Sometimes it’s nice to plan events well in advance, as the anticipation is part of the enjoyment. But it’s also nice to be a bit more spontaneous and do something at short notice. At the suggestion of my better half we invited a few friends round for dinner – and of course some bottles of wine were opened to accompany her amazing dishes.
Here are a few of the whites that really stood out for me:
Château Carbonnieux Blanc Pessac-Léognan 2008
This somewhat aristocratic looking wine is from the heartland of the Graves subregion of Bordeaux. The Pessac-Léognan AOC was carved out of the middle of the Graves AOC in 1987 to highlight the finest terroir of the area. Although it is home to many fine reds, including the 1855 1st Growth Haut-Brion, Pessac is where the top echelon of Bordeaux’s dry whites are made.
Château Carbonnieux is in the commune of Léognan and is a classed growth under the 1959 Graves classification. As you’d expect from a Bordeaux white it is a Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon blend, but with a lovely vanilla envelope from some gentle oak ageing.
This type of wine can age gracefully for a decade or more, though for me it is à point right now. There are still the grapefruit and hints of honey from its youth but now its pleasantly round.
Jean-Philippe Fichet Le Meix Sous Le Château Meursault 2010
Meursault is the archetypal oaked Chardonnay, though of course it doesn’t say so on the label. Being a self-confessed oak lover – when it’s done right, of course – it’s one of the labels I gravitate towards in Burgundy.
Jean-Philippe Fichet has lots of small parcels dotted in and around Meursault – see the map on his excellent website. This wine is from a 1/2 hectare Lieu-dit (a named area which doesn’t have Premier Cru or Grand Cru status) near the centre of Meursault itself. The vines are 50 to 60 years old which comes through in the concentration of flavour. As 2010 was a warm vintage there are plenty of tropical notes in addition to the brioche from the oak, neither dominating. This was a “bin-end” from The Wine Society – a definite winner for me!
Also see Jamie Goode’s report of his visit here.
Man O’War Valhalla Chardonnay 2010 (Waiheke Island)
Man O’War are a fantastic producer based in Waiheke Island, a short ferry ride from Auckland in New Zealand. Their Bordeaux blend “Ironclad” and Syrah “Dreadnaught” are big and bold reds – not for those who prefer shy and retiring types – and the whites are similarly forthright.
The 2011 vintage of this was a highlight for me of the NZ Trade Tasting at the beginning of the year. It’s a really tropical wine which might be too much for some – but not for me!
The key to balance in this wine is that malolactic fermention is blocked, meaning it retains some zesty acidity and isn’t flabby. Can you imagine candied pineapple that isn’t teeth-achingly sugary? There you go!
Château Princé Côteaux de l’Aubance 2007
The Loire Valley wine region is actually a collection of quite different subregions which specialise in different grapes and types of wine. Just for reds, for example, Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Malbec and Pinot Noir are all used. There are some great sparkling wines and classy rosés plus world famous dry whites such as Sancerre and Muscadet.
But for me the real gems of the Loire are the often overlooked sweet whites. Most are based on the Chenin Blanc grape which means they have acidity to balance the sugar and stop the wines being cloying.
The best sites are the slopes leading down to the Loire and its many tributaries, including the Layon, Aubance and Louet.
Being so close to water creates the humid conditions that encourage noble rot, which reduces the water content of grapes and concentrates the sugar, acidity and flavour.
This 2007 was among a stash I picked up several years ago from the excellent Maison du Vin de Saumur – worth a four hour round trip to Saumur on its own. At seven years old it’s still a baby, but has fantastic concentration. There’s honey on the nose but a whiff of funk from the botrytis – it is a fungus after all. On the palate there are noticeable Chenin characteristics of apple and greengage with luscious tropical fruit notes. It’s a fully sweet wine but the zing of acidity keeps it fresh and interesting.