A thoroughly grown-up dry white from an impeccable team. Compare and contrast the price with its white burgundy counterparts.
From €16.98, 19.90 Swiss francs, $24.99, £19.50, HK$250, 321.30 Norwegian kroner
Ch Lafleur in Pomerol is more expensive than any Médoc first growth and is third in line behind only Petrus and Le Pin as Bordeaux’s most expensive red. How about a taste of the precision and winemaking detail of the Guinaudeau family, who own and make Lafleur, for the prices spelt out above?
Okay, this wine is white not red. And is grown not in Pomerol but on the home farm of Jacques and Sylvie Guinaudeau in Mouillac about 10 km (6 miles) north-west of Fronsac. But it is a truly serious Sauvignon Blanc that would withstand comparison with the best of them and can fully justify its price.
Since Jacques and Sylvie were joined at the start of this century by their son Baptiste and his talented wife Julie, who live at Ch Lafleur with their young family, there has been a fresh look at all aspects of vine-growing and winemaking. Ch Grand Village Blanc was always a bit of a bargain but it is so much more sophisticated now.
It comes from a 2.3-hectare (5.7-acre) clay-limestone vineyard that was replanted in the early 1990s and to which were added specially selected Sauvignon Blanc vines from Sancerre about 20 years later. Roughly half of the Sauvignon Blanc in the 2018, which constitutes 75% of the blend, is from those Sancerre plants. The rest of the blend is Bordeaux’s traditional blending partner Sémillon. In 2018 there was a very narrow ideal picking window, according to Baptiste, with all the Sémillon picked between 31 August (as captured by Alexandra Lebon in the image above) and 4 September, and the Sauvignon Blanc from 3 to 6 September. Baptiste observed that this tipped him off to expect a narrow picking window for his Merlot grapes too in 2018.
Half the wine was vinified in tank, as all of Ch Grand Village Blanc used to be in totality, but the other half was made in barrel. Twenty per cent of the blend went into new barrels and the remaining 30% into second-use barrels. The wine is a relatively modest 13% alcohol.
As it happens we have three tasting notes on the 2018 vintage of Ch Grand Village Blanc in our database of nearly 210,000 reviews, by me last January and in May 2020 and by Julia when tasting the 2018s en primeur in Bordeaux in April 2019. We reproduce all three with their scores and drinking windows below.
15 Jan 2021 I think you can smell the Sancerre component (Sancerre also supplied the plant material for the new white wine of Ch Cheval Blanc – see Bordeaux sprouts dry whites). Very mineral and refreshing. Bone dry and with lots of chalky chewiness on the end. Really long and refreshing. Obviously made with enormous care and attention. Quite an impact on the inside of the mouth and SO much more youthful than most of the Grand Cercle 2018 dry white bordeaux I have been tasting. Crystal clear and precise. I wouldn't open a bottle until quite late into 2021. VGV 16.5 2021–26
20 May 2020 The Sémillon is really making its presence felt on the nose. And then it's pungent and a little reductive on the palate. This is a serious food wine that we've followed since 2004. It gets better and better with every vintage and I could almost imagine mistaking it for a young Domaine de Chevalier if served it blind. Quite an achievement! Not at all fat but satisfyingly broad on the palate. Liquorice hint on the finish. 17 2019–24
3 April 2019 Cask sample. Herbal and just slightly smokily reductive. Intense herbal citrus on the palate, beautifully fresh and finely dry. Chalky texture and persistent stony quality on the palate. Much more mid-palate intensity than many other whites this year. (JH) 17 2020–24
I think you can see that this is no fly-by-night varietal Sauvignon but a wine to be proud of serving the most discriminating guest (should you be allowed to entertain, I have to add in this era of pandemic-inspired restrictions). I think it would ideally be drunk with a meal, although Sylvie Guinaudeau emailed me last week to tell me that she and Jacques particularly enjoy sipping this vintage while listening to music of an evening.
In the UK the wine is available from Exel Wines at £19.50 and from importer Justerini & Brooks at £19.68. Armit Wines feature six-packs on their website but state 'price on application'. According to Wine-Searcher.com there are many other retailers in France, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Norway, Hong Kong and, especially, in the US.
See all of our articles tagged Sauvignon Blanc.