What do you think of when you hear the term claret? I used to think of people sipping claret in the 17th and 18th centuries, knowing it was a red wine, but not much else. Claret evolved from the French “Clairet”, the name of a dark rosé made in Bordeaux and exported until the 18th century. Over time, the meaning of claret changed and was used in reference to the red wines produced in Bordeaux, France. Today, it would be unlikely to hear Bordeaux referred to as claret anywhere outside the UK.
French Bordeaux can be any combination of the following permissable grape varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. Also permitted, but rarely used these days, are Malbec and Carménère.
Other countries also produce wines called claret. Last week, my friend, Sheila, and I shared a bottle of 2007 Ciel du Cheval Claret produced by Ken Wright under his second label, Tyrus Evan (Ken’s sons’ middle names). The grapes are all Washington state grown and then vinted and bottled by Ken. When I tasted this claret at the winery last October, I was impressed and it was just as good as I remembered. The wine is a deep, clear red in color and full of dark fruit flavors with just enough tannins to provide structure, but silky smooth in the mouth. We enjoyed the wine with pasta in fresh marinara sauce and gorgeous stuffed zucchini blossoms, all courtesty of “Chef Sheila”.
Keep claret in mind when selecting a red wine that might be a bit different from what you typically purchase. After all, variety is the spice of life!