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DRY WHITE BORDEAUX
Modernization of many cellars has brought increased interest to white wines
from what is regarded by many wine connoisseurs as the "center of the wine
universe." When most wine drinkers think of Bordeaux, they think of red
There have been excellent dry white wines from Bordeaux, but a bit of technology has
helped advance the cause and today there are many good values coming from even the
"petite châteaux." Given that there are thousands of wineries here,
an increase in the quality of white wine means consumers have an alternative to Sauvignon
Blanc and Semillon wines from other parts of the wine world.
Each estate has its own "recipe" for making white wine. Some
are predominantly Semillon, while others display intense Sauvignon Blanc characteristics.
There is a minor blending variety here called "Muscadelle de Bordelais"
and a few other white grapes dot the countryside, including "Ondenc,"
"Mauzac" (the white grape responsible for the sparkling wines of Limoux),
"Sauvignon Gris" and "Ugni Blanc" (known as Trebbiano in Italy and
used for distillation in Cognac, just north of Bordeaux).
Aside from the varietal "blend," another complicating factor is the
use of wood. Many small wines of Entre-Deux-Mers are vinified exclusively in
stainless steel. At the other extreme, some estates ferment their wine exclusively
in 60-gallon oak barrels. Then there's the issue of a secondary, malolactic
fermentation. Some wineries do. Some don't.
We have but a limited number of wines from this region. But we've got a wide range
of styles and prices for you.
Some Recommended Wines:
- CHATEAU TOUR de MIRAMBEAU
"scout" in the Southwestern part of France comes up with some
wines which have great appeal to those of us who enjoy drinking well and
paying little. Mirambeau is a property that's been in the Despagne
family for more than 250 years. The current proprietor graduated from
the local wine school in Bordeaux and then set out for South America and
South Africa to gain perspective on winemaking.
- It's said that Jean-Louis and Odile Despagne moved into the little mill
the day after their wedding in 1769! So this place has been in the
family for 8 generations.
The property is in the town of Rauzan (not related the the Left Bank Rauzan
estates in Margaux, by the way) and this is about a 30 minute ride from
Libourne, the major city that's the hub of the famous regions of Pomerol,
St. Emilion and Entre-Deux-Mers.
These days the main man is Thibault Despagne and his partner-in-wine is
Basaline Despagne, his sister.
They're a dynamic duo and hell-bent on making top quality wines capable of
being compared to prestigious wines from around the world.
We've followed their wines for many years and can say the wine from the Tour
de Mirambeau estate are routinely good and in the case of the Cuvée Passion
bottlings, they're below-the-radar bargains.
They make a handful of Mirambeau bottlings, along with wines
from their several other estates.
There's been a nice progression in terms of quality and style, though we
suggested that Despagne use a tad more wood in some of the wines. Like
so many vintners, they discovered a barrel ages ago and used it
enthusiastically. Then they began to pull back on the oak and while
they appreciate the fruit in the wines, sometimes vintners employ less wood
than their customers would like.
We had encouraged Thibault to use the Pessac-Léognan white wine
of Smith Haut Lafitte as a model. Our advice was to intensify the
character of the Sauvignon Blanc in his special bottling called Cuvée
The 2016 Bordeaux Blanc with the Cuvée Passion label is a real winner!
It's approximately 70% Sauvignon Blanc with 30% Sémillon. This vintage
there's intensely citrusy Sauvignon up front and mildly woodsy notes framing
Dry, medium-full bodied, but not heavy.
It's a really showy dry white and well-priced.
They make a nice Entre-Deux-Mers, too.
The local importer has not brought that in for a few years, but the 2017 we
tasted in Europe in early 2018 was very fine.
