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Château le Bruilleau, Pessac-Léognan BlancBordeaux, France 2018 (750mL)

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Château le Bruilleau, Pessac-Léognan Blanc Bordeaux, France 2018 (750mL)

Fruit
Earth
Body
Tannin
Acid
Alcohol

Today we feature a category that is criminally under-represented in the current wine conversation: Bordeaux Blanc. And when the time comes to drink some white Bordeaux, the place to look first is Pessac-Léognan. Most of the greatest examples of Bordeaux Blanc hail from the pebbly limestone soils of this Left Bank AOC—Haut-Brion, Carbonnieux, Chevalier, Smith Haut Lafitte, the list goes on—and after tasting this exceptional, affordable ’18 from tiny Château le Bruilleau, we unanimously decided to go “all-in.” 


Based on my own consumption habits, not to mention those of most sommeliers I know, I’m going to hazard a guess and say that this will be your first white Bordeaux in a while. Maybe your first ever. But I’m also going to bet that you’ll have the same reaction I did: Why don’t I drink this more often? Like the reds, Bordeaux’s whites are bold, sumptuous, “affordable luxury” wines. The combination of the crowd-pleasing Sauvignon Blanc with the textured Sémillon (and, sometimes, Muscadelle) is an intuitive pairing, resulting in a less austere, but no less substantial, alternative to white Burgundy. We’re talking about one of the great white wines of the world here, and you couldn’t ask for a better (re)introduction than this silky beauty from Château le Bruilleau.



One of the many things I enjoy about white Bordeaux is its stylistic diversity: It is, of course, a blended wine, with as many as four varieties factoring into that blend, but Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon are the headliners. From there, the blending formulas from château to château vary widely. Some wines (like Carbonnieux) are more Sauvignon-driven, while others, like today’s, contain more Sémillon. It’s an opposites-attract blend: Sauvignon Blanc is more citrusy and higher in acid, while Sémillon is richer and more tropical, with what Jancis Robinson describes as “lanolin smoothness.” The lower-acid Sémillon contributes texture, the Sauvignon Blanc backbone. They both contribute aromatics, which can sometimes skew a little tropical.


As is typical in Bordeaux, the final percentages of each grape in a blend closely mirrors how plantings of the different varieties are proportioned in the vineyards. At le Bruilleau, which farms a total of just 10 hectares of vineyards (three of which are planted to white grapes), the mix is roughly 70% Sémillon to 30% Sauvignon Blanc. The estate, located next door to Château Latour-Martillac, has been in the same family for four generations, with Serge and Nadine Bédicheau currently at the helm. They take pains to farm sustainably, noting that they forbid the use of chemical herbicides in their vineyards, and the average vine age at the small property exceeds 25 years.


In the case of the Sémillon, however, some of le Bruilleau’s plantings exceed 70 years of age. It’s a testament to how important white wine tradition is to producers in Pessac, who could obviously make more money if they ripped up their white grapes in favor of reds. There’s terrific depth and complexity to today’s 2018, which underwent a short skin maceration before fermentation commenced. The Sémillon was fermented in 33% new French oak barrels, the Sauvignon Blanc in steel, after which they were combined and aged in oak for 10 months. Only about 800 cases are produced in total.


The result is a heady white with a bright golden hue and assertive aromas of citrus fruits, white peach, lemon curd, honeysuckle, lemongrass, lanolin, and wet stones. These sensations carry over to the palate, which is medium-bodied and fleshy but livened up by plenty of invigorating freshness. Although its aromas are more perfumed, the wine otherwise carries itself a lot like a white Burgundy, displaying nice palate weight supported by acidity/minerality. It will certainly continue to evolve over the next 3-5 years, but I see no reason to wait to enjoy it: Pull the cork around 15 minutes before service at 45-50 degrees in all-purpose stems. Whenever I think of white Bordeaux, I think of buttery/creamy fish dishes like sole meunière or lobster bisque—similar meldings of richness and aromatics. The attached recipe should make an especially hedonistic pairing—might as well jump back in with both feet!




Château le Bruilleau, Pessac-Léognan Blanc Bordeaux, France 2018 - SommSelect

  • CountryFrance
  • RegionBordeaux
  • Sub-RegionPessac-Léognan
  • SoilGravelly Limestone & Clay
  • FarmingSustainable
  • BlendSémillon 70%, Sauvignon Blanc 30%
  • Alcohol14%
  • OakFrench Barrels, 33% New
  • Service Temp.45-50° F
  • GlasswareAll-Purpose Stem
  • DrinkNow-2026
  • Decanting15 Minutes
  • PairingLobster Bisque

  • CountryFrance
  • RegionBordeaux
  • Sub-RegionPessac-Léognan
  • SoilGravelly Limestone & Clay
  • FarmingSustainable
  • BlendSémillon 70%, Sauvignon Blanc 30%
  • Alcohol14%
  • OakFrench Barrels, 33% New
  • Temp.Serve at 45-50° F
  • GlasswareAll-Purpose Stem
  • DrinkingNow-2026
  • Decanting15 Minutes
  • PairingLobster Bisque