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White wine

Profiles

Discover Bordeaux whites!

The land of Cabernet and Merlot, the Bordeaux region also makes excellent white wines that are too often overshadowed by its reds.

Published on October 20, 2020

What’s a Bordeaux? Most would reply “a red wine” reflexively, thinking of the Grand Crus red that have made the region famous. Yet, in 1960, Bordeaux produced more whites then reds!

Today however, white wines represent a mere 14% of total production from the Bordeaux appellation; yet, even that small amount should not be overlooked in favour of better-known reds. An aperitif favourite (yes, Bordeaux as an aperitif!), fresh white wines made from vintages that age brilliantly, white Bordeaux cepages can indeed compete with its reds. In fact, one of Bordeaux’s five most highly ranked Grand Crus—white wine from Haut­ Brion—sells at a much higher price than its reds!


Cepages and blends

Bordeaux is the homeland of the Sauvignon Blanc (which New Zealand has a definite fondness for!), and when it’s added to Sémillon (in majority) and Muscadelle (in minority), Sauvignon’s freshness is tempered and the overall blend becomes more complex. One might also find small proportions of Ugni Blanc and Colombard (used frequently to make Cognac) and a few rare grapes of Merlot Blanc!


Barrel benefits

Aside from being used in blends, Bordeaux whites are also able to take on additional dimensions when barrelled, which adds complexity, often smoothness, and in the best cases, excellent cellaring potential. Barrel aging tempers Sauvignon’s primary aromatic character (grapefruit, passion fruit, peppers, grass), and instead, cultivates floral and tropical notes that are seductive!


Whiteout!

The majority of the region’s whites are found in the Bordeaux appellation itself. White Bordeaux may be harvested and bottled in any appellation and often come from prestigious terroirs whose appellations are generally reserved for reds or sweet wines. The other region well known for its whites is Entre-Deux-Mers, which, as the name indicates, is located in the ‘triangle’ between two of the region’s large bodies of water (the Dordogne and the Garonne). In both cases, whites are meant to be enjoyed early—when they’re fresh and unpretentious.


Graves Grandeur

In total, there are 13 dedicated white Bordeaux appellations, some of which are so tiny and limited in quantity that they are virtually unknown—such as the Côtes-de-Bordeaux-Saint-Macaire. Among those 13 appellations, the most esteemed are often those from Graves and Pessac-Léognan, located in the South of Bordeaux and Garonne, where notably sweet wine appellations abound (Sauternes, Barsac, etc.). The aforementioned region produces whites that are fit for cellaring, after which they gain roundness, silkiness, and rich floral, honey, and nutty notes that have the power to impress even the sternest critics! Domains such as Carbonnieux, de Chevalier, Malartic-Lagravière, Fieuzal, Laville-Haut-Brion and of course, Haut-Brion are among those who specialize in cellarable Bordeaux whites.

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