- Currently in stock:
2016 Tour de Mirambeau "Cuvée Passion" Bordeaux Blanc
Thibault in 2018 showing off his lovely new vintage of white wine.
modest-sized estate is on many "experts" list of top sources for
good Entre-Deux-Mers. The property is owned by Gilles Dupuch and his son Stéphane
is now in charge of the place.
vineyards are of varying ages, the oldest vines on this 45 hectare estate
being about 100 years old. Cattle ranching had been the main focus of
many of the estates in this neighborhood, but only the recent decades have
vines supplanted cattle.
Stéphane Dupuch's uncle bought the estate in 1956 and his father left a
lucrative insurance business to get dirt under his fingernails. For
"dad," the business was more of a hobby. For Stéphane, it's
a way of life. Though most Americans know the white wines of
Entre-Deux-Mers, estates such as this actually have more land devoted to red
varieties. Dupuch recently cleared some forest land and planted
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. This site will be a
"Premières Côtes de Bordeaux."
Stéphane in Europe in March of 2018 and he is now making Syrah!
Can you imagine someone growing Syrah in Bordeaux!
Saint-Marie's excellent Entre-Deux-Mers is cropped to a rather modest level,
producing about 42 hectoliters per hectare. The wine is Sauvignon
Blanc, predominantly, with a fair bit of Sémillon and a bit of
Muscadelle. The wine even gets a bit of skin contact, though Stéphane
has reduced that from 24 hours to about 15, or so. The 2016 is
delicious and a nice alternative to some Loire Valley Sauvignons. It's
dry, mildly citrusy and thoroughly delicious.
MORE PHOTOS OF
OUR FRIENDS, THE DUPUCH FAMILY.
- Currently in stock: 2016 Château Sainte-Marie
Stéphane showing off new vintages.
CHÂTEAU SMITH HAUT-LAFITTE
Cathiard family has been running this estate since 1990 when Daniel
Cathiard, a former member of the French ski team, sold his business
interests in a grocery company and bought Smith Haut-Lafitte.
The property had been well-regarded, but was an under-achiever in those
days. Not anymore!
These days the vines are farmed organically
The white wine of this property is highly regarded by those who appreciate Sauvignon Blanc. In fact, the white wine vineyards are about 90%
Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Sauvignon Gris and the rest Sémillon.
The vines are close to 40 years of age.
The hand-harvested grapes go into small picking boxes to not damage
them...the grapes are crushed and the juice is cold-settled before being
racked into barrel.
Fifty percent of the juice is fermented in brand new French oak barrels
which are made on the property, not purchased from an outside
cooperage. The wine is stirred periodically, a process called "battonage."
The 2014 is striking and intense. We're big fans. It used to be
more affordable and we'd put it on the dinner table to impress our
friends. Now it costs so much that it's a bit of a splurge, but one we
make occasionally. If you need a
spiffy bottle for a fancy menu, especially seafood, do consider this.
Currently in stock:
2014 Château Smith Haut-Lafitte SALE $119.99
Smith Haut Lafitte has its own cooperage.
They mature the wood outdoors for several years so it dries out nicely...then
they build their own barrels.
- The Fieuzal
estate has a very good reputation and its white wine, I've found, generally to be
superior to its red. They have about 75 hectares of vineyards with ten
of those being devoted to white wine production.
The property is located in the Pessac-Léognan region. It came under
new ownership in 2001, a fellow who was chairman of Allied Irish Banks,
Monsieur Lochlann Quinn, is the proprietor these days. But ages ago it
was owned by the Fieuzal family and it's had a succession of owners.
It had been owned by the Gardères family prior to the Fieuzals. When
the Fieuzals sold the estate in the early 1850s, the property was split in
two, with half being called Fieuzal and the other Haut Gardères.
In 1994 a bank purchased Fieuzal and a year later they bought the
neighboring Haut Gardères property, thus reuniting the estate.
Quinn and his wife Brenda are wine aficionados and they're worked hard to
make Fieuzal a highly-respected estate for both red and white.
