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Dourthe La Grande Cuvee Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Dourthe La Grande Cuvée Sauvignon Blanc 2007

A return to more familiar territory this week, after last week’s excursion to the Italian DOC of Offida. Very familiar territory, in fact, as I take a look at a wine from Bordeaux’s most recent vintage, although to write that is to overlook the fact that this year’s harvest is already underway. The picking of the 2008 vintage began in the first week of September with the Sauvignon Blanc at Château Carbonnieux, just a week or two before the death of its proprietor, Anthony Perrin, and it continues as I write with the Semillon and soon the Merlot. So, for the pedantic, this wine is from Bordeaux’s most recent vintage to at least have finished fermentation.

Dourthe La Grande Cuvée Sauvignon Blanc 2007The 2007 Bordeaux vintage is one that I have some experience of, having spent four days in Bordeaux during the primeur tastings. If there was one generalisation about the vintage that will probably stick, it was that the white wines – both dry and sweet, although especially the latter in my opinion – were of significantly higher quality than the reds. This was evident in both Pessac-Léognan and Sauternes, and so this bottle provides a handsome opportunity to see if this quality can cascade down to a more generic appellation. The wine in question is from Dourthe, a Bordeaux négociant established in 1840 which operates under the umbrella of the CVBG Group, which was created by the union of Dourthe and Kressmann in 1966. Dourthe own a number of notable properties, including Haut-Médoc fifth growth estate Château Belgrave and the St Estèphe cru bourgeois property Château Le Boscq, but naturally they also produce a swathe of more generic wines. The core of the Grande Cuvée range are commune-level wines, bottled under the Médoc, Graves and St Emilion appellations, but here they have made a significant move towards a label where the variety in question – the ever-popular Sauvignon Blanc – carries much more weight than the appellation, Bordeaux, which almost disappears beneath the name of the variety written above. I am sure this is no accident, and Dourthe are clearly reaching out to today’s consumers who are likely to be much more comfortable buying a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc than a bottle of Bordeaux.

So what about the wine itself? Does it live up to expectations derived from my experiences at the primeur tastings? Well, in the glass, Dourthe’s 2007 La Grande Cuvée Sauvignon Blanc takes a little time to open up, but once it has done so it reveals a pungent nose of grass, dry lemon cake and a little yellow pepper, touched with subtle nuances of smoke and gunflint. The palate is firm and has a very typical Sauvignon substance, with a green-fleshed fruit alongside some firm acidity. There is plenty of incisive character here, lots of bright flavour, and a very firm and dry substance. Sappy and punchy on the finish, this has a very good style indeed, and it worked very well with lemon sole and wedges of potato roasted in duck fat. I hope it sells well; the white wines of Bordeaux are an unrealised treasure, and to some extent an untapped seam of great potential. When one considers how New World nations – with New Zealand an obvious exemplar – have fared with this variety, and contrast that against the crisis that exists beyond the glitzy world of the top classed growth châteaux, wines such as this could be hugely significant for Bordeaux. 16.5/20 (29/9/08)

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