Château Bauduc Bordeaux Les Trois Hectares Semillon Vieilles Vignes 2019
If you haven’t heard of Gavin Quinney and Château Bauduc at some point over the last twenty years, where have you been? And what have you been doing? Searching for a change in direction, Gavin and Angela Quinney discovered Château Bauduc in the Entre-Deux-Mers region of Bordeaux in 1999. They promptly bought the property, complete with extensive vineyard. Their first vintage was 2000, which of course made the 2019 vintage, featured here, their twentieth. Twenty years of hard graft, no doubt.
At the time of the acquisition the majority of the vineyard was red, as you would expect in Bordeaux. Gavin and his team have changed much since their purchase, but one of the most significant developments has been the shift in the vineyard to white. This was partly achieved through selling off some distant parcels near Cadillac which were planted to red, which also had the welcome benefit of concentrating the domaine’s vineyard around the château. Here some parcels were also replanted to white, completing the transition.
This move towards white rather than red was seemingly a wise decision. The domaine’s Sauvignon Blanc cuvée is eternally popular, popping up as a recommendation in weekend wine columns with the same frequency that arguments break out on Wine Twitter (only the Bauduc wines are more enjoyable). And why not? It makes the most of the sandy-gravelly soils that typically dominate this corner of Bordeaux, and satisfies the world’s seemingly insatiable thirst for this variety. And it’s good – subscribers will have noticed it popping up in my Bordeaux 2019 primeurs report earlier this year, holding its own against the likes of Le Nardian and Reignac Blanc.
But there is more to this domaine than varietal Sauvignon Blanc; the vineyard is blessed with some ancient plantings of Semillon, perhaps best known for its role in Sauternes but also a vital component of the region’s dry white blends, as well as the usual Bordeaux red varieties. Tasting through a range of Château Bauduc whites recently it was the wine featured here which caught my attention. Sourced from a relatively small slice of the Bauduc vineyard, it comes from the domaine’s oldest vines, in truth a field blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, planted in 1947.
Tasting young Semillon-rich cuvées from Bordeaux, during the primeurs, can often be a thankless task. While varietal Sauvignon Blanc tends to impress from the outset, Semillon often needs time – maybe a few years in bottle – to come out of its shell. This is one of the joys of the traditional Bordeaux Sauvignon-Semillon blend; the lead variety provides zip and aromatic joy in youth, its blending partner a richer bed of honeyed and waxy fruit as it ages. You drink the wines young for the former, as they age for the latter. Therefore a Semillon with good fruit expression at this early stage, as we have here, is a rare and noteworthy find.
The blend in the 2019 Château Bauduc Les Trois Hectares Semillon Vieilles Vignes is in fact 80% Semillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc, reflecting the mix of interplanted varieties in the vineyard, all vinified in stainless steel to keep the focus on the fruit, and then bottled under Stelvin screwcap. In the glass it has a relaxed straw-coloured hue, but it is on the nose that things really get going, with a striking freshness and energy despite the evident richness, the aromatic profile filled with the scents of pithy orange zest and chalk, which to me feels very true to the youthful Semillon. Later on, though, the generosity of this ripe vintage is revealed, as the nose progresses through notes of fruit salad, grilled pear and quince. While still expressive, the palate is more correct and reserved, the sweet citrus fruits here wrapped up in chalky minerals, its gentle acidity reflecting the warmth of the season, but a rich phenolic grip proving some frame. It is wonderfully expressive Semillon for its age, and one which will drink well for several years. The message is clear; dry white Bordeaux isn’t all about Sauvignon Blanc. 92/100 (2/11/20)
Read more in:
- My profile of Château Bauduc
- My primeur reports on the Bordeaux 2019 vintage
- My guide to the Bordeaux wine region