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DRY WHITE BORDEAUX

Modernization of many cellars has brought increased interest to white wines from what is regarded by many wine connoisseurs as the "center of the wine universe."   When most wine drinkers think of Bordeaux, they think of red wine. 

There have been excellent dry white wines from Bordeaux, but a bit of technology has helped advance the cause and today there are many good values coming from even the "petite châteaux."  Given that there are thousands of wineries here,   an increase in the quality of white wine means consumers have an alternative to Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon wines from other parts of the wine world. 

Each estate has its own "recipe" for making white wine.  Some are predominantly Semillon, while others display intense Sauvignon Blanc characteristics.   There is a minor blending variety here called "Muscadelle de Bordelais" and a few other white grapes dot the countryside, including "Ondenc," "Mauzac" (the white grape responsible for the sparkling wines of Limoux), "Sauvignon Gris" and "Ugni Blanc" (known as Trebbiano in Italy and used for distillation in Cognac, just north of Bordeaux). 

Aside from the varietal "blend," another complicating factor is the use of wood.  Many small wines of Entre-Deux-Mers are vinified exclusively in stainless steel.  At the other extreme, some estates ferment their wine exclusively in 60-gallon oak barrels.  Then there's the issue of a secondary, malolactic fermentation.  Some wineries do.  Some don't. 

We have but a limited number of wines from this region.  But we've got a wide range of styles and prices for you. 


Some Recommended Wines:



 
CHATEAU TOUR de MIRAMBEAU
Our "scout" in the Southwestern part of France comes up with some wines which have great appeal to those of us who enjoy drinking well and paying little.  Mirambeau is a property that's been in the Despagne family for more than 250 years.  The current proprietor graduated from the local wine school in Bordeaux and then set out for South America and South Africa to gain perspective on winemaking.  
 
 


We have a dynamite bottling that's made of Sauvignon Blanc (instead of the normal Sauvignon/Sémillon blend) and vinified in stainless steel.  The wine remains on the spent yeast until bottling.  It's thoroughly delicious, showing notes of grapefruit, ripe pear and a touch of peach.  It's dry, too, by the way.  Great with seafood or as a cocktail white.  

Despagne also makes a "reserve" bottling, bearing the notation "Grand Vin."   Thibault Despagne says the wine is 70% Sauvignon and 30% Sémillon.   "We first made this in 1987.  The Sémillon comes from a very old block of vines, planted in 1936.  The low yields contribute ripe and rich elements to the wine.  We barrel-fermented half of the wine as well like the new oak, but don't want to lose the fruit."  The wine is magnificent and outshines many California Sauvignon wines.   It's pungently Sauvignon with that wonderfully herbal character balancing the oak.  Very fine!  Don't miss the 2007...it's amazingly fine and reasonably-priced.
Currently in stock:  2008 Mirambeau Entre Deux Mers $11.99
2007 Mirambeau "Grand Vin" Sold Out
 

 


CHÂTEAU SAINTE-MARIE
This modest-sized estate is on many "experts" list of top sources for good Entre-Deux-Mers. The property is owned by Gilles Dupuch and his son Stéphane is now in charge of the place.

The vineyards are of varying ages, the oldest vines on this 45 hectare estate being about 100 years old.  Cattle ranching had been the main focus of many of the estates in this neighborhood, but only the recent decades have vines supplanted cattle.  

Stéphane Dupuch's uncle bought the estate in 1956 and his father left a lucrative insurance business to get dirt under his fingernails.  For "dad," the business was more of a hobby.  For Stéphane, it's a way of life.  Though most Americans know the white wines of Entre-Deux-Mers, estates such as this actually have more land devoted to red varieties.  Dupuch recently cleared some forest land and planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot.  This site will be a "Premières Côtes de Bordeaux." 

Saint-Marie's excellent Entre-Deux-Mers is cropped to a rather modest level, producing about 42 hectoliters per hectare.  The wine is Sauvignon Blanc, predominantly, with a fair bit of Sémillon and a bit of Muscadelle.  The wine even gets a bit of skin contact, though Stéphane has reduced that from 24 hours to about 15, or so.  The 2010 is delicious and a nice alternative to some Loire Valley Sauvignons.  It's dry, mildly citrusy and thoroughly delicious.

  A special bottling, called "MADLYS" is slated for arrival in the not-too-distant future.  This is 80% Sauvignon and 20% Sémillon.  It's matured in one-third new oak, one third "one wine old" and one-third "two wines old" oak.  The wood gives a lovely touch of vanillin and toast.  MADLYS refers to the family members, led by MADdy, Laurence, Yannick and Stéphane.

MORE PHOTOS OF OUR FRIENDS, THE DUPUCH FAMILY.
 
Currently in stock:  2010 Château Sainte-Marie Entre-Deux-Mers $14.99 



 
CHÂTEAU DE CUGAT
This small estate is located in the Entre-Deux-Mers appellation and proprietor Benoit Meyer offers a nice range of wines.

I've visited the place twice and each time the line-up of wines has been impressive.  More so, when you see the wines being offered at prices which are remarkably reasonably!

Meyer's grandmother bought the property in the 1920s and in the 1990s Benoit decided to start producing wine on a commercial basis.

