Tasting T1.12 White Bordeaux & Sauternes

This tasting, as you can see, was all about White Bordeaux. Both dry and sweet wines make an appearance here. Quite frankly this is a bit of snapshot of white Bordeaux wines as there are so many incredible producers in this region. We have decided to taste 4 dry white wines and 2 sweet wines. Mainly, the reason for this was that whilst everyone knows Sauternes and even Barsac there is not necessarily a wealth of information on dry white Bordeaux. Generally people focus on the red wines coming out of these Estate’s and not always the whites. The whites that are produced are definitely some of the best in the world and do deserve more recognition.

So just a quick run-through. Generally speaking the main white grape varieties used in Bordeaux are Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle. Certainly for this tasting all of these wines are either a blend of two or all three with one being 100% Semillon. Sauvignon Blanc originates from Bordeaux and was in fact one of the first grape varieties planted in the area. So now that we have some background!

The Wineries are:

Clos des Lunes

Owned by Domaine de Chevalier (an Estate that we also tasted) this Estate is situated on the left bank of the Garonne river about 40km south of Bordeaux. The vines were planted in the vineyards of Sauternes and the key mission of this estate is to produce the finest dry white wine from Sauternes.

Harvests are carried out by hand with picking perfectly ripe fruit a must. Harvest is done plot-by-plot and then vinified as such so that blending of plots takes place before bottling. Quality is a key marker here and everything is done by hand.

Chateau Lynch-Bages

Situated in the lands of “Batges” at the entrance to Pauillac, the vineyard overlooks the Gironde estuary. Formerly owned by the Lynch family since the 18th Century, the estate was bought by the Cazes family in 1939. Jean-Charles Cazes opened a bakery in Pauillac and found in 1929 that he was able to buy a wine estate (during the crash) so purchased Lynch-Bages. Over the years the Cazes family developed modern ways of harvesting and vinifying their wines. The overall style of Lynch-Bages wines began to take shape from 1950’s onward.

Château Malartic-Lagraviere

This estate was purchased at the end of 18th Century by the Count Hippolyte de Maurès de Malartic (what a mouthful), who came from a very old Armagnac noble family. In 1850 the estate was purchased by Madame Arnaud Ricard (much easier) who then added Malartic to the name of the estate in homage to the former owner. In 1990 the estate was then purchased by Champagne Laurent-Perrier all the while quality wines being produced. Then finally in 1997 Alfred-Alexandre and Michele Bonnie loved the estate so much that they bought it. Kitting out the estate with restoring the Chateau, building a new winery/cave and also purchasing former plots of vineyards. The new generation now runs the estate with sustainability and quality being hallmarks of their strategy.

Domaine de Chevalier

In 1865 Jean Ricard purchased a farm… who then planted vines and has now been mentioned as the founder of Domaine de Chevalier. In reality, however, it was Jean Ricard’s son-in-law Gabriel Beaumartin who really did the hard work. As a well-known timber merchant he travelled abroad spreading the name and image of Domaine de Chevalier which gradually attracted worldwide attention. It was under the guidance of Claude Ricard (Jean’s son) where the Estate joined the select group of Grands Crus Classés de Graves in 1953. Finally in 1983 the Bernard family purchased the estate. The message to Olivier Bernard (son at the time) was to continue the immense work put in since 1865. It is fair to say he has done exactly that.

Château Climens

The first identifiable document that mentions Climens appears in a contract dated 1547. It stated that the owner, Guirault Roborel inherited the land from his father. Over the next few centuries the estate continually produced top class wines and in 1855 the Chateau obtained Premier Cru Classification under the support of Napoléon III. The estate has been purchased many times in its illustrious history and yet somehow the quality has remained the same. It is not uncommon to hear Climens and Yquem mentioned in the same sentence. Only last year did the estate again change hands as it was taken over by The Moitry family who continue to produce exceptional wines.

Château Rieussec

Owned by Domaines Barons de Rothschild Lafite since 1984, the estate is located in the centre of the Sauternes Vineyards. A new cellar was built in 1989 and vigorous sorting and quality management systems put in place. This has optimised Rieussec’s ability to be one of the top producers in Sauternes. They had a remarkable triad of 1988, 1989 and 1990 vintages which to this day are still regarded as some of the best vintages ever. A small team runs the estate, quite literally 4 people, with workers coming in for harvest time. This again allows for strict quality techniques. It is fair to say this Estate is right up there.

Tonight’s tasters are David, Harry, Kim & Jen.

Clos des Lunes Lune d’Argent 2019

Harvested by hand, vinification taking place in thermo-regulated vats of 50 hectolitres or in barrels.

