Château de Claribès Sauvignon Blanc 2009
This week it is to the hidden vineyards of Bordeaux that we travel to find my Weekend Wine. I say 'hidden' because every wine writer that features Bordeaux - and I include myself in this - focuses far too much time on a small selection of famous names, the top two hundred (or thereabouts) châteaux of the region. Yes, these are the châteaux that make the necessary waves, and thus define the region, but they are not the be-all and end-all of Bordeaux. There is more to the Languedoc than Mas de Daumas Gassac, and there is more to the Ribera del Duero than Vega Sicilia. and there is a lot more to Bordeaux than Latour and Lafite. The 'lesser' appellations of Bordeaux are crying out for a new champion, someone who will spend their time tasting in the Entre-Deux-Mers and the Bordeaux-Côtes rather than St Julien and Pomerol. If I were doing this full time I would take up the mantle like a shot; it is a gap in the wine writing market just waiting to be filled.
As it is I must do what I can, when I can. And recently I had the good fortune to taste through a selection of wines from Nick Kinder and Helen Kelly of Château de Claribès, which at least allows me to focus on Sainte-Foy-Bordeaux, one of these 'lesser' appellations. Helen and Nick acquired Château de Claribès, which lies close to the Dordogne at the eastern edge of the Bordeaux region, to the east of the aforementioned Entre-Deux-Mers and the Premières Côtes de Bordeaux, perhaps best known for dry and sweet white wines respectively. At Claribès Nick and Helen turn out a range of red, white and rosé wines from 10.5 hectares of organically-farmed wines, ranging from newly-planted to 50 years of age. Quality across the board is high, but of all the wines I have tasted (full write-up to come) this white wine, made from vines aged between 25 and 30 years, struck the brightest chord.
The wine in question is the 2009 Sainte-Foy-Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc from Château de Claribès, 100% Sauvignon Blanc picked by hand and transferred into stainless steel tank within minutes. Fermented cool followed by a little time on the lees before bottling. A fairly pale, cool-climate hue on inspection, as would be expected here. The fruit found on the nose certainly has appeal, showing a paradoxical intertwining of creamy white fruit along with elements of grass, largely varietal elements, but also a vibrant, chalky minerality which brings an additional and welcome facet. Plenty of texture at the start on the palate, and then in the middle plenty of fruit but with a very captivating pithy, steely, stony-minerally character. And towards the finish it really tightens up, although with a little touch of oiliness in the texture. This is really appealing; yet another wine that reinforces my belief that at this very affordable level Bordeaux does white so very well - often better than red. It even has a little length to its dry, slightly bitter and very appealing finish. Good stuff. 15.5/20 (13/12/10)