Château Lestage Bordeaux Blanc La Mouette 2020
With this week’s Weekend Wine we return to the theme of Bordeaux whites. After my recent foray to the northern reaches of the Médoc peninsula, this week I return to what might be regarded as the white wine heartland of the left bank (not including those vineyards south of Bordeaux, of course), and that is Listrac-Médoc. The wine comes from the cellars of one of the region’s best-known properties, Château Lestage, which was elevated to the level of Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel in the 2020 revision of the Cru Bourgeois classification.
Château Lestage is the property of the Chanfreau family, who also own neighbouring Château Fonréaud. The château, hidden from view behind trees, dates to 1870, although it was not until 1963 that it was purchased by Marcel Chanfreau (1897 – 1978), just one year after his brother Leo had purchased Château Fonréaud. Today it is Marcel’s grandchildren, Guillaume and Loïc Chanfreau, who run the two properties, having recently taken over from the father Jean.
The presence of white varieties in the vineyard of Château Lestage can be traced back to the 19th century; they were not errant vines, hidden among the reds, but had been planted by the proprietors – the Saint-Guirons family – who established the vineyard for the express purpose of the production of a white cuvée. As was also the case at Château Fonréaud, the wine was named for a bird, in this case La Mouette (which translates as seagull).
As with the vineyard at Château Fonréaud, a mid-20th century decline saw the white vines disappear from the estate, the last pied pulled up at the end of the 1950s. It was the current generation who set about rectifying this situation, re-planting in 2014, and releasing the first vintage of the new-era La Mouette in 2016. The vineyard is planted to 50% Sauvignon Blanc and 50% Semillon, at a density of 7,000 vines per hectare, on a tiny 0.5-hectare parcel of clay and limestone soils.
The fruit for La Mouette is picked by hand, the bunches pressed and the juice fermented and aged in barrels. It is a relatively short élevage, on the lees, punctuated by occasional bâtonnage before eventual bottling. The 2020 Bordeaux Blanc La Mouette from Château Lestage, which is presented in dark glass (which I welcome with all whites) and sealed with a DIAM 10 closure, presents a clean, pale straw hue once in the glass. This understated appearance precedes a surprisingly evocative nose, expressive and charming, with layers of sweet and juicy pear, dessert apple, apricot skin, acacia and vanilla. It suggests a rather plush style, and indeed this is what I find on the palate, which presents layers of rich orchard fruits set within a slightly dry and pithy substance, with a gentle infusion of crushed chalk, an intriguingly bitter twist, and modest acidity. This is very good, with a long, gripped and delicately amaroidal finish. The oak has built the structure up a little here, and I suspect this will be much better in three or four years, once the faint twist of grained tannin it has contributed has faded. Of course, once we hit that point, I think this will drink for many years. 92/100 (26/9/22)
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