Oh dear. The Bordeaux negociant Dourthe brought over its white wine guru, the amiable and talented scientist Professor Denis Dubourdieu, to London yesterday to prove to the Circle of Wine Writers that British wine commentators were being unfair to criticise the quality of white bordeaux. Four flights of whites were served blind – three dry in ascending price order and one sweet – each of them consisting of a mixture of bordeaux whites and similarly-priced wines also based on Sauvignon and a bit of Semillon from outside France. (Direct comparisons with other French wines were obviously deemed rather unsporting.)
We tasted all the wines blind. Professor Dubourdieu then commented on them (complaining about Cloudy Bay's gassiness), and then we all voted for our favourites from each flight. The event was an unqualified victory – not for Bordeaux but, most embarrassingly, for New Zealand. It was represented by just three wines, one in each of the dry white flights, and was by far the favourite of the assembled scribes. (My personal favourites in these three flights were produced in, respectively, California, New Zealand and Pessac-Léognan.)
I shall post the exact details of the wines later, but can tell you that I'm sure the professor and Jean Marie Chadronnier of Dourthe retreated to Bordeaux muttering about how corrupted the British palate had become by sweetness and gas. The fact is, however, that too many of the dry white bordeaux served lacked freshness. As for sweet wines, Bordeaux won hands down.
My tips for best buys are:
Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2001 £7.99
Just what you'd expect. Real zip and fruit. DD admitted it was well made but carped about the sweetness.
La Grande Cuvée Graves Blanc 2000 Dourthe £6.99
Many people's second favourite wine. Less expensive than the Villa Maria but more interesting, creamier and more ambitious.
Ch La Garde 2000 Pessac Léognan £11.99
The only dry wine in the entire tasting with potential to age. Savoury, mineral qualities. Lovely nose and the palate, despite having lovely lemony layers, is still a little restrained. Should be even better from next summer.
I was also impressed when tasting Dourth's basic dry white bordeaux brand Dourthe No 1 blind that for a moment I thought it was a Sancerre on the nose, so stoney and authentically dry was it. And this is a wine that sells for just £4.99. The palate is a bit lumpen though.