Dry White Bordeaux
runs the gamut of vinous price points. Starting at around $10-$15, you can find white Bordeaux from the outskirts of the appellation, or from places like Entre Deux Mers or Graves. Accessing the more prestigious dry whites from Pessac-Léognan starts at around $35 and quickly escalates to the $100 per bottle level for the likes of Domaine de Chevalier, Smith Haut Lafitte, and Pape Clément. The super-elite siblings of Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion can fetch upwards of $700, if you can find them. That's a lot of money, but legend has it that tasting one of those with 20+ years on it can be a life changing experience. That's all fine and dandy, but what about those of us who just love the Sauvignon Blanc/Sémillon blends from Bordeaux, who don't want to wait 10-15 years to drink them, and who don't want to spend more than $25? Well, it just so happens that our last container brought forth something for us: the 2016 Château Tour Léognan from Pessac-Leognan. It's $22.98 per bottle.
Wait a second, I just wrote that white Pessac-Léognans start at around $35, what gives? Château Tour Léognan is the second wine of Château Carbonnieux, which usually sells for around $35 and seems to always produce wine that outperforms its price! I am a huge fan of Carbonnieux, especially of their blanc. When I tasted Tour Léognan for the first time several years ago, I did not know that it was Carbonnieux's second wine. I liked the sample a lot, and was going to buy the wine anyway, but when the négociant told me what it was, I shrugged and mumbled, "no wonder I like this so much," and the wine sold in a couple of months' time. It's not the kind of white Bordeaux that you age for a lengthy period of time, but its aromas, palate, and finish remind me of wine fancier than its modest $23 price tag.
The blend for the 2016 Tour Léognan Blanc is approximately 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Sémillon. The fruit comes from the property's younger vines, which are around 10 years old. The aromas are bright and expansive with citrus fruit, white flowers, gooseberry and a hint of passion fruit. The palate entry is crisp and vibrant showing yellow fruit and citrus, with a soft, medium bodied texture that leads to a finish that's well balanced and complex. It's a great little white Bordeaux, ready to be enjoyed now, though you could cellar it short term. I wouldn't risk it past 3-5 years, or as the chateau's website recommends, "Best enjoyed around 3 years old." That would be now.
I can't believe it's February already ... and that it's a quarter of the way over already! With so many personal holidays and friends' birthdays, January is always a blur for me, but somehow during the blur, I was able to book my flights and made a few arrangements for this year's trip to Bordeaux for the En Primeur tastings. You'll never believe this, but all reports from the Bordelais are telling us that 2018 was a great vintage! Imagine that!!?? Either way, it will be interesting to taste the new vintage from barrel, as well as visiting suppliers with already bottled wines available for purchase. That's how we found the 2016 Château Tour Léognan, so I would say it's a worthwhile endeavor. Only time will tell what is waiting to be discovered this year. - Peter Zavialoff