The Calvet Blanc white Bordeaux is fresh, modern, and a very fair value
A long time ago, in a wine world far, far away, most quality wine shops sold cheap and enjoyable white Bordeaux. You could even find it in supermarkets. The reason that it was so inexpensive and plentiful is that French producers made too much of it, even for a wine drinking country like France.
The difference between then and today? Premiumization. There is still too much white Bordeaux in the world, but since it’s less expensive, we see less of it. Because the wine business has to sell us $15 wine that’s much less interesting.
So when the Wine Curmudgeon finds something like the Calvet Blanc ($11, purchased, 11.5%), he buys it. It’s more modern in style than white Bordeaux from the old days, made entirely of sauvingon blanc (so no semillon, which was quite common then).
The Calvet Blanc is a little more New Zealand in style than I like, with more grapefruit than the subtler lemon and lime. And there isn’t a lot of the traditional minerality. But it’s not simple or dull, the grapefruit isn’t over the top, there’s a little grassyness to add interest, and the finish is long, clean, and stony. In all, the wine is more than drinkable and a very fair value.
The new vintage of the 2019 Cheap Wine of the Year shows the Chateau La Graviere Blanc at its $10 best
What does the Chateau La Graviere Blanc, the 2019 Cheap Wine of the Year, do for an encore? Produce another interesting, value-driven wine in the new vintage.
The Chateau La Graviere Blanc ($10, purchased, 13%), a French white blend from Bordeaux, has been one of the joys of my wine drinking over the past couple of years. It has remained high-quality $10 wine at a time when too much of the wine world cares more about adding sugar and raising prices.
The 2018 version of the Chateau La Graviere Blanc is richer and heavier than the 2017, thanks to the semillon blended with the sauvignon blanc. But know that neither is a bad thing; it shows off the wine’s terroir and reminds us that vintage differences can make a wine more interesting.
Look for some citrus and an almost California aroma of grassiness. There is lots of minerality, which is what a white Bordeaux should have, and the fullness in the mouth moves toward a long and clean finish. This is a food wine, but you can also chill and sip it when you want a glass of after work.
Highly recommended, and it will return to the $10 Hall of Fame in 2020.
This edition of Ask the WC: Where to find affordable white Bordeaux, plus crossing state lines with illegal wine, and the lower alcohol trend
Because the customers always have questions, and the Wine Curmudgeon has answers in this irregular feature. You can Ask the Wine Curmudgeon a wine-related question by clicking here.
Hi, Wine Curmudgeon: Can you help me find an affordable white Bordeaux? Recently had a $36 bottle of the white blend that was heavenly but out of my daily price range. Looking for value
Dear Value: Premiumization strikes again. Fortunately, there is still plenty of quality, cheap white Bordeaux — the white wine, often a blend of sauvingon blanc and semillion, from the Bordeaux region of France. Chateau Bonnet, which is one of the great cheap wines of all time, is mostly available nationally and should be less than $15. Whole Foods’ Château La Gravière Blanc was the 2019 cheap wine of the year. And you can always use the search box on the upper right hand side of the blog — type in white Bordeaux.
Dear Wine Curmudgeon: I’ve heard that it’s illegal to buy wine in one state and then bring it back into your state. Is that true, or just another urban myth? Bootlegging wine
Dear Bootlegging: Yes, it may be illegal, depending on the state where you buy the wine and the state that is its final destination. Because, of course, three-tier. It would require an attorney and a couple of thousands dollars worth of consultation to be more specific about the various states and their penalties. But know that if you’re driving with wine purchased in another state, and you’re stopped for speeding in your state, there’s a chance that your wine can be confiscated and you can be fined.
Hello WC: I heard a story on NPR that young people aren’t drinking as much as we used to drink. That can’t be true, can it? Young people always drink, don’t they? Isn’t that part of being young? Aging Baby Boomer
Dear Aging: Here’s how much of a trend people in the booze business think this is: I wrote two stories this summer, for different trade magazines, about young people drinking less alcohol. So, yes, there seems to be something to the idea that the youngest Gen Xers, the Millennials, and the oldest Gen Zs aren’t as enamored of getting drunk as the Baby Boomers were at that age. The experts I talked to cited any number of reasons, but one struck me. When I was 19, it was a rite of passage to drive drunk. Today, we have designated drivers. Hence, a significant culture change.
