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The Forgotten Source of Inexpensive Sauvignon.

Try these sauvignons for something delightfully different.

Apologies to anyone expecting a review of the Lidl Wine Tour today but that has been held over until next Thursday.

Meanwhile, this post uncovers an overlooked sauvignon blanc region.

Ask most people where sauvignon blanc is from and they will say New Zealand and, probably, France’s Loire Valley.

Some will also refer to Chile and South Africa.

Few, however, will mention Bordeaux.

But, although 90% of Bordeaux’s wine production is red, its sauvignon blanc production is far from insignificant.

And here are five good reasons why it deserves our attention:

  • Bordeaux’s microclimates and geology help give its wines diverse flavour profiles ranging from citrus fruits to savoury minerality.
  • While never as intense as Marlborough versions, Bordeaux sauvignon often has more texture than examples from elsewhere.
  • These wines are incredibly versatile making some of them ideal for seafood and salads while others complement richer foods well.
  • Bordeaux sauvignon frequently offers excellent value for money.
  • Unusually, compared to rivals, it can also have aging potential.

In looking at this in more detail, I am aware that in hard times many folk are wary of wasting money and risking disappointment.

So, I am opening with what I call Gateway Selections – inexpensive wines that give a clear sense of the style in question.

Those of a certain generation will know why I consider them “Alfie wines” – something offering a firm idea of “what it’s all about”.

Once again, pictures and hyperlinks are included where possible to make it easier to track down the wine in question.

First a Gateway Selection

2023 Taste the Difference Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc (£7 – instead of £8 until Sunday night at Sainsbury’s and 12% abv):

Mildly perfumed and rounded it illustrates my point about texture – which it complements with skilfully balanced lime acidity.

Those elements work well with its flavour range that includes melon, jalapeno, cooked apple and grapefruit pith.

Clikc here for the hyperlink … https://www.sainsburys.co.uk/gol-ui/product/taste-the-difference-wine/sainsburys-bordeaux-sauvignon-blanc–taste-the-difference-75cl

Or alternatively.

2022 Calvet Bordeaux Cuvee du Cap Sauvignon Blanc (£8.99 at Waitrose and 12%):

For a slightly lighter option which is a little more subtle to the taste buds, try this version from a well-known French operation.

Its main flavours are grapefruit centred with a herbal backdrop.

However, pea shoot, bell pepper and a saline twist all put in an appearance – and are zestily embraced by fresh lemon acidity.  

Click here for the hyperlink … https://www.waitrose.com/ecom/products/calvet-bordeaux-cuvee-du-cap-sauvignon-blanc/017879-8666-8667

And, to see that aging potential.

2021 Tutiac ‘Lion & The Lily’ Sauvignon Blanc (from £12.99 at Majestic and 12%):

With 2023 versions just coming on stream, it would be unusual to see sauvignon from two vintages earlier in most places – but not Bordeaux.

This choice however, which Majestic customers warmly applaud, has a foundation of peach and pear and a viscous texture with contrasting zingy citrus acidity.

Its golden colour hints at aging at work but its smoothness and vanilla and ginger constituents suggest that oak has been used although Majestic’s website says that is not the case.

No need to dwell on that, though, just relish the complexity it creates.

Click here for the hyperlink and to see a picture … https://www.majestic.co.uk/wines/lion-lily-sauvignon-61323

Ah! But here’s the hidden bonus.

Centuries of experience have made Bordeaux producers experts at winemaking and, especially, at blending.

With a capricious climate, such skills are crucial if all a wine’s components are to be kept in balance, yet allowing its complexity, attractiveness and refinement to be unleashed.

So it is that Bordeaux white wine will use two or three different grape varieties – just as their reds do.   

This is not always weather driven but can also be to secure a specific style that best shows off a vineyards strengths.  

Although others can be used, sauvignon’s main blending partners are semillon and muscadelle.

In broad terms, the idea is that:

  • Acidity and citrus flavours will be provided by sauvignon blanc.
  • Semillon will add more texture and different fruit elements (especially tropical ones).
  • Finally muscadelle joins in with fragrance and complexity. Tangy if harvested early – honeyed when fully ripe.

Gateway Selection

2023 Château Bel Air Perponcher Réserve, Bordeaux Blanc (£10.95 at The Wine Society and 13% – with half bottles at £6.50):

Muscadelle is a minor player here but the fresh fruit aromas on display testify to its presence.

That “nose” leads into sculpted, well-defined apple, greengage and melon rind flavours and a clean, lemongrass mouthfeel.

Sauvignon also provides the nippy lemon acidity but semillon adds apricot hints and the texture that avoids the waxiness sometimes afflicting the variety.

Add one of those half bottles to your purchases from The Society to begin to appreciate how these blends work.

