While I’ve been particularly interested in varietal wines in my quest to taste 100 different grapes, there are some classic blends that deserve attention as well. There’s been no shortage of posts about red Bordeaux style blends, but it’s time to have a look at a dry white wine of the region, the Cheval Quancard Château Fort de Roquetaillade 2011
Most people learn about Bordeaux on paper from the top down, in that there are the classified growths, then there are the various crus on the other side of the river, and finally the whole collection of lesser wines across the region. I tend to think it’s the opposite of how one might best learn to appreciate them in the glass, as it’s always more pleasant to experience ever increasing levels of quality. Generally the bulk of such education focuses on the red wines for which the region is most famous, and while the sweet wines, particularly Sauternes such as Château d’Yquem, will get a mention, the white wines are often neglected. (Crémant de Bordeaux, sadly, remains largely mythical in my experience.)
While dry white wine in Bordeaux may be varietal, it’s more often a blend, with Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc being the most common grapes, and those two together when found in the New World are typically what is meant when someone refers to a white Bordeaux blend. Muscadelle is also considered a classic white grape of the region, and a number of other white grapes such as Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Sauvignon Gris and Merlot Blanc may be permitted depending on the particular subregion and quality level of the wine.
Dry white wine is produced in a number of areas of Bordeaux, concentrated in Pessac-Léognan and Graves south of the Garonne, and Entre-Deux-Mers and Graves de Vayres between the Garrone and Dordogne. It’s also produced in Blaye, on the north bank of the Gironde, though the blend there is not typical in that it is dominated by Ugni Blanc.
Graves takes its name from the French term for gravel, and its vineyards are planted in namesake terraces. With the exception of areas set apart for sweet wine production in Sauternes, Barsac, and Cérons, historically the area stretched south east from the city of Bordeaux along the Garrone. The original home of Claret in the Middle Ages, it held the first named château and the first growth classified Château Haut-Brion. However, in 1987 the appellation Pessac-Léognan was formed from the northernmost section of Graves. In a stroke Graves lost its most famous château and along with it some of its long established reputation, particularly with respect to red wines.
That said, there are certainly fine wines still produced within the current boundaries of the appellation, with red wines often being good value, if somewhat rustic, relative to their neighbours. White wines are at least as well regarded and often barrel fermented and/or aged.
Cheval Quancard is a family run company that dates back to 1844 when it began trading as Quancard & fils, founded by Pierre Quancard. The company dealt in wines of the region and from their estate, and over the century and a half that followed grew to produce red, white, rosé and sweet wine across over a dozen châteaux throughout Bordeaux. The current name of the company was set in 1985, unifying their holdings but retaining their link to the original founding.
In the glass this wine is clear and bright, with a pale lemon colour, and very slow thin legs. On the nose it’s clean and developing, with medium plus intensity and notes of lime, lemon curd, quince, marigold, and mandarin. The palate is dry with medium plus acidity, medium alcohol, medium plus intensity, medium body, and medium plus length. There are notes of lime, mineral, orange peel, and hints of both vanilla and grape.
I categorize this wine as good. It has a nice array of aromas and flavours but took a little while to tease them out as the glass warmed slightly. While the nose is almost exclusively fruit and flowers, the minerality on the palate gives it a boost in terms of complexity. I was surprised by the grape note as I only associate that with Muscat, but it certainly wasn’t pronounced.