, is the winemaker.
Kim and Blain Roberts own Westport Winery, a small producer on the Washington coast near Aberdeen. Their son, Dana, is the winemaker. Great Northwest Wine

No doubt you’ve seen this phrase a lot: “Bordeaux-style wine” — and perhaps you’ve wondered what that means.

Simply put, a Bordeaux-style wine is a wine that is made using the traditional grapes of France’s Bordeaux region. On the red side, only six grape varieties are allowed to be grown in Bordeaux. They are: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot and the rare Carménère. So a wine made with one or more of these varieties would be considered a “Bordeaux-style red wine.” If it has Syrah, Sangiovese, Tempranillo or any other grape varieties, then it is not a Bordeaux-style red.

On the white side, Bordeaux wines use Sauvignon Blanc, Sèmillon and the rare Muscadelle — as well as some truly rare grapes including Colombard and Ugni Blanc.

Here are some examples from the Northwest of wines made from Bordeaux varieties, all tasted blind for the current issue of Wine Press Northwest magazine. Find more reviews at

Ask for these wines at your favorite wine merchant or call the wineries directly to purchase.

Westport Winery 2013 Mermaid Merlot, Columbia Valley, $28: Coastal winemaker Dana Roberts is coming into his own, thanks in part to working with some of the best grapes in the state. This delicious Merlot opens with aromas of black licorice, ripe strawberry, Bing cherry and vanilla. On the palate, it offers up flavors of black cherry, black tea and blackberry, all supported by a smooth midpalate and moderate tannins. (12.7 percent alcohol)

Gård Vintners 2013 Lawrence Vineyards Malbec, Columbia Valley, $30: Aryn Morell used grapes from the fascinating Frenchman Hills area near Royal City, for this superb Malbec he makes for the Lawrence family. It opens with hints of sweet spice, ripe summer blackberry and a hint of oak, followed by flavors of black currant, blueberry and smoke. (13.7 percent alcohol)

Page Cellars 2011 Cabernet Franc, Red Mountain, $29: Woodinville winemaker James Page loves Red Mountain fruit, and it shows in this top-rated Cabernet Franc. Aromas of blackberry cobbler, mint and rose petals lead to flavors of Marionberry and underlying dried herbs. (14.2 percent alcohol)

Saviah Cellars 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $30: Richard Funk is a quiet, understated guy who goes about his business making some of the best wines in Washington. This big Cab is laden with aromas of black cherry, vanilla and mint, followed by flavors of blueberry, black currant and oak. (14.5 percent alcohol)

Convergence Zone Cellars 2013 Downburst Cabernet Franc, Red Mountain, $26: Owner/winemaker Scott Greenberg pulled in grapes from some of Red Mountain’s best vineyards, including Heart of the Hill, Shaw and Scooteney Flats. The result is a complex red with aromas of strawberry, black cherry and spice, followed by approachable flavors of cherry vanilla cola, raspberry freezer jam and plum. (14.4 percent alcohol)

Mercer Canyons 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, $14: Here is a nicely priced Cabernet Sauvignon from the magazine’s reigning Washington Winery of the Year. The Mercers use estate grapes in the remote Horse Heaven Hills to produce aromas of cherry pipe tobacco, spice and huckleberry that lead to flavors of black currant, vanilla and dark chocolate. (13.9 percent alcohol)

Ross Andrew Winery 2014 Huntsman Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $15: Winemaker Ross Andrew Mickel worked at such luminaries as Betz and DeLille before launching his eponymous winery in Woodinville. He’s since relocated to Walla Walla, where he crafts delicious and affordable wines. (13.8 percent alcohol)

Thurston Wolfe 2013 Petit Verdot, Horse Heaven Hills, $30: We do not see a lot of Petit Verdots as standalone wines, so this is a great example to try. It opens with aromas of pipe tobacco, black currant and hints of tar, followed by opulent flavors of blueberry and huckleberry. (14.5 percent alcohol)

Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company;