From €19, £19.95, $34, HK$450
Young dry white bordeaux is not exactly commonplace, unless you happen to be choosing wine in a restaurant in Bordeaux itself. Fully mature dry white Bordeaux is extremely esoteric, so hats off to UK online retailer From Vineyards Direct for finding and featuring a parcel of Ch Larrivet Haut-Brion Blanc 1998 Pessac-Léognan at £19.95 a bottle - a pretty fair price for a wine that is 13 years old. Think how much you would have to pay for a white burgundy of the same age...
This wine, made at a property that regularly produces reliable reds and whites in the unfairly overlooked Pessac-Léognan appellation south of the city of Bordeaux, the crème de la crème of Graves, taught me a great deal as I tasted it over two or three days. I chilled it first and found it absolutely stunning on opening it, writing the following tasting note:
Lovely waxy, honeyed-but-dry-finishing, classic old dry white bordeaux. Edge of ashiness. This is decidedly not for neophytes. You need to have tasted some young, lanolin-scented, sometimes rather oily, dry white bordeaux to appreciate how this wine has matured and taken on so much more interest and balance. Well done, FVD, for shining the spotlight on this unique style of wine and for locating such a haunting, mature example of it. A far from truculent teenager...
However, when I went back to the opened bottle that had been kept overnight at room temperature, it had lost its refreshment factor and seemed rather fat, flat and oily - in short it exhibited just the sort of faults that are all too common with the dry, oaked blends of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon made in the Graves region. I would strongly recommend, therefore, that you serve this wine straight from the fridge, and don't nurse too many hopes of enjoying it the day after opening.
But, served correctly, I think this wine would make a great first wine at a dinner for wine-loving friends, perhaps with sashimi or some sort of raw fish marinated in lemon or lime juice. This would nicely accentuate the citrus notes in the wine that I think would be flattered by food that is tarter and fresher than it is.
Apart from the parcel currently being offered at £19.95 a bottle by From Vineyards Direct, this wine is, according to wine-searcher.com, currently available in France, the US, Ireland, Germany and Hong Kong.
I'm a little nervous that I have given this wine the relatively high score of 17 out of 20 in our tasting notes database. This applies strictly to how it tastes as soon as it is opened and so long as it is reasonably well chilled. See my recent discussion of how scores are used to sell wine in Misleading ads, misused scores (to which Justin Howard-Sneyd MW of Laithwaites has responded with a pretty convincing cri de coeur about how they try to ensure that any quotes and scores they use are accurate). I merely suggested that they have some system that flags up tasting notes which accompany high scores and draw attention to the fact that the wine in question might be controversial.
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