Thursday, March 26, 2009

In Search of a Classic White Bordeaux

I've written about the buying grid before. Well, lately, there's been a big hole in it. I'm in need of a classic Bordeaux Blanc, one that can sit on the shelf between $20 - $30. Ideally, right at $24.99. Ideally, from the Graves sub-region (the part of Bordeaux best-suited to dry, white wines.) And the style absolutely, positively has to be the classic Bordeaux Blanc style.

And what's that, you ask?

Well, to start, Bordeaux Blanc (ok, white Bordeaux) is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. The Muscadelle grape is also allowed, but you don't see it very often. Actually, you don't see any of the grapes very often because their names don't appear on the label. You just have to know.

To my taste buds, a "classic" white Bordeaux has a high percentage of Semillon in the blend, goes through barrel fermentaiton, and spends some additional time aging in barrel. This time in oak adds an element of creaminess and spice that is usually associated with Chardonnay. But the Sauv/Sem in the blend ensures a zippy acidity and notes of citrus and herbs that is very un-Chard-like.

The combination of creaminess + citrus + herbal notes make it the perfect match for almost anything in a cream sauce, especially if fish or any sort of fresh herbs are involved. Tonight, someone needed something to pair with a pasta dish prepared with cream sauce, zucchini and scallops. A classic white Bordeaux would have been perfect....

But alas, I didn't have one to offer. I had been selling the Chateau Villa Bel-Air 2004 which had all of the above + the extra benefit of a little bit of age. Just under $25, it was a great buy. Little by little, I managed to drain the distributor of their entire supply. The last bottle was sold about 2 months ago and I've yet to find a suitable replacement.

Part of the problem is that a lot of white Bordeaux is now very New Zealand-esque: heavy on the Sauvignon Blanc, highly citrus/grapefruit driven fruit, oak-free, fresh and zingy rather than creamy. From a business standpoint, it's a wise move. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has been growing like gangbusters. People love it. I love it. But if I want New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, I buy New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. If I want white Bordeaux....well, I haven't been able to find a white Bordeaux I like because they all taste like New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

Alright, I exaggerate a bit. I know there is plenty of classic white Bordeaux out there. The current vintage of Chateau Villa Bel-Air 2007 could fill the slot...if I could put it in a time machine, age it for 3 years, and then bring it back to the shop. But that's not an option. So I keep on searching...for the right the right price...with just that little bit of age on it...



Anonymous said...

How did I miss this post.
I totally totally agree.

Christy said...

It's an obsession..did you see the more current post on the continuation of the quest?