Click here for the hyperlink … https://www.thewinesociety.com/product/ch-bel-air-perponcher-blanc-reserve-bordeaux-2023

Aspirational Option.

2021 Château de Rochemorin Pessac-Leognan: (£19.99 at Waitrose): Bordeaux: 13%:

With many of the world’s finest winemakers working in the region, it is inevitable that some top level (and, thus, more expensive) Bordeaux whites will be created.

Pessec-Leognan – just south of Bordeaux city – is an area noted for the quality of its white wines.

It is fitting that this example has Famille André Lurton on the label.

Lurton was a pioneer of cool fermentation Bordeaux whites – and the consequent road to the bright, crisp and flavoursome styles of today.

Complex aromas and an intricate flavour range are early signals of the treat this sophisticated blend has to offer.

Its main features revolve around smooth passion fruit, quince, and mandarin orange elements.

These are coupled with lively lemon acidity and a fudge and honey texture with just the right amount of semillon’s lanolin influences.

Not cheap, I accept, but a great example.

Click here for the hyperlink… https://www.waitrose.com/ecom/products/chateau-de-rochemorin-aoc-pessac-leognan/823989-734668-734669

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10 responses

  1. Morning Brian,

    Lovely to see Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc featuring. Several bottles of the 2022 Sainsbury’s version have been enjoyed here so it’s encouraging to know the 2023 is equally good and I look forward to trying it. I note the abv has dropped by 0.5% though as the ’22 was at 12.5% and I can’t help but wonder if the drop is to do with the impending (and totally daft) taxation changes we’ve got to “look forward” to. Are consumers really looking for low alcohol wines – or are producers and importers driving that idea in order to come in under the 12.5% abv level where tax will go up? I’m cynical and would be interested to hear the thoughts of others on this one.

    Speaking of lower abv wines and going back to Pinot Grigio, tried the 2022 version of the ‘so good it’s named twice’ “Pinot Pinot” from Moldova recently, 11% abv but deliciously crisp and zesty. Bought from Sainsbury’s, stocked up on a few more this week in the 2022 vintage (green writing) not the 2023 vintage which has gold writing. Sometimes different vintages can disappoint!

    It’ll be interesting to read your views on this week’s July wine tour from Lidl, as there seem to be some decent reds in the mix this time. I’d also add that anyone who has the opportunity of visiting different Lidl stores should give it a go as sometimes what’s available can vary a lot between locations. I picked up two Italian whites yesterday, the Corte Aurelio Grillo Sicilia and the Roero Arneis that hadn’t even appeared in my regular Lidl yet I’m guessing they were both part of the recent Italian Tour.

    Cheers.

    1. When Dan from Wickham Wines was last in this comments section he said that it was noticeable at the ProWein fair how many producers were scaling down alcohol to retain a foothold in the UK market when (if) the 2025 changes take place. That’s OK provided the wines hold their texture but that is difficult as ABV reduces. Glad you liked the Taste the Difference commendation.

  2. Hello Brian.
    Your TWS Chateau Bel Air Bordeaux Blanc is a lovely wine.
    May I also suggest Asda 2023 CH Rousseau white Bordeaux 11.5%,on offer with 50p off at £6.50?This is a winning blend of Sémillon,Sauvignon Blanc,Muscadelle and Colombard.Hints of mango,pineapple and exotic fruits.So much better and more interesting than the legions of dull SB’s that adorn our supermarket shelves, and at a kind price.
    Now more on alcohol duty.
    Germany,Greece,Portugal,Spain,Romania and Italy have zero alcohol duty.I think it is fair to say they support their wine makers and wine consumers.Most of the rest of European countries have low alcohol duty e.g France has 3p a bottle duty.
    VAT is about 20% for all;but there is no added VAT on alcohol duty-if there is no alcohol duty; whereas in the U.K. VAT is additionally charged on duty.
    Three countries have very high levels of alcohol duty in Europe.Ireland is the highest,Finland is next and then closely behind is the U.K.Many will be relieved that there will be no more posts by me on duty and taxes- for now.
    Lastly I am going to claim a Scoop.Regular readers may remember my enthusiasm for the latest Co-op Irresistible Viognier.Glad to see,none other than Will Lyons in the Times ,has recently picked it as one of his six best Summer Viogniers- but dear reader you heard about it first in MW Wines.

    1. Agree about the CH Rousseau (an earlier vintage was a Top Tip last November) and well done for scooping on that Viognier. As well as being featured by Will on Sunday, it is a Top Tip here on Monday.