In 2007 they brought on a new winemaker named Stephen Carrier and he's made
changes not for the purpose of being more cost-effective, but for improving
wine quality. They remodeled the fermentation and aging cellars under
The Quinns are friendly with the owner of the famed St. Emilion estate, Château
L'Angélus and he's somewhat of a consultant or adviser.
I recall them reportedly having equal plantings of Sauvignon and Sémillon,
but these days they have 70% of the white wine vineyards planted to
Sauvignon Blanc with 25% to Sémillon and 5% to Muscadelle.
The white wine goes into about 40% new French oak and remains in barrels for
12 to 16 months, or so. This routinely has a nice impact from the oak
and the 2015 was amongst the showiest of the white wines from that
Typically Fieuzal had been rather leesy and smoky, but under Carrier's
tutelage, the wine displays brighter fruit intensity with a mildly woodsy
- Currently in stock: 2015 CHÂTEAU de FIEUZAL Pessac-Léognan
BLANC SALE $59.99
- This is a
large vineyard and its white wine is one of the easier-to-find whites from
the Pessac-Léognan region. The estate has an interesting
history, having been first owned by the Benedictine monks of the Abbey of
Saint-Croix in Bordeaux. Wine from the estate is said to have been
known by Thomas Jefferson who gifted the owner with a pecan tree that is
supposedly still on the property. It was smuggled to the old Turkish
city known ages ago as Constantinople. Despite the Islamic rule, the
wine was so pale in color, it was labeled as "Eau de Carbonnieux"
and masqueraded as some special French "water."
The label, as you may be able to see here, has a design reminiscent of the
shell of a sea scallop. We've heard this is because there's sea
shell-like fossils in the gravelly vineyard, but a source in Bordeaux
claims it's a symbol for those making the pilgrimage on the trail of
Santiago de Compostela. Saint Jacques...Santiago...Coquilles St.
The estate was adversely impacted by the killer frost of 1956 and the
property was acquired by a family named Perrin (not the same people who own
the Châteauneuf-du-Pape estate of Beaucastel).
Today the grandchildren of the original Perrins, Eric, Christine and
Philibert, run the property.
The estate covers some 170 hectares with about 95 hectares of
Partly due to its easy availability, the wine has been a bit of an
ambassador for the Pessac-Léognan region. Through the 1990s I'd found
the wine to be a bit of an under achiever, frankly.
Today I find the wine to be good, though I usually prefer the Fieuzal or
Smith Haut Lafitte whites. Of course, those tend to be more expensive
I've found, though, over the past decade, the wine seems to be getting
better. Perhaps it's due to vine age, perhaps it's due to the
increased experience of the winemaker and château owner. The Perrin
family (not the famous Beaucastel Perrins, by the way) owns this estate and
they've operated it since 1956.
They'll tell you the vineyards are comprised of numerous little
parcels...something like 119 of them.
Sauvignon Blanc comprises about 65% of their white wine vineyards and these
are typically on deep gravel soils, though there are some plots on finer
gravel with clay and limestone.
The Sémillon is on clay and limestone and those comprise about 45% of the
The 2014 vintage was challenging, but ultimately produced a pretty good
wine. It's 75% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Sémillon.
- I understand they have been doing a pre-fermentation period of skin
contact for the white wine of Carbonnieux. It used to never see any
wood and its rather intense, weedy Sauvignon aromas were a bit crude without
some time in oak. Now the wine spends a bit of time in wood and they
even leave it on the spent yeast and stir this sediment to create a smoky,
toasty element in the wine. The wine is less 'green' and less herbal
than it was, say, a decade ago. Now they capture more of a citrus and
mildly grassy tone with a hint of melon-like fruit. The wood is well
in the background here.
The 2014 is very nice and a wonderful accompaniment to simple seafood
- Currently in stock: 2014 CHÂTEAU CARBONNIEUX Pessac-Léognan
White SALE 44.99
is a smallish estate not far from St. Emilion and Pomerol.
