Bordeaux 2017: the whites

Notes on 13 white Bordeaux wines from the 2017 vintage

This was a nice chance to look at the 2017 vintage. I tasted these wines alongside rather more reds at the Union Des Grands Crus tasting in London. This year, they put on a sommelier service for journalists, which was excellent. We got to sit down, and the wines were brought along on request in short flights. I tasted through everything over the course of a few hours.

Interestingly, the October UGC tasting offers an indication of how the trade feels about a vintage. It’s the first good look at the bottled wines for most, and in popular years, it’s packed. For the 2017 vintage it was pretty quiet.

You can read extensive, thoughtful commentary on the vintage from Gavin Quinney, which is worth a look. In short, it was complicated. And although a lot of very good wines were made, it lacked the star-dust of many of the best vintages, and was an en primeur flop. This makes it a good vintage for the curious who want to buy good, classically proportioned wines at non-hypey prices. Think 2014.

Château de Chantegrive Blanc 2017 Graves
50% Sémillon, 45% Sauvignon blanc, 5% Sauvignon gris. 13.5% alcohol. Pebbles and gravels and limestone subsoil/clay subsoil depending on the areas. Sustainable (HVE3). Fresh and direct with sweet yellow plum and peach notes, with a crisp finish. Has subtle notes of wax and hazelnut as well as a touch of pithy bitterness. Stylish. 90/100  

Château Ferrande Blanc 2017 Graves
Lovely focus here with crisp citrus and pear fruit, then transitioning to a creamy mid-palate. Bracing grapefruit pith finish. Crystal clear and very impressive. 91/100    

Château Rahoul Blanc 2017 Graves
59% Semillon, 41 % Sauvignon Blanc. 12.5% alcohol. Gravely-sand and clay-gravel soils for the Semilllon; clay-gravel on limestone subsoil for the Sauvignon blanc. Terra Vitis certified. Hand picked and pressed in an Inertys press (with nitrogen protection). Barrel fermentation, 15% new. Shows great precision. Lively and vital with crisp acidity and intense citrus fruits, with some fine spicy notes on the finish. An alert wine showing lovely precision and focus. 93/100   

Château Bouscaut Blanc 2017 Pessac-Léognan
Sauvignon Blanc 68%, Sémillon 32%, 14% alcohol. Clay on a limestone base. Sustainable (HVE3). Haunting aromatics of crystalline citrus fruit with some sea spray minerality. The palate is vivid and focused with grapefruit, lemons and subtle toast. Very stylish and well balanced. 93/100

Château Latour-Martillac Blanc 2017 Pessac-Léognan
50% Sauvignon Blanc, 50% Sémillon, clay-limestone soil. 11 months in French oak (25% new). Concentrated and intense with brisk citrus fruit, pith and bright acidity. There’s lovely floral detail here with smoky grapefruit aromatics, and a twist of passionfruit. Compact and tightwound. Has lots of potential. 94/100 

Château Carbonnieux Blanc 2017 Pessac-Léognan
60% Sauvignon blanc, 40% Sémillon. Clay, gravels, limestone. Sustainable agriculture (HVE3).  20% new oak. Fresh and lemony showing some toasty, nutty warmth. Has nice precision with some pithy bitterness on the finish. Tightwound. 91/100

Domaine de Chevalier Blanc 2017 Pessac-Léognan
70% Sauvignon, 30% Semillon. Gravel on clay-gravel subsoil. Organic/biodynamic principle. Barrel fermentated and aged for 18 months (35% new oak). Direct and linear with good concentration to the slightly unfurled citrus fruit. Has some spicy oak lurking under the fruit, with lovely texture and weight in the mouth. Finishes with some nutty, creamy hints. Expressive with a grapefruit twist and some smoky hints. Benchmark, with a long future ahead of it. 94/100

Château La Louvière Blanc 2017 Pessac-Léognan
Sauvignon 100%. Deep gravel with fine limestone over small areas at the foot of the slopes. Traditional farming, HEV3 certification. Fermented in barrel at 18-23 °C, 30% new. Lemony, pure and vivid with some nice passionfruit aromatics adding interest. The palate is linear and taut with nice precision and weight. Lovely acid line here: a very pure, expressive wine that should last a long time. 94/100    

Château Malartic-Lagravière Blanc 2017 Pessac-Léognan
80% Sauvignon, 20% Semillon. Well-drained gravels and clay gravels, farmed sustainably (HVE3). Bright and intense with lovely citrus fruit core. Concentrated, showing bright fruit and good acidity, with finely integrated toasty, nutty notes. Lovely purity. 92/100  

Château Olivier Blanc 2017 Pessac-Léognan
Sauvignon 75%, Sémillon 23%, Muscadelle 2%. Gravels (50%), clay-limestone (35%), Sands (15%). Sustainable viticulture. 35% new oak. Fresh with beautifully integrated oak (you can hardly spot it), with focused citrus fruit and some notes of herbs and pith. Grapefruity edge with some smoky minerality. Linear, pure and tightwound. 93/100     

Château Pape Clément Blanc 2017 Pessac-Léognan
55% Sauvignon Blanc, 45% Semillon. 15% of the wine is aged in a state-of-the-art egg-shaped concrete tank. The rest spends 18 months in oak barrels. Some riper peachy notes here over the top of a solid citrus core. Has freshness but also depth, with some nuts and wax. Complex and quite chiselled, but has a richer side, too. 92/100

Château Picque Caillou Blanc 2017 Pessac-Léognan
70% Sauvignn, 30% Semillon. No herbicides. Alcoholic fermentation in barrel followed by 7 months in barrel on lies. This is brisk and fresh with a slight creamy edge to the bright citrus fruit. Lemony with some yellow plum richer notes. Has a stony finish. 90/100    

Château Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc 2017 Pessac-Léognan
90% Sauvignon, 5% Semillon, 5% Sauvignon Gris. Deep Gunz gravels. Ageing on the lees for 12 months with lees stirring in barrels (50% new). Nice focus and intensity here. Some grapefruit character with ripe peachy undertones. Shows a fine, mineral, spicy edge. Great complexity here, with lovely aromatics already and a broad, expansive, but focused palate. 94/100

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