Southeast of Bordeaux, in the land of Sauternes, the modest, meticulous, and apparently ageless Hervé Dubourdieu makes both dessert and dry whites that have been among our best values for decades. This Bordeaux blanc is made from old Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle vines planted in complex soils of clay and limestone on fissured rock. The wine is bone-dry, even if your first whiff of sunny, slightly tropical fruit leads you to expect otherwise. On the palate, it is luscious and mouth-coating with generous passion fruit and lychee, and yet it is racy at the same time—constructed along a sturdy spine of chalk and acidity, it bears the classic Sauvignon Blanc notes of lime and grass. This blanc is astoundingly versatile at table. Exquisite with seafood, it is also perfect on its own. Value of the year? No. Value of the century!
Hervé Dubourdieu’s easy charm and modest disposition are complemented by his focus and ferocious perfectionism. Roûmieu-Lacoste, situated in Haut Barsac, originates from his mother’s side of the family, dating back to 1890. He also owns Château Graville-Lacoste and Château Ducasse, where he grows grapes for his Graves Blanc and Bordeaux Blanc, respectively. Roûmieu-Lacoste produces a particularly robust, powerfully styled Sauternes with pronounced acidity. The Graves Blanc and the Bordeaux Blanc are very different from others from their appellations: Hervé blends a high proportion of Sémillon and a splash of Muscadelle with Sauvignon Blanc, creating a rich, full, aromatic mid-palate to complement the clean finish.
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.
Trust the great winemakers, trust the great vineyards. Your wine merchant might even be trustworthy. In the long run, that vintage strip may be the least important guide to quality on your bottle of wine.—Kermit Lynch
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