Bordeaux may be best known for its grand red wines, but this region along France’s Atlantic coast also produces blancs that sing as apéritifs or alongside the daily local catch. Situated south of the left bank’s prestigious châteaux, the appellation Graves is among the best sources for delicious and versatile white wines. Its clay-and-limestone soils are ideal for growing Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle: grapes that are used for both sweet Sauternes and dry Graves. All three varieties feature in this white from Hervé Dubourdieu’s Château Graville-Lacoste. Because Hervé’s vines are five decades old and therefore have access to deep water reserves, and because their location is in one of Graves’s cooler microclimates, this blanc is incredibly consistent, year in and year out. Crisp and refreshing, with notes of citrus, cut grass, and subtle tropical fruits, it pairs as well with oysters as it does with fresh goat cheese and grilled cod, along with many more springtime culinary possibilities right around the corner.
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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