Bordeaux Clairet is the title used for lighter-style red wines made under the generic Bordeaux appellation. These wines reflect the style of red Bordeaux as it was centuries ago, when the wines began to be exported around Europe – particularly to England. The word 'claret' (now used by many English as a general term for red Bordeaux) is an anglicized version of clairet.
Bordeaux Clairet wines are made under almost exactly the same production conditions as regular Bordeaux red; the difference arises in the specific winemaking techniques that are employed. The period of time that Clairet must spends in contact with the skins during fermentation is less than for other red Bordeaux wines, being a matter of days rather than weeks. This means that less tannin and color is extracted from the skins and pips into the juice, resulting in a lighter style of wine and a color similar to a deep-hued rose wine. The flavors and mouthfeel which result from this distinctive technique are noticeably different, too, being lighter and more fruit-driven.
Bordeaux Clairet wines are approachable at a younger age than regular Bordeaux reds because of their less complex structure, and also reach their peak sooner – generally within two years. This is radically less than the 20 years of bottle age required by the most famous wines from the Medoc.
Only a tiny proportion of Bordeaux vineyards are given over to the production of Bordeaux Clairet. This is simply a matter of economics and consumer trends. The modern wine consumer prefers more-complex reds with greater color and body, so demand – and prices – for Clairet are correspondingly lower.