Faux Fancy Bordeaux (#Winophiles)


I love to cook, and some days I’m up for elaborate experiments – many of which I share here. However, most nights I want things to be reasonably easy. I REALLY love it when lazy efforts result in dinners that look and/or taste much fancier than they are. I have a deep love of leftovers, and I think it largely stems from the fact that they often allow me to make something else that seems elaborate, but it’s just because I’m building on work I already did.

Similarly, I love good wine, however, I’m not looking to open pricey bottles on most nights. So of course, wines that can provide an elevated and/or interesting experience for a good price are gold. Often, these wines come from regions that are overlooked or misunderstood in some way. Bordeaux is one such region that is basically hiding in plain sight. ‘Bordeaux, overlooked? Please!” you might be thinking. “It’s one of the best known and most collected regions out there! WTF are you thinking?” might be your next thought. Hear me out. The top tier of BDX is certainly all of those things. All the big wine publications cover the most famous châteaux to no end every year and the wines are collected and sold more like stocks than as beverages. Bordeaux is a big region, though, and the classified growths make up only a small percentage of the wine produced there.

Interestingly, I think precisely because the region is so famous for its high-end wines, people see it as inaccessible, when in fact there are lots of good, affordably priced wines made there. A couple of years ago on this blog, I shared Five Nights of BDX featuring conscientiously made wines from the region that are priced for everyday consumption.

Today I’m going to share three more I’ve had over the past year, this time all paired up with leftover makeovers. How much more everyday can you get?! All three made for great pairings in which the sum was greater than the parts.

I’ve also found that it’s also possible to find aged options out there at very wallet-friendly prices – sometimes you can find them at prices well below their release price –  and a couple of today’s wines are good examples of that. This is the type of thing you can sometimes find at good wine stores (here in the Bay Area, I often see bottles at K&L), or they pop up on certain wine email lists and flash sale sites if you keep an eye out. (I bought two of today’s wines via the Garagiste newsletter.)  If you’re interested in getting to know aged wines and if those are flavors you might enjoy, BDX is a good place to look for options without spending too much money. I think this is a very good thing since aged wines are often a bit of a gamble.

Since these dinners were all made with leftovers with inexpensive wines, they might seem fancier than they actually were, so they’re faux fancy. 

BDX Cheat Sheet

Before we dive into the wines and pairings though, here are some quick basics, in case the region is new to you, or if you need a refresher. 

Map borrowed from WineFolly.com

The Grapes: The region’s three star red grapes are the illustrious trio Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. Three other red grapes have historically played supporting roles: Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Carmenere. White wines from the region are from Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Muscadelle.

BDX's main grapes are well-known and loved, but their taste profile differs from examples from the New World. You can expect them to be earthier, more herbal, with higher levels of acidity, and often a bit leaner in body and lower in alcohol by comparison.

In 2019, seven additional grapes were approved for use in small quantities in wines falling under the Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur appellations. The new red grapes are Marselan, Touriga Nacional, Castets, and Arinarnoa, which is a cross between Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon. Alvarinho, Petit Manseng, and Liliorila are the new whites. A rather surprising bunch! I’ve yet to try a BDX made with these, but hey, could be on the horizon.

Location: BDX is on France’s Atlantic coast in the southwestern part of the country. Its location has played no small part historically in the region’s fame and renown. Since it has access to its own ports on the ocean, as well as the Gironde estuary and the Garonne and Dordogne rivers that flow through the region and to the ocean. Basically, they had access to and control of trade, so they’ve been able to get their wines out into the world for a long time.

Subregions: Those bodies of water form the basis of the area’s subregions. The Gironde creates an initial split into the Left Bank (which further splits into Médoc and Graves) and the Right Bank (it’s most famous sub-regions are Pomerol and Saint-Emilion). Entre-Deux-Mer is the land between the Garonne and Dordogne rivers. Cabernet Sauvignon is king on the Left Bank and tends to play greater importance in the blends there. Meanwhile, Merlot drives the blends of the Right Bank, often with some Cab Franc in the mix. Entre-Deux-Mer is the main area for white wine production and is the home of the region’s famous dessert wines.

