Claret -

What we call "claret" is known in France as Vin de Bordeaux, "(Red) Bordeaux wine," sub-divided by the names of cantons or communes, as "St. Julien," etc. The term "claret," an Anglo-Saxon name originally applied only to red Bordeaux wines, is a corruption of clairet, a French word applied in France to any light pale wine and also to various infusions of aromatic plants with wine, honey or sugar, etc.

In France, the term "Bordeaux wine" is applied generally to that produced throughout the entire southwest, but the best comes from the Department of the Gironde, of which the city of Bordeaux is the capital, and of the Gironde wines a large majority of the finest red types, are from the Médoc section, which includes the communes of Arsac, Cantenac, Labarde, Ludon, Macau, Margaux, Pauillac, Pessac, St. Estèphe, St. Julien et Beychevelle and many others of note. Less in quantity, but almost equally famous, are the red wines from the vicinity of St. Emilion.

Red Bordeaux wine, or claret, is famous both for its bouquet and as a table beverage generally acceptable even to the poorest digestion. Its tonic effect is attributed to the characteristic combination of tannin with a certain low percentage of alcohol. It varies greatly in price according to the special vintage, etc., but its general usefulness is enhanced by the fact that, though the fine bouquet of the expensive types is not found in the cheaper grades, the food value of all grades is practically the same - the composition shown by analysis varies little, no matter what price is paid.

Clarets are broadly classified as "Château," "Bourgeois" and "Ordinary" or "common." Château, are those bearing the name of the château or estate on which they were produced. Bourgeois, represent the great bulk of medium grade wines and are generally named according to the district of production. "Ordinary" or "common," are those made by peasant growers, etc. The last-named are seldom exported.

The best Château wines, the Vins classés, the total product of which is small in comparison with the great bulk of Bordeaux wine, are divided into the five representative "crus" - classes or "growths" - given below. No formal revision of this classification has been made for many years, but it is still essentially correct, in spite of inaccuracies in the nomenclature of a few of the Châteaux of the second to fifth crus.


COMMUNE. Château Margaux Margaux " Lafite Pauillac " Latour " " Haut-Brion Pessac


Château Brane-Cantenac Cantenac " Durfort-Vivent Margaux " Lascombes " " Rauzan-Gassies " " Rauzan-Ségia " " Lalande Pauillac " Mouton-Rothschild " " Pichon-Longueville " " Cos d'Estournel St. Estèphe " Montrose " " Ducru-Beaucaillou St. Julien " (Gruaud) Larose " " Gruaud-Larose-Sarget " " Léoville " " Léoville-Barton " " Léoville-Poyferré "


COMMUNE. Château Cantenac Brown Cantenac " d'Issan " " Kirwan " " Palmer " " Giscours Labarde " La Lagune Ludon " Becker Margaux " Desmirail " " Ferrière " " Malescot-St.éxupéry " " Calon-Ségur St. Estèphe " Langora St. Julien " Lagrange "


Château Poujet Cantenac " Prieuré " " Marquis de Terme Margaux " Duhart-Milon Pauillac " Rochet St. Estèphe " Beychevelle St. Julien " Brapaire-Duine "


COMMUNE. Château Saint-Pierre St. Julien " Talbot " " Latour Carnet St. Laurent


Château Du Tertre Arsac " Dauzac Labarde " Cantemerle Macau " Batailley Pauillac " Clerc-Milon " " Croizet-Bages " " Ducasse-Grand-Puy " " Grand-Puy " " Haut-Bages " " Lynch-Bages " " Lynch-Moussas " " Mouton-d' Armailhacq " " Pédesclaux " " Pontet-Canet " " Cos-Labory St. Estèphe " Belgrave St. Laurent " Camensac "

Cachet du Château wines are those bottled on the Château or estate and bearing its crest or trade-mark. Other exported Château wines are generally matured and bottled by wine merchants, many of them of long standing and international reputation.

Some Cachet du Château wines command very high prices, but it must be remembered that though the château bottling guarantees the genuineness of a wine, it does not necessarily vouch for its being of high value, as its merit depends upon the quality of the year's vintage. A Château claret of an especially good year is often a great deal more expensive than the same Château's production of the year before or after.

Also, some of the finest wines are those matured and bottled by high class wine merchants, who buy largely in bulk when a vintage - either or both Château or Bourgeois - promises to be desirable. In such cases, the reputation of the wine merchant takes the place of that of the Château as a guarantee of its quality.

The high repute of the fine Château types is due to the extreme care exercised at every stage - in the selection of the vines and their cultivation, as well as in the making and maturing of the wine itself.

Bourgeois wines are generally divided into "first," "second" and "third" grade. The types best known here are the various grades of Médoc, St. Julien, St. Emilion, St. Estèphe, Margaux and Pontet Canet.

To understand the wide variation in price of clarets bearing the same general name, it is only necessary to remember that French claret titles are chiefly geographical and that, quite naturally, many grades may be found in the same locality. For example, one of the cheapest grades of French clarets imported is generally known here as "Médoc" - and correctly so if the wine comes from the Médoc section - but, as noted in the second paragraph, the same section produces also nearly all the very finest French clarets - those of the first "cru" or grade being in France specifically known as Vin du Médoc, or "Médoc wine." Similarly, a St. Julien may be a moderate-priced wine bearing only the name of a district, or an expensive one with a Château title. In addition, is the variation from year to year in the quality of the wine produced.

The purchaser who is not a connoisseur is consequently guided either by the reputation of the firm selling or by that of the Château, if buying Château-bottled wine.

Fine clarets will keep and improve for about fifteen years or a little longer. After that, they generally deteriorate very rapidly. They should never be used immediately after delivery, as they require at least two weeks to settle and become clear. They should, like Burgundy, be drunk at the temperature of the average dining room.

The best grades will contain about half a wine-glass of thick wine and sediment in each bottle, and care must be exercised to avoid mixing this up when carrying from the cellar and when pouring into the glass or decanter, or the wine will appear dull and have a rough, bitter taste. See general article on WINES (decanting, etc.).

The lower priced clarets form an especially refreshing summer drink, served either undiluted or liberally mixed with water.

America produces a large quantity of excellent wine of claret type, variously labelled according to the fancies of the makers. Some varieties masquerade under French claret names, as "St. Julien," "Margaux," etc. Others bear the more honest titles of the grapes principally employed, as "Norton," "Ives," "Concord," etc., in the East and South, and "Cabernet," "Zinfandel," etc., in California, or special trade or locality names. The bulk of American claret is produced in the coast range district of California (see AMERICAN WINES).

The practice of diluting with water is particularly suitable for American claret when consumed as a general table beverage, as it is usually stronger in alcohol than French claret.

See also BORDEAUX WINES (white).

Arround Claret in The Grocer's Encyclopedia

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