The correct pronunciation of the last word in the title is “Grahv” by the way, but what some of us will do for a clever title… But on to the wine…In 9 of 10 pairs of ears the name “Bordeaux” brings to mind regal chateaux producing very fine, expensive, but somewhat stuffy red wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, but there’s more to this southwestern wine region than big, fancy reds. In common parlance, the name Bordeaux is something of a geographical portmanteau word that encompasses multiple wine-growing sub-regions that produce both red and white wines, and Graves is one of them.
Situated south east of the city of Bordeaux, the tiny Graves region takes its name from the rough, gravelly soil found there. And though this a region that is better known for its light, fresh and feminine reds (a character derived from this chalky, rocky ground) made from the previously mentioned varieties, a sizable amount of the total production there is also white, and that’s what was on the table this evening.
Typically, white Graves wines are made from a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon with the possible small additions of a few other local varieities. Sauvignon Blanc, which is usually the percentual leader in the blend, brings its spunky, and freshly “green” flavors and aromas for which the rich and opulent often melony character of Semillon makes the perfect foil. This particular cuvee` is comprised of 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Semillon and 10% Muscadelle, which despite the similarity in the names, has no genetic relation to any of the many Muscat cultivars. That said, Muscadelle does have some of the effusive, aromatically floral aromas of the Muscat family of vines, and indeed it is for these scents that it is blended into some white Graves wines as something of a “leavener” for Sauvignon Blanc’s pungency and Semillon’s corpulence.
And because of this careful balancing act of grape varieties developed over centuries, white Graves makes an excellent accompaniment to lighter but still boldly flavorful dishes. As a consequence, I matched this great little wine with a first course of toasts spread with Boucheron goat cheese, fig paste and toasted ground fennel seeds followed by a main course of chicken breasts in an orange, tarragon and garlic glaze with a side of leeks braised with white wine, brandy and parsley.
Chateau Coustaut Graves Blanc 2012
Pale golden color. Punchy aromas of grapefruit, gooseberry, yellow cherry, roasted herbs, sea spray, creme fraiche, and touch of lilies. The palate is medium-bodied with a cutting and nervous acidity and slightly smoke-infused flavors of green melon, Comice pear, lime zest, minerals and toasted almond. Bittterish, quinine finish.