A toast to the season’s wines: whites from Bordeaux.
Spring beckons with silver-throated birds, heralding the warmer months ahead. Nature’s paintbrush dabs the evening skies with spectacular hues of peach, fuchsia and lavender. Fresh aromas of orange zest figs, pears and baked apples waft through the air… scents and sensations evocative of white wines from Bordeaux.
Perhaps it’s a cue to fill your glass with finesse and character, and sip upon these delicious reflections. Perhaps it’s the call of your wine cooler in quest of a spring renewal. Or perhaps it’s your insatiable curiosity simply looking to be slaked…
Bordeaux whites: Two styles. Many nuances.
Whites from Bordeaux are made in two distinct styles: The dry Bordeaux blanc, which speaks the language of wine with a crisp, wry wit. And the renowned sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac, which seek a more intense relationship with your palate.
Every year, about four million cases of white Bordeaux wine are produced, accounting for about 10% of all Bordeaux wine. Bordeaux’s high-caliber whites are on par with their globally sought-after reds. And, while some of these whites are of legendary repute and age-worthiness, the majority of Bordeaux’s whites bring value synonymous with quality to your wineglass. These wines are approachable, accessible – and ready to drink when you are.
Is your palate all set for a tryst with Bordeaux whites? An insight into the grapes behind the wines makes your journey of taste more expansive…
The grapes behind the stars.
One of the four primary grapes in the AOC-labeled white wines of Bordeaux is Sauvignon Blanc, which exudes a crisp, lively character redolent of apples, melons, and peppers. But just when you think you’re well acquainted with this grape, its versatility can make you do a double take. Often referred to as the “chameleon of grapes,” Sauvignon Blanc when blended with Sémillon makes wines that are opulent, honeyed and creamy with complex notes of fig, pear and tobacco, and a silky mouth feel. (Much like a soprano’s voice with a rich, velvety timbre.) The other two grape varieties are the intensely floral Muscadelle, and Ugni Blanc (a primary grape in Cognac) with a fruity, aromatic palate.
The wine and the wallet.
While finesse and age-worthiness are to be much celebrated, it’s heartening to discover the lighter, more affordable side to the Bordeaux white. Whether you seek crisp acidity, creamy richness, a clean palate, or an elegant nose, you’ll find a distinct echo of this quality terroir well within reach. Bordeaux whites are so versatile, they make for an easier, more relaxed conversation between the wine and the wallet.
Meet the Châteaux.
The white wines of Pessac-Léognan assume a variety of styles – from light and fruit-forward to floral, spicy and mineral. While several chateaux in this region are known to craft white Bordeaux wines with flair, those from Château Haut Brion are considered the most prized, showing sublime character, concentration and complexity.
Nestled between the Dordogne and the Garonne rivers, Entre-Deux-Mers showcases a diversity of wine styles – from the dry whites of Sainte-Foy and Graves de Vayres, to the white dessert wines of Cadillac and Loupiac. The predominant grape in this region is Sauvignon Blanc, with Sémillon and Muscadelle adding structure and depth. Highly regarded for their white wines are Château Bonnet and Château Turcaud. Other top estates are Domaine de Courteillac, Château Grée-Laroque, and Château Rauzan Despagne.
While many of these estates bring high-quality offerings that are accessible to the everyday budget, some other stunning values that come to mind are Château de l’Emigré, Château Marjosse, and Château Graville-Lacoste, and Château Graves de Liron.
The most celebrated sweet Bordeaux wine known for its stellar vintages hails from Château d’Yquem. The estate is famous for Sauternes, a dessert wine made with grapes affected by an amazing fungus called Botrytis cinerea or “noble rot” – as a result of which the wine shows tremendous aromatic complexity.
Château Climens, Château Coutet, Château Guiraud, and Château Raymond Lafon also produce sweet whites of exceptional quality.
Pairing: What sings best with Bordeaux’s whites?
While goat cheese, wild salmon, oysters, shrimp, and salads can play a duet in the mouth with Sauvignon Blanc, unconventional pairings such as sushi and ceviche can be as delightful as jazz. The whites from Sauternes and Barsac sing romantic interludes with blue cheese, foie gras, roasted white meats, and, of course, fruit-based and exotic chocolate desserts.
Ready to glean the top picks of the season and explore their values? Start browsing now.