Bordeaux is a dark red wine color that takes its name from the French wine region of Bordeaux. While Bordeax wines range in shade from ruby to garnet to tawny, the quintessential Bordeaux color is a deep, rich red. So is Bordeaux technically a shade of brown? The short answer is no – Bordeaux is considered a shade of red, not brown. However, its status as a distinctly reddish shade of brown is debated.
The Color Bordeaux
The first recorded use of “bordeaux” as a color name in English was in 1881. It was meant to describe the distinctive dark red wines coming out of the Bordeaux region of France. Wine experts consider the classic Bordeaux wine color to be a very deep ruby tending towards garnet on the edges. In Hex code, the web color Bordeaux is #7B0000, a highly saturated dark red. So in the technical sense, Bordeaux is clearly a shade of red, not brown.
However, Bordeaux sits on the line between red and brown. On the color wheel, it is closer to brown than a bright red. As a low-saturation shade, it has more brown undertones than most reds. Additionally, when exposed to oxygen, Bordeaux wines can take on more of a brick-red or tawny character. So while technically a red, Bordeaux has some brownish leanings.
Bordeaux vs Brown
Here are some key ways Bordeaux differs from core shades of brown:
- Bordeaux reflects more red light than brown shades
- Bordeaux has a much lower luminance than mid-range browns
- Bordeaux is considered a “warm, dark color” while brown is a “warm, medium color”
- On the RYB color model, Bordeaux is a mix of red and black while brown also includes yellow
- Bordeaux is associated with wine, romance, and elegance while brown is associated with earthiness, dependability, and ruggedness
However, as a darker, muted red, Bordeaux shares some similarities with browns as well:
- Both are considered “warm, low-saturation” colors
- Neither are primary or secondary colors
- Both can lean slightly towards purple/burgundy undertones
- Oxidized Bordeaux wines can take on more brownish-red hues
Bordeaux in Design and Fashion
In design, Bordeaux serves as a sophisticated neutral and works as an alternative to black in some contexts. It pairs well with both warm and cool colors ranging from beige and camel to sage green and navy blue. Lighter shades of Bordeaux can act as a dusty pink. Common uses for Bordeaux in design include:
- Wall colors
- Upholstery and carpeting
- Web design/logos
In fashion, Bordeaux rose to popularity in the 1990s as a staple color for everything from lipstick to power suits. It served as an alternative neutral beyond black and grey. Bordeaux continues to be a popular color in fashion for:
- Lip colors
- Nail polish
As a deeper red, it allows the same styling versatility as black while providing a punch of color.
While Bordeaux technically qualifies as a shade of red and not brown, its status as a reddish-brown is debatable. As a dark, low saturation red with brown undertones, it straddles the line between red and brown on the color wheel. However, its distinctly red-leaning hue sets it apart from core shades of brown. Within design and fashion, Bordeaux serves as a sophisticated neutral while still providing the visual power and impact of a bold red. So while not technically a brown, Bordeaux lives in the red-brown intersection and derives some of its stylistic versatility from brownish undertones.