Spending a few days in Bordeaux recently, I expected to be drinking some good red wine. It didn’t work out that way! Wherever we decided to eat, the most appealing dishes on the menu were fish. And, while I’m quite happy to pair a nice tuna steak with a low tannin red wine such as Beaujolais, Valpolicella or even some Pinot Noirs, none of these is native to Bordeaux and the local Cabernet- or Merlot-dominated reds just don’t work.
Fortunately, about 1 bottle in 12 produced in the Bordeaux region is a dry white, so I was still able to pursue my ‘drink local’ policy – and explore a group of wines that, for no particular reason, I often seem to ignore.
Bordeaux’s dry whites fall into 2 distinct groups: the traditional style, now in decline, are mainly made using the Semillon grape with some Sauvignon Blanc added, with one, or sometimes both, varieties either fermented or aged in (mainly old) oak barrels. More frequently now, you find wines with 100% or at least a very high proportion of Sauvignon Blanc – fresh, zingy and providing attractive drinking for a very reasonable price. We found good examples of each style.
Representing the modern group, Chateau Vermont from Entre Deux Mers had a lovely floral nose with pink grapefruit and peach on the palate and a clean, refreshing finish. A simple wine, but quite moreish. In a different league entirely and showing how good traditional white Bordeaux can be was L’Abeille de Fieuzal Blanc from Pessac Leognan, the best part of the Graves District, just south of the city of Bordeaux. Full, rich and buttery with hints of smokiness but also lovely fruit: citrus and bitter orange and a long, complex finish.
But, good as these were, my wife knows how much I like Bordeaux’s luscious dessert wines and her picture above shows me enjoying one to the full – our accompanying puddings were about to arrive!