Why did the term “claret” become synonymous with Bordeaux wine?

Why did the term “claret” become synonymous with Bordeaux wine? How the expression that marked Bordeaux wines was born and how it evolved
Claret would be a variation of the Latin clarus or claratum, which would designate a pale colored drink

Although the history of Bordeaux wine goes back to the time of the Roman conquest in Gaul, when the first vineyards were planted, or perhaps even before that, back to the time of the Visigoth invasion in 400 BC, when there were already some signs of viticulture there, it can be said that Bordeaux's fame was born in a troubled period of the Middle Ages, around the 12th century, when the “claret” won over England.

Claret was the English name for the dark pink drink that was produced in Bordeaux at the time. This style of wine prospered in Bordeaux until the 18th century. However, although Bordeaux has become synonymous with more powerful blends over the years, the term claret has remained. To this day, many people, especially the British, still call any Bordeaux red claret.

Francisco I, king of France, was a lover of fine dining and one of his favorite wines was claret

The indiscriminate use of the term has led to variations and claret has also become synonymous with a spicy red wine. In fact, there are those who believe that, because of this, the origin dates back to the English occupation of Bordeaux, since claret would be a variation of the Latin clarus or claratum, which would designate a pale colored drink. The mixture of wine, especially the lightest, with spices, has been a tradition since ancient times and has remained for centuries. The idea that the claret is more than just a rose wine is supported by the fact that there are recipes to prepare it that date back to the Renaissance, when Francis I, from France, a lover of fine dining, consumed large quantities of wine. His favorite was the claret whose preparation consisted of: “put in a bag: 20 grams of cinnamon, 20 grams of ginger, 20 grams of nutmeg flower, 7 grams of cloves, 7 grams of nutmeg, 3 grams of anise, 3 grams of powdered cardamom. Pour the red wine, then wring the cloth ”.

However, the claret's fame began to take shape even in the 12th century, when Henry Plantagenet, future Henry II, King of England, married Eleanor of Aquitaine - Duchess of Aquitaine, Gascony and Normandy, Countess of Anjou, Maine and Touraine, ex-wife of Louis VII, king of France. She was one of the richest and most powerful women in Europe in the Middle Ages, heir to large tracts of land, and her marriage to Henry led England to dominate much of western France, including, of course, Bordeaux.

Although it was an important trading port during the Roman Empire, in the medieval era, the port of La Rochelle, further north of Bordeaux, was more prosperous and relevant. However, when the French attacked Aquitaine, La Rochelle soon succumbed and Bordeaux became the main commercial link with the English island.

At the time, as previously stated, Bordeaux wine did not have a great reputation - described, in fact, as tasteless and often used to be "improved" with Cahors wines, for example. Still, thanks to intense trade between the continent and the island - it was the largest ship route in the world at the time - the claret gained strength and more than 900 thousand hectoliters were even exported to the British. With this profusion of French wine, called "clairet", the English soon adapted the name to "claret" and the term caught on.

It is worth remembering that until the 17th century, the “great” Bordeaux wines were from Graves or Saint-Émilion, as the famous Châteaux do Médoc, such as Lafite, Latour, Margaux and Mouton, for example, did not yet exist. Until that time, most of the places where classic Bordeaux vineyards are today were, in fact, wetlands. The birth of these classics only occurred thanks to the drainage of the region by the Dutch.

Shortly before, however, a famous Graves producer, Arnaud III de Pontac had already opened a tavern in London to sell his wines. Pontack’s Head sold Haut-Brion. At that time, there is evidence that Bordeaux wines had already changed considerably, looking more like the blends we know today.

Quai des Chartrons, in Bordeaux, where the British traded wines. More than 110 million bottles travel between Bordeaux and English ports annually

English rule in Bordeaux was also ended. Britons or any other foreigners were prohibited from establishing their own operations within the city limits. So they settled on the banks of the Garonne, on the Quai des Chartrons. Trade with the island remained intense and, for the English, clarets had already become synonymous with Bordeaux wine. At that time, the "new french clarets", the Châteaux wines, appreciated by the English aristocracy, flourished.

More than 110 million bottles make the journey between Bordeaux and the ports of Bristol, London, Leith and Dumbarton annually. It is estimated that, in the 14th century, there was so much French wine on the British market that every inhabitant of the island, including women and children, would have access to six bottles a year.

Although the French have never adopted the term claret, despite the huge success in the British market, recently, in 2011, the association of local winemakers decided to adopt it to refer to light and fruity wines, easy to drink, of more appealing names. generic Bordeaux products. There is even a generic Bordeaux Clairet appellation for wines with a deep pink or paler red color - which would imitate the old clarets. However, today, the term, when used, refers generically to Bordeaux reds, without specifying the style.

Posted on October 23, 2019 at 4:00 pm
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