We typically have red wines from the Château de Cugat, but his simple Entre-Deux-Mers is very fine.  The wine is something like 35% Sauvignon Gris, 35% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Sémillon.  The citrusy, herby notes of the Sauvignons dominate the nose and the Sémillon contributes a bit of texture on the palate.  It's fresh, dry and bright...perfect for simple seafood or aperitif service.  The wine also will beautifully 'set up' a red wine, so serving this for cocktails or with a simple salad or seafood starter is ideal.

Currently in stock:  2005 CHÂTEAU de CUGAT "Entre Deux Mers"  $9.99  Sold Out Presently

 

 
 



 



CHÂTEAU SMITH HAUT-LAFITTE
The Cathiard family has been running this estate since 1990 when Daniel Cathiard, a former member of the French ski team, sold his business interests in a grocery company and bought Smith Haut-Lafitte.

The property had been well-regarded, but was an under-achiever in those days.  Not anymore!

The white wine of this property is highly regarded by those who appreciate Sauvignon Blanc.  In fact, the white wine vineyards are about 90% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Sauvignon Gris and the rest Sémillon.  



The 2006 is striking and intense.  We're big fans.  Too bad it costs so much or we'd drink with regularly.  But if you need a spiffy bottle for a fancy menu, especially seafood, do consider this.  It's superb.

Currently in stock:  
2006 Château Smith Haut-Lafitte (List $75) Sold Out





CHÂTEAU FIEUZAL
The Fieuzal estate has a good reputation and its white wine, I've found, generally to be superior to its red.  They have about 39 hectares of red grapes and only 9 of white.

The property is located in the Pessac-Léognan region.  It came under new ownership in 2001, a fellow who was chairman of Allied Irish Banks, Monsieur Lochlann Quinn, is the proprietor these days.

They have equal proportions of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc, but I often find the Sauvignon dominates the fragrance of the wine.  It's vinified in oak, about half the barrels being brand new.

The wine is left on the spent yeast following the fermentation and stirred.  This "battonage" contributes a toasty quality to the wine...it's almost smoky.   We have the 2001 vintage in stock which is a marvelous wine if you like or appreciate these features (not everyone does).  

We opened a bottle in early December 2009 and the wine was spectacular.  Definite Sauvignon notes...dry.  Medium-full bodied.  Light oak...complex...deep.  Very fine!
Currently in stock:  2006 CHÂTEAU de FIEUZAL (list $55)  SALE $49.99
 



CHÂTEAU CARBONNIEUX
This is a large vineyard and its white wine is one of the easier-to-find whites from the Graves region. 

Partly due to its easy availability, the wine has been a bit of an ambassador for the Pessac-Léognan region.  Through the 1990s I'd found the wine to be a bit of an under achiever, frankly.

Today I find the wine to be good, though I usually prefer the Fieuzal or Smith Haut Lafitte whites.  Of course, those tend to be more expensive than Carbonnieux...

I've found, though, over the past decade, the wine seems to be getting better.  Perhaps it's due to vine age, perhaps it's due to the increased experience of the winemaker and chteau owner.  The Perrin family (not the famous Beaucastel Perrins, by the way) owns this estate and they've operated it since 1956.

I understand they have been doing a pre-fermentation period of skin contact for the white wine of Carbonnieux.  It used to never see any wood and its rather intense, weedy Sauvignon aromas were a bit crude without some time in oak.  Now the wine spends a bit of time in wood and they even leave it on the spent yeast and stir this sediment to create a smoky, toasty element in the wine.  The wine is less 'green' and less herbal than it was, say, a decade ago.  Now they capture more of a citrus and mildly grassy tone with a hint of melon-like fruit.  The wood is well in the background here.

The 2007 is very nice and a wonderful accompaniment to simple seafood dishes.
 
Currently in stock:  2007 CHÂTEAU CARBONNIEUX Pessac-Léognan White (List $56)  SALE 49.99





CHATEAU LESTRILLE CAPMARTIN
This is a smallish estate not far from St. Emilion and Pomerol.

We've had their terrific red wines for a number of vintages and these have been reliably good and remarkably good values.  

The past few years their white wine has become a shining star, too.

The property has been in the Roumage family for 5 generations, dating back to 1901.  In 1980, Estelle Roumage's father began bottling wine and offering it for sale to private customers.

Estelle came on board in 2001.  She had spent time in Madrid during her school years and learned Spanish, as she prepared to head to Chile to study their New World winemaking.  She met her husband in Spain and never did venture off to South America.

She did, however, manage to do some espionage in New Zealand and this may explain the style and high quality of the white wine at Lestrille.

The property had but 2 hectares of white grapes when we first started buying their wines and today they have 10 hectares devoted to their "Vin Blanc" program. 

The 2010 Entre-Deux-Mers has a great fragrance to it...lots of citrusy Sauvignon aromas waft from the glass and it's dry and fresh.  The blend is 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Muscadelle.  It's perfect with seafood as you might imagine looking at the accompanying photo...

Currently in stock:  2010 LESTRILLE-CAPMARTIN Entre-Deux-Mers  $11.99

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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