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Château Les Charmes-Godard Blanc 2012

Château Les Charmes-Godard Blanc 2012

As well as raiding my cellar for the occasional bottle of Château La Clotte, Château Lagrange and Château Lafleur (well, the first two are true, anyway) I am always on the hunt for non-classé Bordeaux that provides good-value, everyday drinking. Wines that don’t break the bank, and don’t demand a decade in the cellar before the cork deserves to be pulled, and yet which are still stimulating, thought-provoking and interesting to drink. I think this last point is key; it’s not really that hard to find decent value in Bordeaux provided you are prepared to sift through oceans of Fronsac, Canon-Fronsac, Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux, Graves and other more peripheral appellations. The key is finding a wine that isn’t merely drinkable, but which seems to have something interesting to say about its origins, much as a good Chinon or Vouvray might.

Not for the first time I turned this weekend to Château Les Charmes-Godard, up in the Francs Côtes de Bordeaux appellation. This is one name certainly worth looking out for; purchased during the 1980s by Nicolas Thienpont, of the same Thienpont family that own Vieux Château Certan and Le Pin in Pomerol, and who manage Château Beauséjour, Château Pavie-Macquin and Château Larcis Ducasse in St Emilion, I have come to regard it as a reliable source of good-value but also interesting wines, wines which reflect not only the varieties with which they are made, and the people who make them, but also the terroir.

Château Les Charmes-Godard Blanc 2012

One vital feature of this wine that isn’t obvious from the label image above is that it is a white rather than a red wine. Unusually for Bordeaux, the Francs Côtes de Bordeaux appellation allows for all styles, red, white and even sweet wines, and all three are produced at Château Les Charmes-Godard (although I don’t ever recall encountering the sweet wine). Only three communes are eligible for the appellation, these being Francs, Saint-Cibard and Tayac, all of which sit to the north of Castillon, and they enjoy a lofty altitude, being 110 metres above sea level, the Bordeaux equivalent of a climb up Mount Everest. It is the smallest of all Bordeaux’s appellations at about 500 hectares. The terroir is similar to that of St Emilion and Castillon, being rich in Calcaire de Castillon and Molasses du Fronsadais. This means it works well not only with Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, but all the region’s white varieties too, which I suspect are far better suited to the limestones of the right bank than they are to the sand and gravel of Pessac-Léognan and Graves.

The white vineyard at Château Les Charmes-Godard is planted with 60% Semillon, 20% Sauvignon Gris, 15% Sauvignon Blanc and 5% Muscadelle, and it accounts for 5.5 hectares of the estate. The soils, as hinted at above, are mostly clay, marl and limestone, although there are some areas of silt. The soils are ploughed and planted with cereals during winter, and most of the work in the vines is manual. The fruit is picked by hand, and vinified in 500-litre barrels, using just 15% new oak, with an élevage on the lees lasting just six months. The yield in 2012 was 40 hl/ha, a rather restrained figure which surely goes some way to explaining the quality. The blend reflects the vineyard, and now at six years of age it remains lively and fresh, with a pale straw hue in the glass. The aromatic profile is really convincing, filled with beautiful stone fruit, especially peach and apricot, along with tangerine zest and white pepper. This is clearly evolving well, the Semillon which dominates the blend now showing through as the wine ages, bringing a fresh, creamed citrus and peach character to it. The fruit comes through on the palate in abundance, with peach stone, apricot and pear wrapped up in a rich and textural substance, and underpinned by a fine grip and bright, balancing acidity. The white from Les Charmes-Godard is a pretty serious and composed wine that transcends the status of its appellation and (thanks to that limestone, surely) it is today one of the more interesting white wines in all Bordeaux. Don’t just drink this because it is great value; buy it because it is a great wine. 93/100 (24/9/18)

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