No less than seven white grape varieties are used to make Bordeaux wines, and one of them – Sauvignon Blanc – features in our Baron de Lestac white wine. Each variety has its particular traits and favourite terroir, and all have a role to play in the composition of these local wines. Let's take a look at their characteristics.
This is THE white grape of the region, and also one of the world's most widely-planted varieties. Adaptable to a variety of climates, Sauvignon Blanc has many different faces. It is particularly known for its fresh aromatic expression with notes of citrus fruit and boxwood, and its mineral character. It adds vivacity and opulence in dry white wines, as well as grassy and exotic fruit aromas. On the palate, it can be either soft and light, or richer and more complex. It is also used to make fine sweet wines like Sauternes where it displays intensity and freshness combined with tropical fruit notes.
Although Sémillon is often found in dry white wines, it is also the favoured grape for sweet and luscious wines. This variety is very susceptible to noble rot, which is how the berries' sugar content becomes highly concentrated. Rich, round and mouth-filling, with apricot and honey notes, Sémillon is highly seductive. In white wines, it has impressive power, structure and heady aromas, bringing complexity and ageing potential. In sweet white wines, it adds aromatic richness above all, translating into notes of candied fruit, mango, pineapple, citrus fruit peel, vanilla and even a hint of roasted coffee. The palate is unctuous and concentrated; if aged for a long time, it can develop dried fruit, warm spice and forest floor notes.
Muscadelle is difficult to grow and thus it has not spread far beyond south-west of France, nor is it rarely planted alone. It tends towards over-ripeness which makes it well-suited to sweet winemaking, where its notes of candied and dried fruit and spice are ideal, along with its soft, smooth texture and intense fruit character. However, it can also be used to make dry white wines, and its rich aromatic palette includes acacia blossom, peach, honeysuckle, apricot and musk. In the mouth, it is soft and supple.
This cross between Gouais Blanc and Chenin Blanc is one of the oldest varieties from Charente, dating back to the 16th century. However, it represents less than 1% of the surface area planted in Bordeaux. Colombard is very popular in the Blaye and Bourg areas where it is used to make lively, aromatic wines. It has an exuberant nose of lemon, grapefruit, white flower and passion fruit, and makes poised, racy, intense wines that should be enjoyed young.
As its name suggests, Sauvignon Gris is a pink-berried mutation of Sauvignon Blanc. When ripe, it can be easily recognised by its attractive, slightly pink colour. Widely planted before the phylloxera crisis, today it has lost some of its lustre despite enjoying a slight come back. It makes full-bodied, complex wines which are known for their power. Aromas of muscat, boxwood, smoke, lychee and toast evolve into menthol notes on the palate, with hints of orange and plenty of freshness. Generally speaking, Sauvignon Gris is more aromatically expressive than Sauvignon Blanc.
This historic variety has Italian roots; in Tuscany, it is known as Trebbiano. Its relatively neutral profile means it is one of the grapes most commonly distilled to make Cognac and Armagnac. With its light floral and fruity notes, Ugni Blanc is not very aromatic. However, thanks to its refreshing acidity, liveliness and mouth-filling character, it can brings balance to a blend, and depending on the grower, it can make fuller-bodied, richer wines.
This rare grape is a cross between Folle Blanche and Merlot Noir, but today it is only grown by a handful of producers. Although a fertile variety, Merlot Blanc is no longer being planted and has lost its former glory - possibly because it makes wines that are rather neutral in character.