Jo Ahearne, MW
It’s about time for a rather belated hello from me. I joined the team at WineTrust100 nearly four months ago now and I’ve been blog-less ever since. So my number is well and truly up.
I could give lots of reasons for my reticence: I moved to Norfolk, and have been on the road with the wineries I consult for; but mainly it’s because I’m new to this blogging malarkey and have needed to just sit still for a while and get started!
Looking back to the very first tasting session I did with MW Nick Adams and WineTrust100 founder John Valentine one of the wines that really stood out to me was the Chateau Lestrille-Capmartin Bordeaux Blanc. This, to be frank, is one of the most fantastically nuanced wines I’ve seen in a while. It’s a stunner.
It’s one of the wine world’s great mysteries that so many people have never tasted a white Bordeaux wine. It’s a bit like white Rioja, in that the red version is so famous that it eclipses all other colours. And, to be honest, there is more than a passing resemblance between the two styles. Both have freshness and zest, with great texture, and often have a fair amount of oak ageing, which adds the complexity of toasty vanilla to the mix.
So what’s to be done?
A few years back, Calvet, an old Bordeaux négociants, decided to update their Bordeaux Blanc label and use the words ‘Sauvignon‘ and ‘Blanc‘ on it. This was close to heresy in a region famous for ultra-traditional labelling, but the result was an emphatic five-fold uplift in sales. So maybe the French have the Kiwis to thank for giving them one route to opening the eyes of the consumers to the delights of white Bordeaux?
But this doesn’t help our friend Chateau Lestrille-Capmartin, since not only has it got a beautifully traditional label, it is also not mono-varietal. This example actually is 65 per cent Sauvignon Gris, alongside the more famous Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grapes.
Has she made a typo I hear you ask? Been at the Sherry again? No: Sauvignon Gris is a wonderful grape variety, which is very close to my heart.
Many moons ago there was a lot more Sauvignon Gris in Bordeaux than there is now. It ripens early but it’s a naturally low yielding variety. You also need to get some good maturity in order to get any flavor. Nowadays, only about five per cent of vineyards in Bordeaux are planted with it.
Known as Fié Gris in the Loire, Sauvignon Gris it is a mutation of Sauvignon Blanc that has pink skins rather like those of Pinot Gris. Generally it gives riper, richer and more textured wines than Sauvignon Blanc but with that zippy acidity that we all love in Sauvignon Blanc.
I was first introduced to the grape in the Leyda Valley in Chile. I was working with Viña Leyda for the annual blending when they showed me a particular tank of wine. I assumed they had picked very ripe Sauvignon Blanc from a very high area and maybe done some battonage to get the extra texture but no, it was an entirely new variety. So instead of putting it in the blend of Sauvignon Blanc we bottled it separately – and the depth of flavour it gives won that little-known grape a succession of trophies for Decanter Best Chilean Wine made from a Single Grape Variety (natty title I know).
Ever since, I’ve been on the lookout for more examples of this wonderful grape. And then I walked through the doors of WineTrust 100 and found one… So if you’ve never tried a white Bordeaux, try this one – you’ll never look back.
Jo Ahearne, MW