Note: Lovely peaches, limes, grapefruit and honeysuckle aromas on the nose. On the palate the fresh fruit sings with a very creamy and layered texture. Great viscosity on a lovely structured body. Extremely vibrant and fresh with great acidity, this is a lovely, balanced wine. A good medium length finish with grapefruit and limes creating a bold finish. This is a wine that will give great pleasure for immediate drinking. 

Chateau de Lynch-Bages Blanc de Lynch-Bages 2018

59% Sauvignon Blanc, 21% Semillon and 20% Muscadelle. Fermentation takes place in two thirds barrels and one third in vats. Ageing on lees takes 6 months with 50% in new wood.  

Note: Peaches, orange blossom, white flowers and some exotic aromas of mango on the nose. On the palate we are bursting with fresh fruit, peach and pear taking centre stage. A good medium body, certainly fruit forward and very smooth and voluptuous, a very clean cut wine. Great acidity with freshness, this is drinking really well now and will evolve over the next 5-8 years.

Chateau Malartic-Lagraviere Blanc 2014

90% Sauvignon and 10% Semillon. Slow pressing of the grapes with fermentation taking place in barrels. Oak ageing for 12 months in French oak barrels (60% new).

Note: Again with the peaches… were these all grown in a peach orchard?! With orange blossom, white flowers and honeysuckle on the nose. This is weighty and powerful on the palate with those white flowers, orange peel and nuances of citrus nicely combining. A creamy mouthfeel with great acidity offering vibrancy and a really lovely long finish. Very impressive wine which will drink from now and evolve for another 8-10 years easy.

Domaine de Chevalier Blanc 2006

85% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Semillon. Fermentation takes place in barrels. Ageing also in barrels of which 35% is new oak with battonage.

Note: Orange zest, cooked white fleshed fruits, brioche and biscuit aromas on the nose. A very powerful and intense aroma on the nose. Tart tatin, that is best thing I can think of to describe this wine. Beautiful bakes apple, brioche and biscuit on the palate are very prominent. A very intense and creamy body with great texture and still high acidity. This offers great freshness and vibrancy. This is definitely a wine that needs food to shine and is fantastic. It has many more years ahead of it but is drinking beautifully now as well.

Chateau Climens 1er Cru Barsac 2009

Our 100% Semillon wine ! Vinified in small batches in French oak barrels with 30-40% new oak. Ageing in barrels for 20-22 months.

Note: Lady Marmalade ! Honey, oranges and of course marmalade aromas on the nose. Very creamy body with luscious honey and caramelised apple notes on the palate. Acidity still very present which offers a bit of vibrancy and aids a very long finish. Textured, balanced and well structured throughout. A lovely sweet wine that will give great pleasure now and for another 8-10 years.

Chateau Rieussec Grand Cru Classé Sauternes 1997

95% Semillon, 4% Muscadelle and 1% Sauvignon Blanc. All batches are pressed individually in small pneumatic presses. The wine is then transferred into new oak barrels for fermentation. After fermentation, the wine is aged in barrels for 18 months.

Note: Marzipan, orange, marmalade, honey, brioche, biscuit, baked apples… I could go on, this is brimming with delicate flavours that are all hallmarks of a great Sauternes. Really powerful and intense on the palate, almonds, orange and biscuit are key flavours. A really dark orange hue in the glass, creamy and textured body with nice acidity cutting through the intense flavours. This is drinking perfectly well at the moment and will continue to offer pleasure over the next 5-8 years.


There are two schools of thought in styles of white Bordeaux, the first is generally more Sauvignon Blanc based which is fruity, vibrant and very lively. Think gooseberry, peaches and citrus. The second is more Semillion based wines which are rich, creamy and have baked apples, orange and marmalade. Hopefully, you can agree that we certainly had both in this tasting.

All of these wines were truly fantastic in their own way. A particular shoutout to the Chevalier Blanc 2006 which honestly did not taste anywhere near like it was 17 years old. As someone who does prefer Chardonnay I was extremely impressed with these wines and all are worth their weight if you can find them to purchase.

The scores:

Lune d’Argent 2019 – 89 Points

Blanc de Lynch Bages 2018 – 92 Points

Malartic-Lagraviere Blanc 2014 – 94+ Points

Chevalier Blanc 2006 – 96 Points

Climens 1er Cru Barsac 2009 – 93 Points

Grand Cru Classé Sauternes 1997 – 96 Points

Thank you for reading as always and I hope you enjoyed the article!

We will be back next week with another 60th Tasting! Looking at dry Riesling’s from Australia and New Zealand.

Harry Vernau

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