    2. That’s very interesting Paul, and goes a long way to explaining why my cousin – who lives in Spain – is always able to buy what she describes as ‘good’ wine for just a few Euros while I complain in disgust about the exorbitant prices we have to pay for the equivalents on sale here in the UK. Clearly our gov’t could do much more to support our wine producers, and while the British wines I’ve tasted have almost all been excellent, they’re way to pricey for me for everyday drinking.

  3. Hi Brian,
    REALLY excellent post, and great to promote the whites from Bordeaux. We are blessed with so many exciting new grape varieties to try, and wine regions experimenting with “lost” indigenous or newly imported varieties, it is easy to overlook established areas, which can no longer afford to be complacent. So good to be reminded about their quality wines.
    For some reason I used to be a bit of a purist in preferring single variety white wines. But I have come to appreciate the blended white wines of Bordeaux and Rhone, in particular. However, as a Curious and Aspiring wine amateur, I do appreciate the label showing the varieties and proportions of the blend mix!

  4. Hi Brian …
    Smashing stuff on Bordeaux SB today. I will surely have at least a half bottle of TWS Bel Air with a next order.

    I’m thinking few of your regular contributors will have had such a long relationship with Bordeaux SB as I’ve had! An explanation if I may.

    My dad’s dad went out to the Far East in 1915, a ships captain based in Hong Kong for the next 40-plus years except for a relocation to Australia during the WW2 years. My dad never went back to the Far East after the war. Granddad and grandma Walker eventually retired back to the UK in ’57 when very soon after she died. Grandad came north to live with us eventually in 1960 when I was about 11 years old.

    This now is the reprehensible naughty bit!

    The extended family being in HK, Singapore, Shanghai, etc. there was a lot of social drinking, expat style, to be done. Interestingly not my father! Grandad was a ritualistic tippler. When he came to live with us he couldn’t get my dad involved but encouraged my mother’s interest instead.

    Introduced her to a lunchtime Dubonnet. Grandad on an aperitif of Gordons Dry London gin mixed with Roses Lime Juice … to ward of the scurvy of course . His late night tipple was Dewars White Label whisky with iced water (Crackerbarrel cheese and crackers), but on a lunchtime with his meal …yes …. Entre-Deux-Mers AOC Bordeaux blanc cuvée **.

    He never wavered from his weekly wine supplier order but here for the first time for us, a cupboard full of booze bottles. And so it was that a small sherry glass was produced and I was allowed a glass of white wine!!! So begins a slide down the slippery slope. Actually wine of any kind with a meal in a working class home in 1960 was rare I think, and frowned upon giving liquor to an 11 year old, even when my mother’s mother often had produced a Mackeson stout lemonade shady previous to this. I was completely hooked on the flamboyance and exotic notion of becoming posh as well as p****d!!

    This morning saw me in Tesco, Clubcard in hand and 25% off to have Tavel rosé, Bergerac Eglise Saint-Jaques at £4.68 ..will there ever be a better bottom shelf deal again … and Mucho Mas Tinto, for the love of my life. I blame her for the rack now definitely being FULL!!

    BUT …oh dear … then to Lidl and the new Wine Tour. A £1 off the Jõao Pires Branco a moscatel from Setubal, and the red Bajoz Toro from Spain. Will look forward to your critique on the new Lidl Wine Tour.
    Cheers for now. Eddie.

    ** have to be honest and say the gin and lime at that time in fact held sway with its obvious bigger kick over the Sauvignon Blanc … just saying like ….

    1. Fantastic story Eddie and, as you say, few MidWeekers will be able to claim drinking white Bordeaux from 11 years old. As well as your mother, I believe that the late Queen was also a Dubonnet fan

  5. Just an update on Kerry Vale Vineyard on the Welsh/ England border near Montgomery mentioned in earlier post..
    The wife and I today went on the wine tour and tasting for £25 each which was money well spent.In an hour and forty five minutes ,I learnt a lot about the making of English wines and the difficulties faced.Land in England is incredibly expensive.German contractors were brought in to plant the vines- they had the expertise,machinery and efficiency but must not have come cheap.Late frosts,heavy storms and rain when flowering and mildew are the main worries.Good air flow is vital to chase away dampness.Relatively low yields, small production runs,lack of sunshine and concentration on quality rather than quantity plus the UK’s very high alcohol duty and tax mean that the prices are relatively high,although I thought the four wines I tasted were good value.
    Russell Cooke the owner and tour guide is passionate about wine making and was amiable and knowledgeable.Nice cafe.A recommended good day out.

    1. A good reminder Paul that, when we talk about grapes grown and wine produced in the UK, the wineries in Wales should not be overlooked. In his English Wine book, Oz Clarke list six or seven in the Principality and there are no doubt several more. Most of those listed in the book do conduct wine tours – but normally by appointment. There are few things quite as enjoyable as talking to producers in their vineyards and even easier if you do not need a channel crossing to do so.

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