Bordeaux wine tasting dinner: A great dinner-party format

Chateau La Bourree - Côtes de Castillon 2012
Recently we had the opportunity to host a Bordeaux wine tasting dinner that included white, red and Sauternes for eight pretty serious wine drinkers. The three course menu was developed to pair very specifically for the three types of Bordeaux wines. We had a number of Bordeaux wines in our cellar and beginning with those found several additional Bordeaux blends that would encompass the wide range that are produced around the world. Most were from the Bordeaux region in France, but we also included wines from Washington state, California and Italy. The tasting was done blind (each bottle was covered) and each guest was given a list of wines that included the producers name, grape and percent included in the blend and the vintage. At the end of each course everybody said which wine they liked best and tried to identify the covered bottles with the names on the list. This kind of tasting is fun and educational and adds another dimension to the whole wine tasting experience..

White: (in alphabetical order)

Chateau Auney L’Hermitage 2012 (65% Semillon; 20% Muscadelle and 15% Sauvignon Blanc)
Chateau Bouscaut Pessac-Leognan 1997
Chateau Brown – Alto De Cantenac Brown 2012 (90% Sauvignon Blanc; 10% Semillon)
Chateau Doisy-Daene 2014 (100% Sauvignon Blanc)
Chateau La Louviere Pessac-Leognan 2012 (100% Sauvignon Blanc)
Clos Floridene Graves 2012 (50% Sauvignon Blanc; 47 % Semillon and 3% Muscadelle)

We started with six whites paired with shrimp sauted in butter and garlic, mushrooms stuffed with crab, smoked salmon with cream cheese, garnished with capers and onion and an assortment of very delicious cheeses from Murray’s shop in New York City. The wines were all from Bordeaux and were in the $30 – 40. price range, but were purchased from different wine stores1. As expected they ranged from traditional 100% Sauvignon Blanc through softer blends that included Semillon. All were excellent, but in the end the wine getting the most favorable ratings from all the guests was the Chateau Brown purchased from the Manhattan Wine Company. This blend of 90% Sauvignon Blanc and 10% Semillon was simply elegant and the first bottle to be emptied. It stood out from the others right from the first taste and just got better as it warmed up. The second most popular was the Chateau Doisy-Daene purchased from Total Wine. It was quite different from the Chateau Brown, but side-by-side it stood out from the others with its 100% Sauvignon Blanc tastes.

Red: (in alphabetical order)


Andrew Will Klipsun Merlot – Washington State 1999(100% Merlot)
Antinori Guado Al Tasso – Bolgheri Superiore 2008 (65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot)
Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou – Saint-Julien 1970 (Unknown Bordeaux blend)
Chateau Giscours – Margaux 2000 (55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc)
Chateau La Bourree – Côtes de Castillon 2012 (70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc)
Chateau Leoville Barton – Saint-Julien 2010 (77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc)
Chateau Lynch-Bages – Pauillac 1996 (Unknown blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot)
Chateau St Jean De Lavaud – Lalande de Pomerol 2007(90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc)
Joseph Phelps Insignia – Napa Valley 2010 (84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot, 4% Merlot and 2% Malbec)
Le Petit Mouton de Mouton-Rothschild – Pauillac 2009 (63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, and 15% Cabernet Franc)

We moved on to ten reds that included “Bordeaux blends” from around the world ranging in price between $100. – 200.; however to make it more interesting one Bordeaux style bottle (from Bordeaux) that only cost $15.30 (with a 10% mixed case discount) was included in this group. Because of the number of reds we tasted, they were poured three at a time grouped by their age. Again a list was given to the guests and each bottle was covered and only identified with the group letter and a number. The food included grilled Filet Mignon‎ with carmelized shallots, twice baked potatoes with Maytag blue cheese and green beans topped with mushrooms and carrots. After each group of wines was tasted the guests talked about the characteristics of the wines. In the end, after the bags were removed from the bottles and everyone knew which name went with each bottle a tally was made of the one everyone liked best. Three came right to the top, but there were several other interesting results from the tasting. The three voted “most liked” were the Chateau St Jean De Lavaud, the Chateau Lynch-Bages (both from the Caviste Wine Shop private cellar) and the Joseph Phelps Insignia (from Total Wine). These were all outstanding wines; however, it should be noted that the selections were made after the labels were uncovered…thus there may have been some bias in the selection. Also of interest was the “2nd day tasting” that Vicky and I did with what remained in the bottles. The Chateau Leoville Barton, which was just OK at the tasting rose to what could only be described as outstanding the second day. Also the Chateau St Jean De Lavaud which was right at the top of the list at the tasting was as good or better the second day. It’s also interesting to note that the 45-year old Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou (from the Chambers Street Wine Company) was near perfect and made a memorable Bordeaux drinking experience. But, the most interesting and exciting result of the tasting was the fact that the $15. Chateau La Bourree (From the Caviste Wine Shop) held it’s own with the MUCH more expensive wines and although (as expected) not a favorite of anyone, it was never identified as the “ringer ” of the group. At the end of the day we had ten memorable red Bordeaux blends, but there was no question which wine was the “biggest value” of them all…the Chateau La Bourree won in spades!!! Watch for a review of this wine in the near future.

Sauternes: (in alphabetical order)

Chateau Petit Vedrines Sauternes 2002
Chateau Rievssee Sauternes 1999

For the dessert pairing we had two Sauternes with creme brulee. Both were excellent, but the Chateau Rievssee was the clear top pick.

Like they say, good food, good wine and good friends always go together and can make a simple occasion very special. Adding the blind tasting to your dinner party increases the wine experience by sharing and broadening each others knowledge of wine. Tasting dinners like this can be just as successful with $10 wines as $100 wines, and the blind tasting/dinner format can fit any budget. If you have not done it, give it a try…you, and your guests will not be disappointed!!!

1. Wine shops where the wines were purchased

    The Caviste Wine Shop; Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
    Chambers Street Wine Company; New York, New York.
    Manhattan Wine Company; New York, New York.
    Total Wine; Winston-Salem, North Carolina.