France: Bordeaux
A depressing paucity of white entries, but the best red showing since the birth of the SWAs, with high-quality, individual wines right across the price points

White Bordeaux has always been lamentably under-entered as a category in the SWAs. And yet every year when the sommeliers get hold of the wines, they enjoy them, wish there were more of them, and wonder why the trade isn’t more interested in pushing them. ‘I have one Bordeaux white out of 600 wines,’ mused Orwell's Rhys Griffiths.

The situation is all the more odd given that the wines themselves – whether fragrant ‘blackcurrant leaf’ offerings or softer, richer Semillon/Sauvignon hybrids – would tick many boxes on a wine list, often at decent prices. 

Our tasters often find room for an expensive white Bordeaux on the Gold List but, with none sent in this year, they had to content themselves with a Silver and a Bronze. ‘Good everyday drinking wines,’ as Roberto Loppi put it.

But this category is, frankly, mostly about the reds. Reds, moreover, that have disappointed more often than they have appealed in this competition. This year, though, was better. The biggest issue – as for many classic French regions – centred on whether the wines were ready to drink now, or whether they were still closed up and unapproachable. The 2006 Château Dauzac was a case in point. Its elegance and potential were much loved by the tasters, but there were reservations over its youth. ‘It’s just too young,’ said Roberto della Pietra. ‘But in a few years it will be amazing.’ In the end it had to stay a ‘Silver plus’, as Kelvin McCabe of Roka, put it.

The Château de Pez by contrast, perhaps because it was a 2005, made it over the line into the Gold List, even though our tasters recognised that it had many years ahead of it. The end result was the best portfolio of Bordeaux reds since the competition started.

It included a good cheapie: ‘For £34 on a list I’d be really happy with [the Château Lestrille],’ said Kelvin McCabe, describing it – in a flash of linguistic innovation – as having ‘pleasability’, whatever that is.

There was also a quality ‘upper, mid-price’ wine – the 2007 La Bastide Dauzac – and the category was topped off with the classy elegance of the Château de Pez. All in all then, a strong category, particularly in the final rounds, once the mute or poor wines were removed.
‘For me, the wines were split between those that had little character and those that were more inspirational, that clearly said Bordeaux,’ said Nigel Lister.

“The white flight was a good one, showing that there's room on any list for an unoaked or slightly oaked style of white Bordeaux. The wines are also well priced. ” Nigel Lister, Royal Thames Yacht Club


Chateau Lestrille Bordeaux Superieur 2008, Bordeaux, France
£8.56 @ Hallgarten Druitt
SWA 2011 Gold List With rich black and marinated cherries on the nose, blackcurrants and dried fruit mingle on the palate, offering a good mouthfeel and a soft, medium finish. ‘With a savoury, spicy twist to the nose, this is nicely focused,’ said Team Leader Jamie Goode. ‘Rustic, with bright fruit and upbeat tannins,’ said Kelvin McCabe. ‘It’s appealing and affordable.’

La Bastide Dauzac 2007, Margaux, Bordeaux, France
£16.13 @ Bibendum
SWA 2011 Gold List Rich and complex, this wine has plenty of ageing potential. With plush, ripe fruit, Nigel Lister found mocha and chocolate notes alongside good fruit, lovely minerality and graphite pencil aromas. ‘It’s a full, intense, muscular style of wine,’ said Kelvin McCabe. ‘Perfect with fillet steak.’

Chateau de Pez 2005, St-Estephe, Bordeaux, France
£22.17 @ Maisons Marques et Domaines
SWA 2011 Gold List With a complex bouquet of fresh fruit, spice, smoke, pencil shavings and leather, the still-young but plush palate sports ripe, squishy fruits. ‘Gripping tannins with a long, persistent finish,’ said Roberto della Pietra. ‘Showing some evolution with nice mineral, savoury notes under the fruit. Classic claret,’ said Jamie Goode.


Chateau Bonnet Reserve 2010, Entre-Deux-Mers, France
£7.85 @ Bibendum
Young and fresh, this has a lively, grassy aromatic nose with gooseberry, green apples, mint and herbs. ‘A lovely, precise, grassy palate, with nice fruit and good acidity,’ said Jamie Goode. ‘Intense and quite long,’ said Team Leader, Natasha Hughes.

Henri Duboscq Claret 2007, Bordeaux, France
£5.84 @ Boutinot
Lighter in style, this is fruity and bright, with a savoury twist and attractive hints of liquorice.
‘This is a pleasant entry-level Bordeaux,’ said Laurie Watson, Chislehurst Golf Club. ‘Good ripeness,’ said Team Leader, Angela Reddin. ‘An easy sell.’

Chateau Bernadotte 2002, Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux, France
£10.69 @ Maisons Marques et Domaines
Nicely focused, with a slatey, stony, leathery nose. There’s ripe, juicy cassis and cherry-like fruit, a soft palate and medium length. ‘Some attractive spicy notes,’ said Jamie Goode.

Chateau Martinens 2006, Margaux, Bordeaux, France
£14.59 @ Boutinot
Richer with more aromas and depth on the somewhat savoury palate, Jamie Goode found this
very attractive. ‘Complex, sweet cherry and herb nose,’ he said. ‘Warm and spicy undergrowth with a cherry finish on the palate.’

Chateau Dauzac 2006, Margaux, Bordeaux, France
£27.62 @ Bibendum
Relatively young, this is delicious and elegant thanks to its lovely fruit, good structure and persistent finish. ‘Well structured, but the tannins need some time to even out,’ said Laurie Watson.


Chateau Lestrille Bordeaux Blanc 2009, Bordeaux, France
£8.56 @ Hallgarten Druitt
Elegant and powerful, this has a taut, slightly herbal nose and a palate, with well-integrated oak and a long, mineral finish. ‘Nice lemon citrus on the finish,’ said Laura Rhys MS.

Ginestet Bordeaux Classique Medoc 2009, Bordeaux, France
£6.29 @ Boutinot
With spicy and mint aromas to add to the blackberries, coffee beans and cocoa on the nose, there’s a savoury, grippy edge to the simple red fruits.

“The best value was in the middle of the range, where there were nice wines, whereas some of the pricier wines needed a little more age before they could be sold. ” Roberto Loppi, Hakkasa

Editorial feature from Imbibe Magazine – May/June 2011

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