Sauvignon Gris is a pink-tinged cousin of Sauvignon Blanc that was once widely planted in the Bordelais before falling out of favor because of its low yields and the increasing commercial viability of Sauvignon Blanc. Luckily, André Chatenoud still has some Gris growing in the chalk at Château de Bellevue, giving us a taste of what Bordeaux whites might have tasted like in an era past. It is just as lively and stimulating on the palate as a fine Sauvignon Blanc, but the flavors are a bit more exotic and there is no overtly grassy note. Minerals, honey, flowers, and a peppery, spicy element make this rare white a truly singular wine capable of providing many thrills as an apéritif or at table.
The good-natured proprietor of the Château de Bellevue, André Chatenoud, seems more at home in his cellars than anywhere else. Though he and his family have owned the property since 1971, the history of the château dates back to at least the 18th Century. One needs only to explore the incredible limestone caves and see the rich range of old graffiti engravings to be impressed: from harvest workers of the 1700s to American G.I.’s of the 1940s.
The terroir of Château de Bellevue is characterized by exceptional quality – only surprising because the great, low prices here at Bellevue stand to shift the perceptions of what good Bordeaux should cost.
Often considered the wine capital of the world, Bordeaux and its wines have captured the minds, hearts, and wallets of wine drinkers for centuries. For many, the wines provide an inalienable benchmark against which all other wines are measured.
Bordeaux is divided into three winegrowing regions with the city that gives the region its name in the near geographical center. The “right bank,” or the area located east of the Dordogne River, produces wines that are predominantly Merlot with small amounts of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. The “left bank” is located to the west of the Garonne River and produces wines dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, with Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot.
The third region, Entre-Deux-Mers, lies between both rivers and produces white wines from Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and Muscadelle. Though technically in the left bank, it is worth noting the appellation of Sauternes, which produces arguably the world’s most famous sweet wines from Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and Muscadelle as well.
Though many top Bordeaux wines are sold en primeur (in advance of their bottling) and often through a middleman known as a negoçiant, Kermit has always preferred to purchase directly from the winemaker. For more than three decades he has sought out small producers, who make classic Bordeaux wines and are willing to play outside the negoçiant system. This ethic has led to longstanding relationships, excellent prices, and perhaps most important—wines of great value and longevity.
I want you to realize once and for all: Even the winemaker does not know what aging is going to do to a new vintage; Robert Parker does not know; I do not know. We all make educated (hopefully) guesses about what the future will bring, but guesses they are. And one of the pleasures of a wine cellar is the opportunity it provides for you to witness the evolution of your various selections. Living wines have ups and downs just as people do, periods of glory and dog days, too. If wine did not remind me of real life, I would not care about it so much.
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