When living in a hot tropical climate such as South East Asia, I find myself drinking lighter style whites as they are refreshing, easy drinking and perfect for sharing. When I look to relaxing with a glass of white or entertain with a poolside BBQ, I like to pull out one that not only is refreshing but also has good balance that will please with or without food. There is one style that I have rediscovered and so glad I did. If you are looking for a change to your everyday Sauvignon Blanc, try a Bordeaux Blanc.
This classic style white fits perfect with our climate and always gets looked over by its red sibling. This super value wine is one of the most crowd friendly, you can offer to your pickiest of friends and never get a curl of the nose. It’s light, fruity and packed with citrus and floral notes. Only 8% of the wine production in Bordeaux is white, making this wine hard to find and high in quality. Bordeaux Blanc can either be dry in style or sweet, sweet being from regions like Sauternes who make wines of ‘liquid gold’ and if you can afford it it’s a must try.
Now what makes up a Bordeaux Blanc and why are their dry crisp whites of such value? Mostly made of Sauvignon Blanc then blended with Semillon, this wine is grown and produced on some of the most expensive real estate in the world, those chateaus wishing to make a white are proud of what they put in the bottle. Blended to perfection, Sauvignon Blanc is light on the palette bringing intense fruit flavors and vivid acidity while the Semillon is heavier with lower acidity with an appealing, almost nutty and oily quality to it. Blend these two together and you have a lovely balance with good structure and weight. White Bordeaux wine is complex and age worthy too. When young, tasters enjoy pronounced sensations of flowers, citrus, vanilla, lemon, crushed rocks, grapefruit and lime. As white Bordeaux wine ages, the color deepens and the wine takes on additional characteristics of freshly cut lawn grass, honey, minerality, spice and butterscotch.
The dry whites from Bordeaux range in style and vastly in price. If you are looking for a mid-range to high-end white Bordeaux than look no further than Pessac Leognan. The rules of this appellation insist that a minimum of 25% Sauvignon Blanc be included in the blend. However, for most estates that rule is not relevant as on average, close to 70% of dry white Bordeaux wine from Pessac Leognan is usually from Sauvignon Blanc. The most famous Bordeaux blanc comes from the 1st Growth Chateau of Haut Brion, you can easily spend $1000 or more on a bottle. Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc also makes one of the finest expressions of white Bordeaux wine. Once past Haut Brion Blanc, there are numerous choices for white Bordeaux wine from Pessac Leognan. Domaine de Chevalier, Smith Haut Lafitte, Malartic Lagraviere, La Tour Martillac, Haut Bergey and Carbonnieux are a few of the other estates in the appellation making great white Bordeaux wine.
Medoc also produces fantastic whites, especially in Margaux due to its cooler climate and southern most soils. Some of my favourite whites are from the sub-region of Graves, here is where you can find value driven whites of fantastic quality. They are delicious, fresh, drink well young and best of all, they are affordable. Also in the appellation of Entre deux Mers is where you will find great value as well. More white Bordeaux wine is produced in Entre deux Mers than red wine, as well as in other Bordeaux regions, for example Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux.
In the Right Bank, Chateau Monbousquet and Valandraud are two of the top producers making Bordeaux Blanc. But they are not the only famous estates with that idea. Cheval-Blanc is now also making a dry, white wine from vines planted just across the road from their famous estate. Because white wine grapes are not allowed to be planted in the Medoc or St. Emilion, due to AOC law, the wines are labeled as coming from Bordeaux.
Looking for a new world style Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend? Hunter Valley in Australia has it covered. Ask any wine professional and they will all agree that it’s the most well respected New World region for this blend as their flagship white wine is Semillon due to its dried up, sandy river beds. One of my favourite wineries in the Hunter Valley is Brokenwood, Chief winemaker Ian Riggs has a passion for Semillon and makes some of the best in Hunter Valley.