Maybe the day the temperature has dropped well below freezing in New York City is not the perfect day to bring up white Bordeaux but what the heck. White Bordeaux seems to get short shrift in the wine world these days and I must admit I can see why.
Many of the bottles of white Bordeaux that grace the shelves of retail stores (and you won’t find many) are light wines lacking personality. On the whole, Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand has more character than Sauvignon Blanc from Bordeaux. Add in Semillon, the other white grape of Bordeaux that is more often than not blended with Sauvignon Blanc, and frequently you get a flat wine that is missing the refreshing acidity that gives a white wine zip and keeps you coming back for more.
After spending most of our time at a recent tasting of 2004 Bordeaux on the all-important reds, we took a little side trip over to the white wines of the Pessac-Léognan region. Two whites stood out and, although they do not come cheap, they have the charm and integrity to make you believe in white Bordeaux.
The first stand-out was the 2004 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc. This estate is actually more renowned for its white than for its red and for good reason. Domaine de Chevalier produces a white that is elegant and refreshing but with good weight & richness, minerality and flavor. The wine is still in futures at most retailers but you can purchase it for approximately $50.
The other big hit with us was the 2004 Chateau Smith Haut Lafite Blanc, also from Pessac-Léognan. Smith Haut Lafite makes about double the number of cases of white (~2,500) than Domaine de Chevalier and the wine can be purchased for future arrival for about $40. The 2004 has good depth and expresses the citrus flavors typical of Sauvignon Blanc along with the perfume and honey of Semillon.
Bundle up and try something new this weekend — even if it means cracking open a white wine and huddling by the fire.