The Wonder Women of Bordeaux - Valérie Vialard (Château Latour Martillac), Valérie Lavigne (University of Bordeaux, Institute of Vine and Sciences), Corinne Comme (Château du Champ des Treilles), and Cécile Ha (Wines of Bordeaux).
Winemaking isn't for the weak. From the vine to the cellar; authentic winemaking demands patience, intuition, innovation, and a multitude of strengths. A group of women winemakers from Bordeaux have proven themselves in possession of all these traits, and more, as they challenge the notion that wines from Bordeaux are overpriced, old-fashioned, and always red. While hoity-toity wines remain an important part of Bordeaux's identity, the region isn't stuck in a time warp. Bordeaux is also home to modern and accessibly priced wines and I was reminded by these dynamic winemakers that its fantastic dry white wines should not be overlooked.
Located in Southwest France along the Atlantic coast, Bordeaux produces all styles of wine and dry whites represent about 9% of the total production - almost 58 million bottles. Although single varietal offerings of Sauvignon Blanc have become increasingly popular, Bordeaux whites are usually blends of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon; small amounts of Muscadelle sometimes play a supporting role.
Sauvignon Blanc grapes
image courtesy of Vins de Bordeaux
Native to the region, Sauvignon Blanc is often the main grape in dry white Bordeaux blends and brings freshness, high acidity, and vibrant aromas of grapefruit, lemon, tropical fruits, herbs, and grass. Sémillon balances out Sauvignon Blanc's zest with texture, roundness, aging potential and beguiling aromas of apricot and honey. Muscadelle is rarely more than 10% of the blend but just a small amount can enhance the wine with aromatic complexity.
The warmer weather is the perfect season to explore crisp, aromatic, and refreshing dry white wines from Bordeaux. The wines may incorporate the same grapes in their blend but each winemaker does so in unique combinations that best express their vision and terroir. From fresh and fruity to more structured and mineral-driven wines, there really is a white Bordeaux for every palate, meal, and occasion. Start your exploration of Bordeaux whites with one of these six sensational wines.
Château du Champ des Treilles Vin Passion 2016 ($15) is an impressive wine at an incredibly accessible price. A blend of essentially equal parts of Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and Muscadelle; this nuanced white wine beautifully expresses the character of its 68-year-old vines and limestone & clay soils.
I had the pleasure of tasting this lovely white Bordeaux with winemaker Corinne Comme. In 1997, Corinne and her husband Jean-Michel took over the familial vineyards from his grandfather and they opted to put their belief in biodynamics to practice. In addition to her work as a viticulturist, Corrine travels the world consulting estates on their conversions to biodynamic winemaking.
Château Peybonhomme-Les-Tours 2016 ($24)
A balanced and expressive blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes that were farmed on the largest certified biodynamic estate in Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux. Full-bodied with impressive minerality and freshness.
Cháteau Latour Martillac 2015 ($36)
Creamy, smooth, and a little smoky - a very nuanced and sensual blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon.
Château Roquefort 2016 ($13)
This vivacious wine is mostly Sauvignon Blanc with a dash of Sémillon. Luscious and full with juicy tropical fruit flavors and perky acidity.
Clos des Lunes Lune Blanche 2015 ($18)
Normally second fiddle, Sémillon (70%) has the starring role in this blend and Sauvignon Blanc plays an important supporting role at 30%. Crafted from grapes grown in a vineyard located in the Sauternes region, which is renowned for Bordeaux's legendary sweet wines, this dry white wine impressively balances the line between complexity and easy drinkability. Fresh, mineral, and juicy with a satisfying and sassy tinge of salinity.
Dourthe La Grande Cuvée Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($13)
If you want to sip Sauvignon Blanc in all its splendor, this elegant wine shows off the pristine beauty of the grape from diverse terroirs across the Bordeaux appellation. Full and fresh, seductively aromatic with crispy minerality and refreshing acidity. An elegant and unique expression of Sauvignon Blanc.
To learn more about dry white wines from Bordeaux, visit the Wines of Bordeaux website.