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What is claret wine? – ask Decanter

Not sure what people mean when they’ve used the term claret? Confused about where the term came from? Here's some background.

What is claret wine? – ask Decanter

A brief history of claret

Claret is a traditionally term used for Bordeaux wines in Britain. It can be traced back to the 12th century and is believed to be linked to the French term ‘clairet’.

As Oz Clarke notes in his ‘History of Wine in 100 Bottles’, claret originally referred to very light red wines from Bordeaux.

‘The local Bordeaux wines were a bit insipid and needed beefing up with wines from places like Cahors and Gaillac inland.’

The marriage of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1151 influenced a trade relationship between Bordeaux and England, in which huge amounts of wine – claret – were shipped to ports in the UK.

This helped establish ‘claret’ as ‘the Englishman’s drink,’ says Clarke.

Claret today

bordeaux claret

Claret is a British term and has expanded to refer to all Bordeaux red wines.

The term claret remains predominantly British in usage.

But it is now used more frequently as a blanket description for red wines from Bordeaux, even if they are heavier in style than the lighter reds originally denoted by the word.

Some have questioned claret’s staying power in the vocabulary of 21st century wine lovers.

‘Claret has slipped from unfashionable to almost irrelevant for most drinkers now,’ said Jane Anson, Decanter’s Bordeaux correspondent.

‘Very few will even associate it with red Bordeaux. So perhaps it is ready for a revival?’

To get your question answered, email us: editor@decanter.com or on social media with #askDecanter

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