Chances are you’ve come across a few bottles of Francis Ford Coppola’s flagship Claret during your time as a wine drinker. For many it may be one of the first “nicer” wines you tried, picking up this bottle at your local supermarket when you wanted to bring something a little more expensive to a friend’s house or impress a date. For others, this wine still may be special, a go-to bottle that’s easy to find and easy to please.
Thanks to Coppola’s dominance as an American winery, the Claret is easy to find pretty much anywhere and it’s an excellent gateway for getting into wine, especially for getting to know Bordeaux-style blends. A blend means the wine is made from more than one grape, they sort of perfected that in Bordeaux, and this wine is made in that style. The Coppola Claret starts with Cabernet Sauvignon as the majority of wine being used, which is the same base that producers on the Left Bank of Bordeaux use, and then it incorporates other traditional Bordeaux grapes: Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec, to round everything out. However, unlike most Left Bank Bordeaux blends that tend to have strong tannins and a more rustic or earthy flavor, the Coppola Claret is rich and can even be said to be a little juicy or sweet, thanks in large part to the mass production of its California fruit, which tends to be extremely ripe when picked, and the fact that the wine is aged for a very long time in oak barrels to round out all the flavors and make it appealing to most people’s taste buds.
We spent many a night shortly after college drinking this wine with friends, and its accessibility taught us a lot about what we liked and what we didn’t when it comes to wine, since drinking is really the only way to figure out what you enjoy. It also made us realize there was a time when we were ready to move on and give some other wines a try. Little did we know, the Claret had primed us for greatness. And now we get to share that knowledge with you.
Here are a few suggestions of the wines you should look for if you enjoy the Coppola Claret:
A Left Bank Bordeaux – Chateau Bernadotte
Since the Coppola Claret is made in the style of a traditional Left Bank Bordeaux, give Chateau Bernadotte a try. The wine is a great example of a Left Bank wine, but because it’s lighter in body and softer in texture it’s a bit more approachable than the very intensely tannic and powerful wines the region is known for while still having the nice earthy flavors of a classic Bordeaux that the Claret is missing.
A Bottle of Bordeaux Made By André Lurton
Lurton has become famous for making approachable Bordeaux wines from all over the Bordeaux region, both the Left and the Right Banks. His wines are great values for the quality and are a fantastic entrée into the Bordeaux style. If the Coppola Claret was your gateway drug into red wine, let Lurton lead you into Bordeaux.
Punto Final Malbec Classico From Argentina
After Cabernet Sauvignon, the dominant grape in the Coppola Claret blend is Malbec, so why not try the real deal in its pure form from the country that made it famous. This wine is warm and spicy and very smooth. The tannins are really mellow, just like the Claret. It begs for a steak.
A Super Tuscan – Brancaia Tre IGT
Not all Bordeaux style blends have to come from Bordeaux of California. In fact, the Tuscans have been playing around with blends since the 1970s, making a Bordeaux-style blend that utilizes not only traditional French grapes, but often Italian grapes, such as Sangiovese, as well. The Brancaia is a nice introduction to Super Tuscans that allows you to decide whether or not you want to spend the higher price tag they can often carry.
Another Great Californian – Bonny Doon – A Proper Claret
Made by one of America’s most famous winemakers, Randall Grahm names his riff on the classic Bordeaux blend “proper” but it’s anything but. While Cabernet is the dominant grape in the blend, the other grapes he chooses to use are Petit Verdot, Syrah, Tannat and Petite Sirah. Only one of these other grapes, Petit Verdot, would ever be used in a proper French Bordeaux blend, which is the joke Graham is making in naming his wine “proper” in the first place. This wine has the best of both worlds: the fruit flavor California is famous for, which echo the Coppola Claret, and yet the earthy aromas of an Old World-style wine. This combination makes Grahm’s Claret one of the more interesting California Clarets. A nice step up from the Coppola.
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