Everybody has their go-to glass of white wine. Common names are Burgundy, Pinot Grigio, or California Chardonnay. But these days more often than not, it’s Sancerre. Crisp and refreshing, this Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley is easy to pronounce but still makes you sound sophisticated saying it. Plus, it’s that special combination of world-class wine at an affordable price.
But Sancerre’s reign as the by-the-glass favorite may be coming to an end. Whether it’s climate change or just bad luck, most of France’s wine-growing regions suffered some amount of hail and frost last year. And that means less wine. And less wine means prices go up. So while Sancerre will not disappear, it may just get too expensive to feature as a by-the-glass option. Enter white Bordeaux.
There are a few reasons that white Bordeaux is about to explode on the fine dining scene. For starters, remember that frost and hail? It didn’t happen in Bordeaux. In fact, they had a bumper crop, a little dry in the summer but otherwise perfect weather for optimal ripeness and bountiful harvest. All those grapes make a perfect substitute for Sancerre. The Sauvignon Blanc that makes Sancerre just happens to be one of the main white grapes grown in Bordeaux. The other grape grown there is Semillon, and this often adds weight, depth, and texture to a wine. So there’s lots of Bordeaux Blanc available, and more than likely it’s already on its way here.
Another thing about white wine from Bordeaux makes me think it’s on its way to a fine dining experience near you: America is Bordeaux’s highest export market for white wine. Wine buyers are realizing that world-class winemakers in Bordeaux are upping the quality of their whites every year, at an extraordinary value to consumers. Much of this improvement is due to Denis Dubourdieu, the “professor of wine” in Bordeaux. Also called the “Pope of Bordeaux,” Dubordieu influenced generations of winemakers and is almost singlehandedly responsible for a new freshness and vitality seen in white wines from this region.
That Semillon I mentioned earlier? That’s the secret weapon in Bordeaux Blanc. It used to be more predominant, and gets its fame from the fabulous sweet wines of Sauternes. But it can sing along nicely with the crisp and refreshing Sauv Blanc, or it can add more oomph to make these wines something to hold up to a big dinner, often balancing a heavy dish while remaining refreshing on the palate. As you taste your way around these wines, take note of the blend and see what turns out to be your favorite.
So in place of Sancerre on every wine-by-the-glass list this summer, I’m predicting we’ll see a lot more Bordeaux Blanc. Here are some of my favorites:
Château Les Charmes Godard, 2014
Crisp and bright, with a big seashell minerality, this wine is a great value. It’s a blend of Semillon, Muscadelle, and Sauvignon Gris (the backup singers of white Bordeaux) from an outlying region called Cotes de Francs, which is one of the reasons it’s so affordable. The minerality makes it a natural pairing for oysters and caviar. In fact, Arcachon, the Hamptons of Bordeaux, is as famous for its oysters as it is for its beaches. And Sturia Caviar, made in the region surrounding Bordeaux, has recently launched stateside. Grows together, goes together, y’all.
Clos des Lunes, Lune d’Argent, 2013
Round and voluptuous in texture with flavors of ripe melon and Granny Smith apple, this wine goes down way too fast. It is refreshing and yet somehow substantial, so this wine pairs with fruit salad at the beach or potato salad on a picnic, but won’t get lost among grilled burgers and hot dogs.
S de Suduiraut, Château Suduiraut, 2013
This is a substantial wine, and a good example of the range of white wines in Bordeaux. Opulent and rich, with aromas of beeswax, baked pineapple, and ginger, the supple structure makes me want this with hearty chicken and pork dishes. Famous for its sweet wines in Sauternes, Suduiraut is among many chateaux now making affordable dry whites, and they are among the best.
Château Carbonnieux, 2015
We have a veal Milanese where I work, and instead of squeezing a lemon on it, I pour myself a glass of this. That’s a pretty good rule for most Sauvignon Blanc, and nobody makes a better one than Carbonnieux. It’s a bit of a splurge, but man, it’s worth it. Meyer lemon, orange blossom, and hints of lime all dance in the glass with a white stone fruit backbone. It’s like a lemonade after mowing the lawn, but classed up and fit for a king.