A Brief Guide to the Regions of White Bordeaux
by JJ Buckley
The arrival of summertime always brings a renewed focus on white wines thanks to the warmer temperatures so it only seems right to take a renewed look at one of JJ Buckley's favorite and most popular categories: the white wines of Bordeaux. Of all the wine produced in Bordeaux, and there's a lot of wine made there, only about 10% is white. While that may be a small percentage, it is still a whole lot of wine!
It’s all too easy to get an impression that white Bordeaux is a somewhat complicated segment of the world of wine. But a basic understanding of Bordeaux’s white wine sub-regions and the white grape varieties grown there shows the category to be quite easy to figure out.
First the sub-regions - Bordeaux's most acclaimed white wines come from the areas of Graves and the relatively newer appellation of Pessac-Léognan. Both are located just south of the city of Bordeaux. The whites from here are amongst the most full-bodied and age worthy wines made in Bordeaux. Because of their exceptional quality and relatively small productions, the best wines are highly sought after and can command very high prices. The AOC regulations here require lower yields, resulting in grapes with more concentrated flavors, which make for beautifully balanced wines that are often fermented and aged in oak barrels.
While the wines from Pessac-Léognan and Graves command considerable attention in the press and market, they comprise a very small amount of all the white wine made in Bordeaux. The Entre-Deux-Mers region, located between the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers, is responsible for most of the Bordeaux's white wine production (and a significant percentage of Bordeaux's red wine as well). But note, wines labeled as Entre-Deux-Mers can only be white. The reds from this area are simply AOC Bordeaux.
The most intriguing new development comes from estates in areas traditionally known for making red wines. Increasingly, wineries in the Haut-Médoc and Saint-Emilion are adding white Bordeaux to the portfolio of wines they produce. While famous Châteaux like Lynch Bages and Margaux have a long history of making white wines alongside their more famous red grands vins and have reasonable recognition in America, it is the growing trickle of other wineries making white wines that is particularly interesting. Some châteaux have simply revived production of discontinued white wines (Château Palmer), while others have increased production of wines solely made for the family or exclusively poured at the château (Château Mouton Rothschild). Increasingly, many other wineries are recognizing this growing trend for white and have extended their production portfolios to include new white wines.
Finally, it is important to remember that the biggest appellation for white wine is the over-arching one of AOC Bordeaux. What can be a little confusing is that it includes both wines that are keenly priced as well as ultra-premium, über-expensive wines. This is because many of these top wines are produced by Châteaux located in areas only designated for red wines. White wines produced by these same Châteaux can ONLY be labeled AOC Bordeaux. But don’t let that put you off – our helpful salespeople will be on hand to assist you navigate the wonderful world of white Bordeaux.
Next up are the grape varieties. While this is the topic of our next blog post – I will leave you with one last message – if you like Sauvignon Blanc you will love white Bordeaux!