jamie goode's wine blog: Serious, affordable white Bordeaux

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Serious, affordable white Bordeaux

I never drink white Bordeaux. Ever. Nor does anyone else. If you want Sauvignon, you go to New Zealand or the Loire. If you want it with a splash of Semillon, you go to Margaret River. What's the point of Sauvignon with an attitude problem? And it's only Americans who try to oak their Sauvignons.

But we know the truth is more complex than this, if we are honest with ourselves. In particular, we realize that white Graves is serious stuff, and that sometimes Sauvignon/Semillon blends from Bordeaux with a bit of barrel fermentation are worthy of our attention: they're serious, ageworthy wines in their own right.

Tonight I sip a white Bordeaux that is both serious and affordable. It's Chateau Beaumont 'Les Pierrieres' 2006 Premieres Cotes de Blaye Blanc, which Lea and Sandeman list for 7.95. Initially, on opening it Fiona and I had divergent opinions. She's highly sensitive to oak, and doesn't like oaked white wines at all - she immediately rejected this as being oaky. I'm clearly an idiot, and didn't get oak at all when I first tried it. Instead, I got a bit of struck match reduction as the defining feature on the nose. But Fiona is right: Beaumont used new oak barrels for this wine. They fermented it in new barrels destined for their red wine program, understanding that by the time fermentation was complete with the white, the red would be ready to press into the already-used barrels.

The combination of oak, reduction and fresh, herb-tinged fruit results in a fairly complex, savoury, expressive white wine that I reckon will improve in bottle for perhaps five to ten years. It's a really interesting wine, in the style of serious white Graves, but it's affordable.

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At 11:38 AM, Anonymous ian b said...

Jamie - I agree - many attempts to put sauvignon in oak are entirely lamentable.

But a couple of others worth trying are Cloudy Bay's Te Koko, which is a bit pricey, and whichever appellation it is on the Loire that allows for this - I think it's Cheverny, though its so long since I last had it I may have got that one wrong, and I'm far too lazy to go and look that one up (!).

But if done with a very light touch, it provides something unique, rather than just a taste of sauvignon that's spent some time in oak, if you see what I mean.

At 2:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peter Michael's Sauvignon can be utterly compelling, as far as Californian oaked Sauvignon goes - and I cannot get on with most American wines. It's more like a richly fruited, honeyed Burgundy in the way oak is entirely complimentary and not dominating.

I've had great oaked old and young Sauvignons from Henri Bourgeois in Sancerre but the oaked Savennieres I've tried have thus far disappointed.


At 2:50 PM, Blogger Salil said...

Yup, white Bordeaux has a charm of its own that you don't find in Margaret River or Loire or NZ whites. I recently had my first example of a white Graves with age on it when a friend opened a 1999 Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc, and was stunned by the complexity, depth and the sheer distinctiveness it had - it was completely unlike any of the Sauvignon Blanc or 'SSB' blends I'd ever tasted from anywhere else. Only problem was the price tag - while very generous of him, it wasn't a wine I'd ever head out to buy myself.

I'll keep a look out for this one though which seems at a far more reasonable price - thanks for the recommendation.

At 5:22 PM, Anonymous ian b said...

Oops - sorry! In that earlier comment about oaked loires/Cheverny, I meant to say sauv/chardonnay blend. Sorry for inadvertent change of grapes.

At 7:17 AM, Anonymous Keith Prothero said...

of course the Vergelegen estate white is a lovely bdx blend too.

At 11:30 AM, Blogger Darryl said...

A decent oaked Sauvignon from South Africa is the Chamonix SB Reserve.

At 3:31 PM, Anonymous Andrew Chapman said...

Kieth: If more white Bordeaux tasted as good (and as consistently!) as Vergelegen's Estate white, they wouldn't have a problem at all. The 2005 Vergelegen is tasting top-noth

At 3:33 PM, Anonymous andew chapman said...

... and if I could spell Keith it would make even more sense ;)


At 5:48 PM, Anonymous kinley said...

Good white Bordeaux has an opulence that can only be matched by white Burgundy, but the bordeaux costs many times less.

At 10:18 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Thanks for all the comments - they suggest that more research is needed. Agree about Vergelegen's white - that's really serious stuff.

At 10:29 AM, Blogger Sarah said...

I know that everyone thinks NZ should stick to its knitting and keep producing fiesty Sav in recognisable kiwifruit garb but we are actually making some really great Sauvignon/Semillon blends and adding (at least partial) oak to very fine effect. "Mango Creme Brulee" Te Koko aside there are a host of others that can't be that hard to get hold of (surely). Seresin S/B 2007 has partial oak and 5% Semillon and their "Marama" oaked version is usually full oak and malo. Neither is "lamentable". Also worth seeking out is Terravin from Malborough. I'm not sure if it is in the bottle yet but I tried a barrel sample of a co-fermented Sav/Sem that was hinting at greatness. Also Te Mata Cape Crest, Sacred Hill Sauvage and (definitely) Pegasus Bay.

At 11:06 AM, Blogger Sarah said...

Oh and I forgot "Dog Point Section 94"

At 10:54 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Thanks Sarah, some good tips there.

I'm drinking a nice oaked Austrian Sauvignon Blanc from Southern Styria as I write - it carries the oak really well.

At 12:46 AM, Anonymous Doug said...

I think you tend to lose the flavour of the terroir with the oak although it may give another dimension. Classic Sauvignons (in my book) would include most things by Didier Dagueneau, Alphonse Mellot, Cotat, Bourgeois (Jadis & Antan, in particular), Sauvignon Quarz, Terlano, Quarz from Claude Courtois in Touraine. These wines are from specific single vineyards which give a particular character above and beyond the strong varietal notes. It helps that many of the above examples are also (mainly) from vines above 50 year's old.


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