Classifications: Oh boy, is this confusing! In 1855 Napoleon III requested that a classification system of Bordeaux’s châteaux. Wineries were ranked into 5 tiers of growths or crus. Problematically though, these rankings almost exclusively included wineries from the Médoc (1st growth Haut-Brion in Graves is the only exception among the reds). Also note that these Crus are based on the wineries, as opposed to in Burgundy where they’re based on the vineyards. The other subregions and many good wineries were left out. Some basic tiers exist, additional rankings created, and systems of tiers in the other subregions have been created, but there isn’t a unified system for all of Bordeaux. For example, the Crus Bourgeois was created in 1932 and lists some of the châteaux of quality from the Médoc that were not included in the 1855 Classification. Besides these rankings, you’ll see a more general quality pyramid – Bordeaux is the general regional appellation, Bordeaux Supérieur is a step up, and then there are village appellations. (Things are, of course, more complicated than this, but trying to keep it simple here.) 

Bottom Line: Get away from the big names, and start looking at the Crus Bourgeois, Bordeaux Supérieur, and the outlying areas and you'll start to find wines of excellent value. 

The Wines & Pairings

Château Haut-Fonrazade Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2008 with Sous Vide Sirloin Tip Roast with Wine Sauce and French Onion Soup

Alcohol 14.1%   | Average Price: $30. Purchased through Garagiste for $19.96.
Blend: 80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc

Jean-Claude Carles and his wife Marie-Danielle Carles are owners of several properties in Saint Emilion and Pomerol in the Right Bank of BDX. Some came to them through family, others they purchased. Château Haut-Fonrazade, a 4-hectare piece of land near the famed Château Angelus, was purchased in 1957.   

Soil: clay-limestone silt, sandy with traces of iron deposits
Aging: 12 months aging in French oak barrels, 60% of which is new oak
Tasting Notes: Black cherry, red plums, herbs, and pencil lead. At first, a sour cherry note dominated on the palate, but it opened up with air and food. Despite the elevated alcohol, it felt fairly medium-body and had lots of acidity.

The Pairing:  A few nights before this particular evening, I made a sirloin tip roast (also known as round tip roast). This is an inexpensive cut of beef that comes from the hindquarters, next to the sirloin. I was previously unfamiliar with it, but looked it up and found that it’s flavorful but lean. I opted to cook it sous vide, but gave it plenty of time so as to give it time to tenderize. I rubbed it with oil, sprinkled it with salt and pepper generously, tossed in a few sprigs of herbs and pat of butter or two, then cooked it all in the sous vide at 127°F (so that it would be quite pink in end) for 6 to 8 hours (not certain of how long I actually left it in there.) Once I was ready to serve it, I seared it on all sides. It turned out beautifully! Greg compared the resulting texture to prime ribs, and I thought that was a good comparison. (If you’re interested in this cut, but would prefer to cook in a more typical style, I found this recipe that looks quite good.)

For the first round, I’d made a wine sauce with the juices, lightly caramelized some onions, and topped slices of the beef with both. For this second round, I reshuffled things a little bit. I served slices of the beef with the wine sauce again, along with some broccolini. However, the onions magically became French Onion Soup simply by adding chicken stock and then floating a piece of cheese toast on top.

To be honest, the wine on its own tasted a little tired, however, with the beef, wine sauce, and veggies it became much more lively and a downright tasty pairing. It wasn’t as great with the onion soup, but still brighter than it had been on its own. Goes to show the power of a good pairing!

I admit that I didn’t take tasting notes on the other two wines I’m sharing today. Out of curiosity, I decided to scroll back through photos of wine pairings from the past year and came across these. I recall them being particularly good pairings and they both happened to also be made up of leftovers.


Château Haut-Garin Médoc Cru Bourgeois 2001 Meatballs in Mushroom Sauce on Crispy Polenta

Alcohol: 12% | Purchased for $19.80 via Garagiste. (I found a more recent vintage for $24.99 here.)
Blend: Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

I couldn’t find out much about the winery other than it is a small family-owned operation in the Médoc, and that they’re passionate about protecting the environment. The estate achieved a sustainable agriculture certification (Haute Valeur Environnementale, or HVE) from the French Ministry of Agriculture. HVE is the program’s highest and most stringent certification label.

