It's summer ! You're more Rosé or Clairet wine?

If recent figures are to be believed, the French now drink more rosé than they do white wine. With close connotations between the consumption of rosé and summertime, it is understandable that the average wine drinker enjoys 20 bottles per annum, considering how sunny the country is! The increase in popularity for this style is also testament of global trends and the improvements in winemaking processes, resulting in fresh and fruity, easy-drinking wines, to be enjoyed young.

Clairet: a famous wine born in the Middle Ages

Perhaps the oldest, if not the most famous rosé wine style comes from Bordeaux. Clairet, a term originally associated with the weak-colored, red wine, comprising of a combination of red and white grapes, made famous in the Middle Ages, following the wedding of Eleanor d ‘Aquitaine and Henry, a future English king. Bordeaux red wine is very different these days whereas the clairet style continues to be produced, albeit in ever-smaller quantities.

Today the deeper color is due to the longer maceration time on skins for varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (up to 36 hours), resulting in slightly tannic wines with a potential to age of up to 3 years. Even renowned, classified growth estates have been known to produce small amounts of this style but often the result is served to baffle guests over chateaux dinners or quench a picker’s thirst during a harvester’s lunch.

Bordeaux Clairet (image)  

Some of the better commercial examples come from the likes of the Gonfrier dynasty at Château de Marsan or the 4th generation of the Soubie family of Chateau de Lisennes, both located in the Entre-deux-Mers region although labeled under the appellation Bordeaux Clairet. This style of wine often features as part of the tasting lineup at these estates, especially during summer visits.

Château de Lisennes (image)  

Bordeaux Rosé: a casual wine to enjoy in summer

Contrary to clairet, the pale, raspberry pink Bordeaux Rosé has more in common, color-wise with rosé from other parts of France. Despite being made from the same famous Bordeaux grape varieties, the contact time between the skins and the juice is shorter (approximately 12 hours), resulting in a lighter and less structured wine.

In line with the continuing demand for rosé, the overall size of the Bordeaux vineyard dedicated to the production of this style continues to grow, with even stalwart producers such as Andrè Lurton issuing Rosé de Bonnet, from his well-known white wine estate. His nephew and neighbor Mark Lurton, goes a step further and only bleeds off the juice made from grapes harvested from his best vineyards to make Chateau Reynier rosé.

With what kind of food can you drink a clairet or a rosé wine?

As with many Bordeaux wines, the decision regarding which style to choose is closely linked to the type of food to be enjoyed with it. Grilled fish, sushi and summer salads are often cited as favorable accompaniments to a glass of rosé, as are saffron-seasoned dishes, no doubt due to the region’s eclectic 18th–century trading history. Due to their structure, clairet wines pair well with barbecued meat and kebabs and the serving temperature of 8-10° C (47-50° F) means they offer the perfect solution for locals who cannot quite bring themselves to drink white wine in summer!

Avec quoi manger un Clairet ou un Rosé ?