The Two Grapes that Define White Bordeaux Wine | Wine Enthusiast
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The Two Grapes that Define White Bordeaux Wine

Blending Sauvignon Blanc with Sémillon is a classic French white wine technique, most popularly associated with Bordeaux. But the combination has taken off across the world and wines utilizing the style can be found throughout Australia, California, New Zealand and Washington State.

The grapes work so well together because Sémillon brings body and rounds out Sauvignon Blanc’s tart acidity and herbal notes.

For those looking to fully explore the style’s versatility, we’ve included selections across a wide range of blend percentages. Worth noting, some selections are white wines that can also age in the bottle. Regardless of whether you cellar or savor now, these white wines are the perfect choice for springtime.

Château Carbonnieux 2017 Blanc (Pessac-Léognan); $45, 95 points. This wine’s smooth texture is deceptive. Under this creamy guise, a taut, steely character promises long-term aging. Richness and fruitiness harmonize with complexity. Drink from 2022. Monsieur Touton Selection Ltd. Cellar Selection. –Roger Voss

Calluna 2018 Estate Blanc Sauvignon Blanc-Sémillon (Chalk Hill); $35, 93 points. Light and creamy, this is an impressive, small-production wine made from 67% Sauvignon Blanc and 33% Sémillon grown high up on the producer’s estate. Fruity and flinty, it excels in interwoven flavors of peach, melon and lemon, finishing crisp and complex. –Virginie Boone

DeLille 2018 Chaleur Blanc (Columbia Valley); $35, 93 points. Sauvignon Blanc makes up most of this blend at 71%, with the rest Sémillon. Aromas of gooseberry, herb, the underside of a pineapple, miso and toast are followed by full-bodied, intense, richly textured kiwi, pineapple and herb flavors that show great depth. A hyperextended finish follows. It’s the best example of this style in the state. Best after 2022. Cellar Selection. –Sean P. Sullivan

L’Ecole No. 41 2018 Luminesce Seven Hills Vineyard Estate Grown Sauvignon Blanc-Sémillon (Walla Walla Valley); $22, 91 points. Sauvignon Blanc takes the lead in this vintage, making up 55% of the blend. Aromas of fig, spice, corn husk and herb emerge on the nose. The palate is considerably more giving, with a creamy feel to the fig and spice flavors that lead to a warm finish. Editors’ Choice. –S.S.

Voyager Estate 2018 Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon (Margaret River); $24, 91 points. No other wine quite compares to a Margaret River SBS and Voyager’s version perfectly encapsulates this unique style. A 68% and 32% blend, this wine is aromatic and vegetal without veering into canned string-bean territory. Gentle notes of tomato leaf and green bell pepper walk alongside tropical and stone fruits, wet stone minerality, and slightly reductive white-spice and salt characters. On the palate, the Semillon gets its chance to shine, chalky in texture yet prickly from the acidity. If you’ve never tried an Aussie SBS, this is the perfect place to start. Hudson Wine Brokers. Editors’ Choice. –Christina Pickard

Château Haut-Rian 2018 Bordeaux Blanc; $15, 90 points. A bright and fruity wine, this has a ripe character, with hints of yellow fruits as well as warm acidity. An attractive tangy character gives the wine lift. Drink now. VOS Selections. Best Buy. –R.V.

Château Turcaud 2018 Entre-Deux-Mers; $17, 90 points. This ripe, concentrated wine has a strong texture with a tangy, perfumed character. The bite of spice is a strong element in a wine that needs some aging. Drink from 2020. Sussex Wine Merchants. Editors’ Choice. –R.V.

Pegasus Bay 2016 Sauvignon-Semillon (North Canterbury); $30, 90 points. This 70–30 blend of Sauvignon and Semillon is a textural and nuanced drop. High solids and a little Chardonnay-like on the nose, it wafts salted nuts, honey and smoky, flinty nuances. Underneath lie subtle citrus characters. The mouthfeel is both slippery and refreshing, a delicate balanced of texture and acidity. This could age nicely in bottle. Drink now through 2027. Empson USA Ltd. –C.P.

Picardy 2017 Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon (Pemberton); $28, 90 points. This small-batch producer from the tiny wine region of Pemberton in Western Australia produces high quality wines in a traditional Burgundian and Bordelais vein. The Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon blend offers bright citrus, passion fruit, honeycomb and dried herbal notes. The palate zips with fresh acidity and a lovely, powdery texture, softened by fleshy fruit. An ultra food-friendly drop with the ability to age several more years in bottle. Little Peacock Imports. –C.P.

Velvet Bee 2017 Queen Bee Blanc (Santa Ynez Valley); $23, 90 points. It’s always exciting to see what winemakers do with Sémillon, which remains uncommon in this part of the world. This bottling blends it 50-50 with its traditional partner, Sauvignon Blanc to produce aromas of lemon skins, apple rinds and earthy, hot sandstone. There is a slight oily and waxy character to the palate, where flavors of light almond and lemon skin arise. –Matt Kettmann

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