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A de Château d’Arche 2020

A de Château d’Arche 2020

The writing has been on the wall for Sauternes for some years now. While quality remains high – in the right vintages, at least – the volume of production is in seemingly interminable decline. This is almost entirely due to a lack of demand for the wines, modern tastes having turned away the sweeter styles that were once so highly prized and which consequently sold so well. The Sauternais – if I can use that term – have understandably been looking for something else to do with their fruit. The obvious route, one that many have taken, is to add a dry wine to their portfolio.

This undeniable fact has been driven home in the past few months, as I have seen more and more châteaux in the Sauternes region place greater emphasis on their dry wines. No longer are these mere sidelines, soaking up fruit from lesser terroirs, or from younger vines. A number of properties are now dedicating larger swathes of their vineyards to the production of their dry wine (or wine), sometimes including some of their best terroirs.

A de Château d'Arche 2020

While some châteaux are stepping into the world of dry white for the first time, others with a longer track record – Château Suduiraut springs immediately to mind – are expanding their range and raising the status of their dry wines. How long will it be before this is a region as well known for its grand vin dry whites as well as its grand vin Sauternes, I wonder? And how long before those dry whites have their own appellation, akin to their neighbours in Pessac and Léognan, to lift them above the general melee of white Bordeaux? It is surely only a matter of time.

Château d’Arche has not travelled so far down this road as some, but with the inaugural release of this cuvée, A de Château d’Arche, they have taken their first steps. A key feature is its reliance on Semillon, distinguishing it from Bordeaux’s seemingly omnipresent Sauvignon-dominant cuvées, and of course tying it to the Sauternes region. Semillon accounts for 85% of the blend here, and Sauvignon Blanc just 15%. The fruit comes from 20 hectares of vines planted on mostly gravelly soils, although there is limestone here too. It was vinified in stainless steel and barrels, with an élevage lasting six months, 40% in cuve, 40% in used Sauternes barrels, 20% in new barrels, in all cases the wine resting on its lees.

The A de Château d’Arche Bordeaux Blanc presents a bright straw-gold hue in the glass. It has a bright and fragrant nose, not exactly shy, kicking off with notes of ripe and sweet peach, quickly twisting to reveal notes of lemon peel, mint, wild strawberry and pink grapefruit. It certainly has impact. On the palate it presents a texturally pleasing character, carrying all the ripe and aromatic fruits seen on the nose, with a touch of pithy substance as well as a light mineral grain and some soft acidity which serves to reinforce the wine’s lightly honeyed and creamed style. Overall this is charming, fresh and characterful, with a quick fade in the finish, but some good energy. This is a delicious start for this new cuvée, and I look forward to tasting future vintages. The alcohol is 12.7% (with 13% on the label). 91/100 (13/6/22)

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