When you’re a garagiste winemaker in Sauternes, and Mother Nature has other plans for your crop, you have to pivot. Life throws you lemons—or hail, or frost—so you make lemonade, or, rather, razor-sharp vins secs (if you’re as talented as Daniel Alibrand). It’s only fitting that Daniel, a fisherman in a previous career, in the face of one tough vintage after another, would end up making the kind of dry whites that have you craving oysters, scallops, and tiny, briny sea creatures. Clean and saline on the nose, balanced with fruits like ground cherry and sweet citrus—one whiff will make your mouth pucker in anticipation. Perfect for spring flings and outdoor gatherings.
I don’t know if it’s the 2016 vintage—considered one of Bordeaux’s greatest of the last decade—or if this wine is in a particularly prime place, but it’s the best bottle of Gombaude-Guillot I’ve ever tasted. This stunning red is so fine I can make out a variety of spices on the nose, like milled white pepper, nutmeg, and clove. The blend is largely Merlot with just a hint of Cabernet Franc, but the latter seems to dominate; I smell stone slabs and ripe bell pepper. En bouche, this wine tastes like a bouquet of violets, a suggestion I only presume to know because I’ve tried those chalky Choward’s candies. But now I imagine that violets taste like Pomerol, which is a much more appealing prospect.
Brambly fruit, velvety tannins—all you need to enjoy this wine is the company of good friends and a belly full of cassoulet. This hearty, yet refined Right Bank beauty is a snapshot of its maker, Grégoire Hubau—an unusual, salt-of-the-earth artisan—mixed with the spirit of the sud-ouest: generous, rugged, and easy to fall for. This type of vin des amis, more typical of the Beaujolais or Loire Valley styles, in the land of Châteaux is a true novelty, especially when what shows up in your glass is terroir-driven, approachable, and regal all at once.
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