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The Best Kept Secret White You Must Taste

By Karen MacNeil
February 2, 2018

White Bordeaux is not as buxom as chardonnay; not as fruity as riesling; not as mindless as pinot grigio; not as simple as albariño. (I could go on). The fact is that white Bordeaux (a surprisingly well kept secret) is a terrific wine–richly flavorful but not overwrought, and with just the right crispness to keep it energetic. It is usually a blend of semillon and sauvignon blanc, although it doesn’t taste quite like either (more on that in a moment).

This week, at the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux tasting in San Francisco, dozens of top Bordeaux estates from every important appellation poured their 2015 wines. The reds were often lovely—structured, classic delicious wines.

And the whites? The whites made me want to spend the entire spring drinking only white Bordeaux. The classic aroma/flavor is something along the lines of candlewax (when you taste them you’ll see), preserved lemons, lemon soufflé, and all sorts of fascinating botanicals. They are wines with richness and energy. Chardonnay drinkers who don’t usually like sauvignon blanc, usually love white Bordeaux. The wines are generally aged a bit in oak—but they have none of the sweet, heavy, planky, vanilla flavors you might imagine.

White Bordeaux, by the way, is their general name. But more specifically, within Bordeaux,  the wines carry the appellation white Graves, or telescoping down even more, white Pessac-Léognan.

The big gun among the whites at this annual tasting is always the DOMAINE DE CHEVALIER Blanc, and the 2015  ($110) is phenomenal—an exquisite wine of such complexity and fascination that it’s easy to see why it is often scooped up by collectors. (I scored it a 95).

The 2015  “baby” Domaine de Chevalier, it seemed to me, was the CHÂTEAU DE CHANTEGRIVE Blanc, at just $19, one fantastic steal of a wine and this week’s Wine to Know. In between, were a slew of beauties:

  • CHÂTEAU DE CARBONNIEUX Blanc 2015  (Pessac-Léognan) $30 90 pts
  • CHÂTEAU DE FIEUZAL Blanc 2015 (Pessac-Léognan) $60 93 pts
  • CHÂTEAU LA LOUVIÈRE Blanc 2015 (Pessac-Léognan) $35 90 pts
  • CHÂTEAU MALARTIC LAGRAVIERE Blanc 2015 (Pessac-Léognan) $60 92 pts

Spring is upon us. I can’t think of a more delicious way to kick it off than with any of these.