Château du Tertre in Margaux is just launching a new audacious cuvée. Its new white wine with be a blend of Sauvignon… Chardonnay, Gros Manseng and Viognier. An original example of the bright future of Bordeaux white wines?
Representing about 10% of Bordeaux production, white wine is often in the shadow of its red counterpart which made the international reputation of the region. However, recent initiatives prove that white Bordeaux can play in the premier league too.
Many Bordeaux producers have been vinifying white wines for years, from small independent wineries to the most prestigious chateaux as Château Margaux with its iconic Pavillon Blanc. However, despite a few exceptions, the production of white wine seems to be confined to a few appellations only as Graves, Entre-Deux-Mers or Blaye.
Château du Tertre in Margaux just launched a new cuvée based on Sauvignon Blanc… but also Chardonnay, Gros Manseng and Viognier! These are the kings of Burgundy, Jurançon and Northern Rhône. Because of its surprising assemblage, far away from the traditional white Bordeaux blends, the wine will be sold as « Vin de France ». This classification however doesn’t seem to worry much its director Alexander van Beek, supported by the highly respected professor Denis Dubourdieu. If the bet is successful, they might extend the production to their other property Château Giscours. The bottles will be selling from mid-May for the price of €25.
White wine seems to gain in popularity in Bordeaux, and Château du Tertre is certainly not the first to experience it nor the last. Clos Dubreuil in Saint-Emilion also launched an unconventional white wine back in 2010. After a trip to Australia where its owner Benoît Trocard discovered the quality and versatility of the Chardonnay grape, he decided to plant it in Bordeaux. The recent reform of geographical indications that converted the « vins de table » into « vins de France » (a better name for the export market) is probably an element that indirectly supported that kind of experiments.
This fashionable move is also supported by a strong uplift in quality and traditional white Bordeaux blend produce great wines with Sauvignon, Semillon and Muscadelle. Château Clarke re-launched in 1993 it cuvée « Merle Blanc » that had a great reputation beginning of 20th century. Château de La Rivière in Fronsac produces since 2010 a small batch of white Bordeaux. Finally, recently, château Margaux even claimed to rename its white wine « Château Margaux blanc » and not « Pavillon Blanc » anymore to avoid any confusion with its second wine; the idea was that considering the impressive progress in the quality, it could now be fully considered as a grand cru.
The most emblematic white Bordeaux are probably the ones from Pessac-Léognan. This premium AOC, created in 1987 within the Graves, gathers historical and very qualitative vineyards. The appellation is mostly known for its dry white wines with some classified growths that reached and worldwide demand and reputation (all the crus classés from Graves are from Pessac-Léognan). In the forefront, château Haut-Brion produces a white cuvée since 18th century, a rare jewel that becomes a monument of complexity when opened after some ageing. Since 2009 Domaines Clarence Dillon produce La Mission Haut-Brion blanc (previously called Laville Haut-Brion) as well as a second wine, La Clarté de Haut-Brion. Other notable domains praised by the wine critics are the wines of Châteaux Pape-Clément, Smith Haut-Lafitte, Domaine de Chevalier, Carbonnieux, Fieuzal, Malartic-Lagravière… These wines are made from Sauvignon, Semillon and Muscadelle and marked by their unique fruity aromas, freshness, ample texture and overall a great ballance.
In Sauternes, dry white wines are starting to emerge with the cuvées Y from château d’Yquem or G de Guiraud. They develop an interesting alternative to traditional sweet option.
Predominantly associated with qualitative red wines, Bordeaux is firmly determined to showcase it can diversify its offer producing some of the finest white wines.
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