What Does Grand Vin de Bordeaux Mean?

What Does Grand Vin de Bordeaux Mean?
The label, featuring a picture of a grand house ringed in a gold oval had the proud words ‘Grand Vin de Bordeaux’ in gold at the top. My correspondent had been gifted the bottle and, since he knew little about wine, he emailed me to ask how valuable the bottle was.

His preliminary online searches had revealed how Bordeaux wines had been classified in 1855 and some ‘Grand Vins’ were worth more than $1,000 a bottle.

His bottle was vintage 1971, so it was more than 40 years old, and he also knew that old wines were valuable.

But he hadn’t included the all-important information of the name of the winery and the appellation it is in.

There are around 10,000 named wineries, many with similar names and some with identical names, so both name and appellation are needed to assist in identification.

The appellation was ‘Bordeaux’ and thus the name didn’t matter. The wine wasn’t from a famous winery.

But what about the statement ‘Grand Vin de Bordeaux’ on the label? Truth is that it has as much meaning as ‘Reserve’ does on an American wine. The statement is indeed a proud boast of inclusion in the Bordeaux wine region. The appellation system divides the region into small areas whose name appears on their label and thus the word Bordeaux wouldn’t otherwise appear.

Of the 10,000 wineries, just a few are world famous and valuable. And while some wines from a good vintage do increase in value as they age, and Bordeaux wines are capable of improving over many years, forty years is too long for most, and 1971 wasn’t a vintage for keeping.

I suggested my correspondent opened the bottle with dinner, but to have a spare to hand.

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Peter F May is the author of Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape: Odd Wines from Around the World which features more than 100 wine labels and the stories behind them, and PINOTAGE: Behind the Legends of South Africa’s Own Wine which tells the story behind the Pinotage wine and grape.

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