We've had their terrific red wines for a number of vintages and these have
been reliably good and remarkably good values.
The past few years their white wine has become a shining star, too.
The property has been in the Roumage family for 5 generations, dating back to
1901. In 1980, Estelle Roumage's father began bottling wine and offering
it for sale to private customers.
Estelle came on board in 2001. She had spent time in Madrid during her
school years and learned Spanish, as she prepared to head to Chile to study
their New World winemaking. She met her husband in Spain and never did
venture off to South America.
She did, however, manage to do some espionage in New Zealand and this may
explain the style and high quality of the white wine at Lestrille.
The property had but 2 hectares of white grapes when we first started buying
their wines and today they have 10 hectares devoted to their "Vin
The 2016 Entre-Deux-Mers has a great fragrance to it...lots of citrusy Sauvignon
aromas waft from the glass and it's dry and fresh. The blend is 80%
Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Muscadelle. It's perfect with seafood as you might
imagine looking at the accompanying photo above.
Delicious and priceworthy.
- Currently in stock: 2016 LESTRILLE-CAPMARTIN
CHÂTEAU DE LIONNE
- Veronique Smati has owned this small estate since 2007. It's
located in the Graves appellation town of Illat, a little village housing
about 1200 people. It's less than 6 kilometers from Sauternes and
it's a half hour ride in the car south of estates such as Haut-Brion and
Smith Haut Lafitte.
They have about 38 hectares of vineyards...there are seven hectares of
white grapes.. Smati is working on converting the vineyard to
organic farming and is close to getting certification of that.
The wine is vinified in stainless tanks and they stir the yeast sediment
on a regular, frequent basis which gives the wine and mildly toasty
character. Sauvignon Blanc dominates, though there's a nice percentage of Sémillon
in the blend.
It's dry and medium-bodied. We like the citrusy notes on the
nose and palate.
Currently in stock: CHÂTEAU DE LIONNE GRAVES
splendid white Bordeaux comes from the Graves region in a town that's
quite close to Barsac (where sweet wines reign supreme).
Clos Floridène is one of several estates owned by the Dubourdieu
family. The late Denis Dubourdieu and his wife Florence (they
cobbled together their first names and came up with Floridène) have a
little business that's aided by their two sons, Jean-Jacques and
Dubourdieu was named as Decanter magazine's man of the year in 2016.
He worked tirelessly as a consultant to many top estates in Bordeaux (said
to be 80+ wineries), including Château d'Yquem, Château Margaux and Château
He was a professor of enology at the University of Bordeaux and published
hundred of research papers. Dubourdieu is credited with changing the
face of Bordeaux's white wines from dull and flat to crisp and
Located in Pujols sur Ciron, less than ten minutes by car to Sauternes
estates such as Suduiraut and d'Yquem, the Clos Floridène wine is a dry
white wine, not sweet.
The soil bedrock is limestone and on top you'll find "Barsac Red
Sand" as the locals call it.
The Floridène vineyards cover about 40 hectares, with slightly more than
half being devoted to white wine production.
More than half the vineyards are Sémillon, with 48% Sauvignon Blanc and
- The wine routinely gives the more costly bottlings from the famous
estates in Pessac-Léognan a run for the money.
Though we've read about Dubourdieu's aversion to oak, we've found his Clos
Floridène white wine to display a moderately toasty character which we
associate with a wood barrel.
The 2015 is mildly woodsy and there's a glorious fragrance
reminiscent of peach, ripe melon and citrus. Add in the toasty elements
and you've got a rather complex and showy bottle of wine. This vintage is
said to be 52% Sémillon and 48% Sauvignon Blanc. No Muscadelle this
It had certainly been a good calling card for the late
Dubourdieu as other wineries hired him to help make a wine of such style, grace
and complexity (often at significantly higher prices).
Currently in stock: 2015 CLOS FLORIDÈNE Graves
The late Denis Dubourdieu