White Bordeaux accounts for 11% of the overall production (8% dry and 3% sweet), and is a severely overlooked part of the region's output. Although plantings on the ground are in fact more semillon that sauvignon, it is the sauvignon style that is starting to attract more international attention. But that's not to detract from semillon - the addition of this slightly rounder, fuller grape gives white Bordeaux its 'thing'; something to set it apart from the New Zealand and Loire sauvignons.
In general, if you like very crisp dry whites, then look for Entre deux Mers (and I often like to say, although this is by no means law, green bottles mean unoaked). If you prefer a slightly more 'foodie', rounded style, then go for Pessac Leognan. Graves and white Bordeaux (with just the appellation Bordeaux Blanc on the label) is often somewhere in the middle.
Another point worth noting is that more and more of the big name Medoc chateaux are producing a white wine that will be labelled under the Bordeaux appellation - often with a price tag to match their red version, despite in my opinion not often being worth the elevated price. The names to look out for Pavillon Blanc (from Chateau Margaux), Cos d'Estournel blanc and Lynch Bages blanc. The last one is particularly good in my opinion, but made in such tiny quantities that it is hard to get hold of.
In a similar cross-fertilisation, a number of Sauternes chateaux are also bottling a dry version of their sweet wines. These ones are easy to follow - Y d'Yquem, S de Suduiraut, G de Guiraud...
Chateau Chantegrive, Graves 2007
One of the biggest white wine estates in the Graves, and now benefitting from consutancy from Hubert de Bouard of Chateau Angelus fame. Crisp lemony and grapefruit nose, and focused, almost steely minerality. Refreshing and deceptively simple, very flattering – good value also at around £10 a bottle. (tasted during the en primeurs)
Domaine de Chevalier, Pessac Leognan 2007 Subtle, floral nose, with soft white flowers and candied lemon on the palate. Very pretty wine.
(tasted during the en primeurs)
Chateau Thieuley, Bordeaux 2007
Sylvie Courselle worked in the Languedoc, California and Spain before returning to her family estate, and every year - together with her sister - makes consistently excellent white wines, with an emphasis on sauvignon. ‘We use a modern vinification, with cold maceration, skin contact, and absolutely no air contact during fermentation, and are consciously trying to make something that suits a more relaxed approach to life. Our philosophy is to ensure drinkability and pleasure. This is something that Bordeaux can truly offer over a wine from the New World; the idea that it can improve in bottle and keep on adding layers of complexity and interest, even with modern fruity styles.’
(tasted at the chateau in barrel, then again after bottling)
Chateau Carbonnieux Pessac Leognan 2005
A classic Pessac Leognan white, strongly marked by the grass, lychee and citrus aromas of a cool-vinified sauvignon blanc. Great structure and acidity. (€25.50) Drink now to 2014.
(tasted at L'Intendant wine shop, November 2007)