I tasted the Château Margaux Pavillion Blanc this morning and it is a superb representative of the 07 Bordeaux Whites from those at the top of the range down to those at the bottom – it’s a great year for whites. They are really lovely – clean, fresh, crisp and fruit driven – in fact they are everything you would want from a white wine.
I thought that Regis Chaigne’s Château Ballan Larquette was very good indeed . Vignobles Chaigne et Fils are situated in the Entre Deux Mers and produce superb award winning aromatic whites, rosés, clairets and generous, medium bodied reds from their 86 acre vineyard. Their estate is formed from 3 small Châteaux: Château Ballan Larquette, Domaine de Ricaud and Château Peynaud. They have been selling their wines to private customers from the 1973 vintage which has given them a long experience of bottling and have been making wine since the 1930s. I was fortunate enough to be able to offer their Domaine de Ricaud Bordeaux Clairet (£5.75) to the UK and it has become the all time favourite with lovers of rosé and clairet wines. Regis’ policy is simple: you need healthy and ripe grapes to make good wines and he has kept up the consistent quality of his wines via regular investment in his chai.
Château Ballan Larquette is 50& Sauvignon Blanc and 50% Semillon, grown on a 17 acre plateau of limestone. It’s bright, juicy and very good indeed. Domaine de Ricaud Entre Deux Mers is 40% Semillon, 50% Sauvignon Blanc and 10% Muscadelle from a tiny plot and the wine is floral and minerally with a slight opalescent sheen. In the mouth it is smooth and round – a lovely wine!
For those of you who enjoy dessert wines the 07 Sauternes are excellent as well, in particular Château Coutet and Château de Fargues were outstanding. I was also impressed by the whites from Pessac-Leognan: Château Larrivet Haut Brion, Château Smith Haut Lafitte and Domaine de Chevalier.
Whilst talking to Philippe at Château Margaux I pointed out that the Châteaux can make or break the 07 dependant on their pricing. 2007 is good – not fantastic – but good. It’s comparable to 2004 in my books. It will be an easy drinking vintage and popular but the Châteaux should consider their release price. 2007 will prove whether the Châteaux are actually product orientated or market orientated. At the end of the day I don’t know what their business model is but they should encompass all variables. With the fantastic 2005 vintage the Châteaux could easily be product orientated and price accordingly but this time they should listen to what the customer is feeling in the credit crunch climate.
I think 2007 will be popular in more ways than one – it should appeal to younger drinkers who are used to drinking New World wines. The wines are uncomplicated and are easy drinking and I’d recommend people who haven’t tried a Bordeaux before to try the 07s as it is a good year in which they can appreciate what Bordeaux can offer. The 07s hark back to the classical Bordeaux of 20 years ago which were very popular in the UK.
Château Margaux Pavillion Blanc is an age-old tradition at Château Margaux. It was sold in the 19th century as ‘vin blanc de sauvignon’. The 30 acre vineyard is made up exclusively of Sauvignon white grapes. It is located on a very old plot belonging to the estate and the Sauvignon grapes reach a level of ripeness which rids them of their vegetal characters and brings out floral and fruity notes.
Château Coutet traces its roots back to 1643 and is one of Bordeaux’s oldest wine producing estates. The De Lur Saluces family owned the Château Coutet (also owners of Château d’Yquem, Château de Fargues, Château Filhot and Château de Malle) until 1923 when the estate was divided and sold. Today its the property of the Baly family who have completely renovated and restored the Château and its beautiful walled vineyards. Since 1994 the Blays have been in partnership with Baronness Philippine de Rothschild who distributes their wines. The grapes are the classic combination of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle and the wine is a classified First Growth. Château Coutet’s wines are refreshing and sensual with an unrivalled bouquet.
Château de Fargues has been in the hands of the same family for over half a millennium that of Alexandre de Lur Saluces. Château de Fargues itself is a 14th century stronghold and a listed historic monument. It’s worth remembering that Château de Fargues was producing top flight wine some 300 years before Château d’Yquem. It’s sometimes known as d`Yquem’s little brother and as the same wine making techniques are used at both properties, Château de Fargues often matches d`Yquem in terms of power and intensity.
Château Larrivet Haut Brion has been owned by the Gervoson family (owners of France’s biggest jam makers – Bon Maman) since 1987. They have invested heavily to improve the vineyards and cellars and have employed oenologist Michel Rolland as part of revitalising the Château. This has resulted in a successful rise the quality and reputation of their wines. The Château is not to be confused with Château Haut Brion – it takes its name from the gravel soil on which it lies (Brion) and the Larrivet – a stream running through the vineyard. The dry white wines are characterized by a very complex harmony of aromas of white fruit. Their richness gives them great length on the palate; they are wines which keep all their freshness for a long time and go on improving for years. It’s definitely a Château to watch for the future.
Château Smith Haut Lafitte was owned by the noble Bosq family who grew grapes there as early as 1365. The Château was purchased in the 18th century by Scotsman George Smith, who gave the estate its present name. He also built the manor house and exported his – by now famous – wine to England on his own ships. It was bought in 1990 by former Olympic skiing champion, Daniel Cathiard. The Château is a Premier Cru (First Growth). He invested heavily in the Château and fully modernised the wine making facilities. The white grapes planted in the vineyard are Sauvignon Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. The Sauvignon Gris gives the wine power, richness and an aroma of peaches and grilled fruit – characteristics never before seen with this grape variety.
Domaine de Chevalier is ranked among the First Growths for red and white wine in the Classification of Graves Wine of 1959. It is one of a very few Bordeaux estates to be named domaine instead of château and is one of the few Graves estates to produce both first class reds and whites, though it is for its whites that it is particularly renowned. The property was purchased by the Ricard family in 1865 and remained in their hands until it was bought by the Bernard distilling company in 1983. The quality curve is now further accentuated by the appointment of Stéphane Derenoncourt, (who also makes wine for Château Sansonnet) as consultant winemaker. Domaine de Chevalier’s white wines are undoubtedly among the finest white wines of Bordeaux. Its refinement, elegance, structure and keeping ability, has made it worthy rival to the best white Burgundy wines.
Château Pape Clement is also a First Growth and is the oldest wine estate in Bordeaux, harvesting its 700th vintage in 2006. The Château takes its name from Pope Clement V (Bertrand de Goth) who owned the estate in the 1300s. Today the Château is owned by Léo Montagne and his partner Bernard Magrez who also owns Château La Tour Carnet. The grapes are Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc and the wines are full bodied with undertones of honey, apricots and melons with a refreshing vibrancy.
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