by Fred McMillin
for June 30, 1999


Bottled in Bordeaux


Bordeaux to Britain The first order for BOTTLED claret from Bordeaux for the U.K. (pictured "Bordeaux to Britain"—sketch), came in April 1801. It was from a wine merchant who wanted a barrel of "good claret" in bottles for his own use. It was followed by an order for FOUR MORE barrels "of the same quality as lately received in bottles which is much admired." Little wonder it was admired. Research indicates it was the 1798 Lafite.

The dawn of exported BOTTLED claret shown on Ireland as well. In 1808 an Irish cleric, Archdeacon Trail, ordered from Dublin "60 dozen of the best Claret in bottles entirely from the 1st growth of Lafitte." However, the request was for wine "fit for immediate use." (A Wine & Food Bedside Book, organized by my late friend, Claude Morny)

The Rest of the Story

These consumers were on the verge of rediscovering the glory of aging red wine. (The Romans knew it, but that knowledge was lost in the Dark Ages.)

The book continues, "The promise of great vintage claret mellowed in the seclusion of the bottle was only dimly apprehended. It was not until about 1830 that it became the rule to give fine wines time in the bottle to become great wines."

As for our Wine of the Day, it must be a claret. We hope you can afford an aged "Lafite." For those of us with a more modest budget, here's one my panel liked.

Wine of the Day

1995 Chateau Puy-Blanquet
St. Emilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux
Composition: Owner Roger Jacquet uses primarily Merlot (about 80%) with a bit of the two Cabernets, Franc and Sauvignon.
Importer—Seagram Chateau & Estate Wines U.S.A.
Contact—Angela Freire, (707) 942-3400
Food Affinities—Beef or fowl dishes, cooked in red wine.
Price—$20 range

Postscript—The Word "Claret"

First Use of the Word—Nov. 18,1251: The King of England requests the keeper of his wines to mix two casks of white with one of red "to make claret." Claret was a rose (roh-zay).

Second Meaning—A light pink wine in Bordeaux is called "clairet" (clear) in France, and "claret" in England.

Claret Turns Dark—Demand exceeded supply, so outside red from Spain, the Rhone, etc. was added. "Claret" aquired it's current meaning, a dark red wine shipped from Bordeaux (without adulteration). That's what the word meant when the first bottled model was ordered in 1801.

Credit: Research by Diane Bulzomi

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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