Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Overlooking the Obvious: White Bordeaux

In my quest to walk roads less traveled I sometimes overlook obvious paths of pleasure. For too long have I forsaken white Bordeaux, seduced instead by, say, Godello from Valdeorras, or Asirtiko from Santorini. Partly this is because less-known regions can offer amazing value and interest; correspondingly, I figured that I'd have to settle for mediocre Bordeaux Blanc unless I was willing to pay a modest ransom.

I came to realized I was acting, or rather not acting, out of prejudice and ignorance. The more I thought about it, the more I also realized that it would be really interesting to explore how my palate reacted to varying blends of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc.

What I found should please most any food and wine lover. All three examples I tried delivered significant pleasure for under $20, and all would pair well with a wide variety of food.

Château Graville-Lacoste Graves 2006
The Graville-Lacoste is brought in by Kermit Lynch and cost a tick under $20 so I figured it would be a good place to start my Bordeaux Blanc exploration. It was, in fact, stunning, with a beautiful and complex nose of peach, rose, tangerine, gooseberry, lemon, paint, cinnamon, honey, and a hint of wet gravel. All these aromas coalesce in the mouth to form a singular, creamy, yet delicate experience. It's incredibly clean, with soft but mouth-smacking acidity and a barely-perceptible minerality. This is incredibly well-balanced and I could see pairing this with a delicate, lemon-tinged whitefish or with a buttery vegetable pilaf. Possibly 80% Semillon?

Château Ducasse Bordeaux Blanc 2006
This almost certainly has more SB in the blend than the Château Graville-Lacoste Graves, which is also vinified by Herve Dubourdieu, and it's also a simpler wine, less layered and expressive. But it's still very good. Apple, pineapple, and hay aromas predominate and the follow-through is very clean. This would be particularly good in summer accompanied with a light Mediterranean meal and/or cold summer vegetables.

Château Guiraud Le G Bordeaux Blanc Sec 2006
This esteemed Sauternes producer also makes this dry white from a whopping 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Sémillon. It's larger-framed than either of Dubourdieu's wines, surely thanks to the nine months of barrel aging and occasional lees stirring, but it also features more typically SB characteristics of lemon and a hint of gooseberry — although it's not as piercing as, say, a typical Sancerre. This paired nicely with white risotto. The topsoil in the vineyard is sandy gravel; subsoil varies from sand to gravel to red clay to limestone marls.

In sum, I'm hardly going to give up my beloved Loire Chenin Blanc or hold a crucifix up to Oregon Pinot Gris, but I'm intrigued enough to continue my exploration; and I have even socked away a 2004 Château Carbonnieux from Pessac-Léognan for a special occasion. Of course, with a cool spring night being the perfect time for a fish in cream sauce, I might have to create that special occasion sooner rather than later...

1 comment:

Joe said...

Funny how white Bordeaux is "off the beaten path". I can't recall a blog post on white bordeaux and I never buy the stuff (and I buy nearly everything!). Beyond the occasional Sauternes I never touch the stuff, thinking it overpriced. I may have to revisit that.