Château La Gravière Blanc, a French white blend, is the blog’s second annual Cheap Wine of the Year
It wasn’t easy, in the past year of drinking dangerously, to find a cheap wine to uphold the standards we’ve worked so hard to maintain over the past 11 years. Yes, there were plenty of $10 roses that were worthy, but cheap wine should be about more than rose. Fortunately, we have the Château La Gravière Blanc as the blog’s second annual Cheap Wine of the Year.
The Château La Gravière Blanc ($10, purchased, 12.5%) is a white French blend from the Bordeaux sub-region of Entre-Deux-Mers, which is mostly known for making truckloads of cheap wine that tastes like cheap wine. That’s the last thing the La Graviere is.
It combines traditional white Bordeaux style and terroir with modern winemaking; hence a delicious wine that is not simple or stupid. The wine features fresh lemon fruit as well as an almost California-style grassiness, but it also comes close to an old-fashioned white Bordeaux minerality. This used to be common in these kinds of wines, but it as rare these days as a Big Wine dry red that is actually dry. The difference may be more semillion in the blend than sauvignon blanc, so the wine isn’t another New Zealand knockoff.
Drink this chilled, either on its own or with chef-style salads, roast chicken, or grilled shrimp. This is the kind of wine you buy one bottle of and then go back for a case. Which is I did.
• Sacha Lichine Single Blend Rose 2017 ($10, purchased, %): Quality $10 pink from the Languedoc, so it’s not quite as subtle as something from Provence. But the wine uses first-class grenache, so it’s not too jellyish. Hence a crisp, fresh, and enjoyable wine. Look for strawberry fruit and a stony kind of finish. Imported by Shaw-Ross International
• Château La Gravière Blanc 2017 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This white French Bordeaux is almost certainly the best cheap wine I tasted in 2018. It did everything cheap wine should do — offer value, be varietally correct, and taste delicious. Some lemon fruit with an almost grassiness, and old-fashioned white Bordeaux minerality. The difference may be more semillion in the blend than sauvignon blanc, so the wine isn’t a New Zealand knockoff. Highly recommended. Imported by Luneau USA
• Rotari Trento Brut 2013 ($18, sample, 12.5%): Impeccably made Prosecco. the Italian sparkling wine. Look for berry fruit, plus more body and depth than in cheaper Proseccos, as well as deliciously tight bubbles. If there’s a catch, it’s the price. Imported by Prestige Wine Imports
Reviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month.
• French Bar Petite Sirah 2015 ($19, sample, 13.9%): This California red tastes of stewed plums and is big and rich — about what you would expect from a $19 petite sirah where the heavy bottle and fancy foil seal probably cost more than the wine.
• Domaine du Seuil 2016 ($18, purchased, 12%): Nicely done white Bordeaux with not too tart lemon fruit; clean, minerally, and enjoyable. However, there’s nothing especially exciting about it, and especially at this price. Imported by Scott Levy Selections
• Chateau Pajzos Furmint 2016 ($12, purchased, 12%): Would that a Hungarian white like this, made with the less known furmint grape, would be the next big thing. Look for a little spice, some stone fruit, and a touch of sweetness. But it’s also fresh and lively. Highly recommended, but may be difficult to find. Imported by Wines with Conviction
• Bertani Bertarose Rose 2017 ($15, sample, 12%): Pleasant, if overpriced, Italian rose that is fresh and clean, with a bit of tart berry fruit. Find this at $10 or $12 and you’ve got a fine value. Imported by Palm Bay International
Find the Chateau Godichaud for $12, and congratulate yourself on wine shopping well done
The recent post about inflated Bordeaux wine prices is the ideal introduction to Chateau Goudichaud. This is a white blend from the Bordeaux region of France that should cost $10 or $12 but can be twice as expensive in the U.S. Its European grocery store price? About $10.
I was lucky; there was a 20 percent off sale when I bought the Chateau Godichaud ($12, purchased, 12.5%) this summer. As my notes say: “It is what it always is — $9 or $10 worth of white Bordeaux that costs as much as $20 in the U.S. because it’s from Bordeaux.
This is not damning with faint praise; rather, it’s pointing out how difficult it is to find value these days. The Chateau Godichaud is a terrific wine at $10 or $12, and I’d pay $15 for it in a pinch. But $20? It’s time for beer.
Look for a little stoniness, not too much citrus, and a fresh and clean approach despite the older vintage. In this, the semillon in the blend balances the sauvignon blanc and doesn’t turn the wine soft or flabby. There’s a pleasant richness in the mouth I didn’t expect. All in all, it’s the kind of simple, enjoyable, and straightforward weeknight wine that you can chill and drink with takeout roast chicken – the kind of wine we used to be able to buy all the time. Now, we need to hope it’s on sale.