A Visit to Henri Bourgeois, 2016

One of the most enjoyable tasks I took on during 2015 was organising a tasting of Oaked Sauvignon Blanc. I was asked to help out by Richard Bampfield MW and Jean-Christophe Mau, of Château Brown. The idea was to pit the increasingly popular white wine of Château Brown against a range of other white wines from Bordeaux as well as, crucially, similar styles from the Loire Valley. Obviously, the wines of Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé and the like feature pure Sauvignon Blanc rather than the Sauvignon-Semillon blend that is the norm in Bordeaux, but on every other level the wines were the same. Crucially, they were all vinified entirely – both fermentation and élevage – in oak.

Henri Bourgeois

After drawing up a shortlist of eight domaines, including Alphonse Mellot, Didier Dagueneau, La Tour Saint Martin and others, I set about procuring the wines – one recent vintage, typically 2012, and one older vintage – that I needed. This basically involved begging for bottles, which generally produced a positive response. To be honest, a couple of vignerons were fairly unresponsive (harvest was approaching, so no doubt they were super-busy), and they perhaps needed a bit of a push to get involved, and my thanks go to Loire Valley courtier Charles Sydney for his help in that regard. Eventually I had sixteen bottles lined up, and it was a great tasting. To me it didn’t matter which wines showed best, as I feel I am invested in both regions, but for my palate the vigour and vibrancy seen in the Loire Valley wines on the day means they wiped the floor with the rather softer styles from Bordeaux.

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