Château Carbonnieux Blanc 2002
If there is one rallying call I have heard more than any other over the past couple of weeks it is the one for white Bordeaux. Stimulated by a successful vintage, exponents of the style have been openly lamenting its low profile, seemingly disregarded by many in favour of the whites of Burgundy. Those who know the wines are adamant that they are just as worthy as those from the Côte d'Or, and I am not inclined to argue strongly with them. They certainly have the potential to age, leaving behind the vivacious fruit of youth, transubstantiating into elegant and interesting wines, a quality which is demanded by most who are perhaps looking for an alternative to Puligny, Chassagne and the like.
Of course there are many styles and sources of dry white wine which clearly have the potential, and the track record, for positive development during extended periods of cellaring. The Loire would give us many; Vouvray is an obvious choice, but today Savennières should also be accepted as having the desired attribute. Even the best wines of Sancerre are improved with a few years bottle age. On the other side of the country, the Rieslings of Alsace have a great propensity for improving with age, and - when from the better producers and sites - neither Pinot Gris nor Gewurztraminer should be disregarded. The list of ageworthy white wines outside of Burgundy is, in fact, already looking considerable. And we haven't even crossed the border into Germany, yet.
Nevertheless, I understand the justification for these cries in support of white Bordeaux. Whereas we would regard Burgundy as a region of two colours, and the white wines of Vouvray, Savennières, Alsace and Germany have total domination within their respective regions, Bordeaux is seemingly regarded by many as solely a red wine district. If thoughts stray from claret, it is often only to Sauternes that the mind turns. The dry whites come in third place, in limited production, with only those from Graves having any true identity (there are white wines from the Médoc and even the right bank, but they are, perhaps, niche products with no 'appellation identity'). So it seems only fair, after all, that we should support and publicise these wines, especially when they are as good as this week's example, the 2002 from Château Carbonnieux. This wine has a moderately rich golden hue, and the nose is perhaps a touch exotic, although it is certainly open and very expressive. There are aromas of honey, limes, vanilla, lanolin, baked peaches and more. It has depth and a paradoxical creamy yet muscular nature, which carries through across the palate where there is evident structure, with grip and good acidity underpinning a raft of flavour. Very firmly composed, nicely focused, upright and defined, but with a richness that means this wine is drinkable now, although it will doubtless give more with further time in the cellar. Excellent potential here. Without doubt this is showing much better than my first assessment of this wine, which was briefly encountered at a tasting in November 2004. 17+/20
Here's to the white wines of Bordeaux! (5/5/08)