Tasting Notes: My recollection of the wine is that it was definitely earthy, with a little bit of gaminess, but still had dark fruit notes showing up well. Here is how the wine was described in the email offer: “The nose shows dark fruit, leather, forest floor and a deep sense of cool mineral tone. The palate is more of the same with mature red fruit, mineral with a nice show of mid-weight terroir.” All of that rings true with my limited memory of the wine almost a year later.

The Pairing: We often make meatballs in big batches and store them in the freezer to have them available for easy meals. Similarly, whenever I sauté mushrooms, I try to sauté more than I need because they keep well (they also freeze well) to be served as a side or to be turned into a sauce or soup. Put the two together and you have a super easy, comforting dinner. In this case, I sliced up rounds of polenta (the kind that comes in a tube) and grilled them in a pan until crispy, then served the meatballs and mushroom sauce on top with lots and lots of Parmesan cheese. This one might not be all that faux fancy, but it sure was tasty!

I find mushrooms to be a go-to option when taking a chance on an aged wine. Since they’re so earthy, they complement the same flavors in wines. (Wines always get earthier as they age, and BDX is usually pretty earthy to begin with.) Moreover, I often find that a wine’s fruit notes will come out more alongside a mushroom dish, making the wine suddenly taste younger. That was definitely the case here, and the gamey note in the wine worked really alongside the meatballs.

Château Haut Favereau Bordeaux Supérieur with Pork Tenderloin with Mushroom Escabeche and Lentils

Average Price: $12

I haven’t been able to find much on this wine and I don’t remember where I got it, but I’m throwing it in here because the pairing was so good. The wine was younger than the others (although I don’t know the actual vintage), also simpler, but with nice fruit. 

The Pairing: I made this dinner shortly after creating the meal in Cooking to the Wine: Kabaj Rebula and Chicken with Mushroom Escabeche and Lentils and I had leftovers of the lentils and mushrooms escabeche. I had prepared a pork tenderloin earlier in the week (also sous vide – it takes the guesswork out of this protein that is so easy to overcook). In this case, I just put all the components together, arranged them prettily on the plate, and topped the lentils with feta. That was it, and it’s probably the fanciest looking of all the dishes here.

I hope this post gives you some ideas for making over your own leftovers so that they’re a little “faux fancy” and maybe grab a bottle of Bordeaux to go with them!

And if you're interested in delving in further in BDX, check out these posts:


This month the French Winophiles are exploring Bordeaux as led by Jeff of Food Wine Click!  If yu happen to see this early enough, feel free to join our group chat on Twitter: Saturday, Jan. 16  8 AM PT/ 11 AM ET at #Winophiles. See you then! 


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  1. We absolutely agree. People too often equate Bordeaux wines with high-priced first and second growths. So much more to the region and so many gems to be found!

  2. I LOVE your faux fancies! I need to be better at doctoring up leftovers...when we have them. With two hungry teens in the house, leftovers are rare these days.

    1. Thanks so much! And yes I can imagine that would be the case with two boys!

  3. Let's hear it for leftovers! Love your "faux fancy" theme and deep dive into Bordeaux. I agree about the region "hiding in plain sight." So much to discover there!

  4. Great overview of the geography and region and I love the title!

  5. Wow, impressive set of pairings, especially respecting leftovers!

    1. Thanks Jeff -- I do consider remaking leftovers to be one of my superpowers! Haha!

  6. Affordable Bordeaux and leftovers - that's a topic that deserves its own cookbook! Gabe loves when I make enough of a dish to have leftovers; your pairings have inspired me.

  7. Amazing pairings with great affordable wines.

  8. I love your pairings!! And, yes, I love to cook but am also a HUGE fan of leftovers. Thanks for all the great information on Bordeaux - it can be such a confusing place to learn about!

    1. Thanks Lisa! These were all a lot of fun for me as well!


Thanks so much for leaving your comments and questions. I always love to hear from you!