No matter what its name, the Verdillac Blanc is classic white Bordeaux — and for just $9
What’s in a name? Is this wine called Armand Roux Verdillac Blanc? Or just Verdillac Blanc? If so, is it a different wine and producer than the ones listed in the cyber-ether for previous vintages where it’s called Armand Roux? Or what about the 2015 called Armand Roux?
Let’s call it Verdillac Blanc ($9, purchased, 12%), since that’s what the importer calls it. And let’s hope that the confusion about the name doesn’t translate into availability problems. Because this French wine, made with sauvignon blanc, is about as classic a white wine from Bordeaux as you’ll taste any more at this price.
That means clean and fresh, from front to finish – no bitterness, no excess acidity, no lingering sweetness passed off as “fruitiness.” It’s a little stony, with the requisite lemon fruit and quite enjoyable – much more enjoyable than I expected.
Drink this chilled on its own, and especially as the days get warmer. It’s a terrific picnic and back porch wine, and will pair with salads, roasted vegetables drizzled in olive oil, and chicken on the grill.
The Chateau Godichaud is cheap, well made white Bordeaux
Sometimes, wine surprises you. You taste something, and you look at the label, you taste it again, and you go, “I don’t remember this tasting this way.” And that it can be surprising is one of the good things about wine, and the Chateau Godichaud fits that mold.
Even though the Chateau Godichaud ($10, purchased, 12.5%) has appeared on the blog before, I’m never quite sure what to make of it. Sometimes, it’s a traditional white Bordeaux blend, with minerality and the body that comes from adding semillon to the sauvignon blanc. And sometimes, like this vintage, it’s almost New Zealand citrusy.
Regardless, it’s almost always well made, and this vintage is no exception (though I would prefer a little more Bordeaux style). Look for lots of grapefruit and associated citrus flavors, and though the finish isn’t short or bitter, there isn’t as much minerality as I expect in a white Bordeaux.
But it’s certainly $10 worth of wine, and especially when even New Zealand sauvignon blancs are having a difficult time hitting the value point. Serve this chilled for porch sipping or any summer outdoor cookout with chicken or seafood.
The Francois Thienpont Blanc is $10 white Bordeaux that offers quality and value
The Wine Curmudgeon always admits when he is wrong, and boy, was I wrong about European wine prices. I was convinced, being the grouch that I am, that there was no way retailers, distributors, and importers would pass along the savings from the euro’s collapse over the past year. But they did, and the Francois Thienpont Blanc is a prime example.
The Francois Thienpont Blanc ($10, purchased, 12%) is a white Bordeaux made only with sauvignon blanc, so it’s a little more simple and not quite as polished as a sauvignon blanc blend like the Chateau Bonnet. But that’s no reason not to buy it – in fact, the wine is almost $10 Hall of Fame quality.
Look for lime as as opposed to lemon fruit, a crisp finish, and some of the minerality that is common with white wines from France’s Bordeaux region. Drink this chilled on its own, or with any roast chicken or grilled shrimp dish. And be very glad that the WC is not perfect.
Reviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month.
• Eden Ridge Chardonnay 2013 ($13, sample, 14.5%): This California white shows everything that is wrong-headed about premiumization – $7 or $8 worth of wine that costs one-third more. It’s hot, with an alcoholic tang; stemmy and bitter; doused with oak; and without all that much fruit.
• Campo Viejo Rioja 2014: ($10, purchased, 13%): Spanish red made with tempranillo that proves not all Spanish wine is a great value. It’s grocery store plonk that tastes about as Spanish as a glass of water, with sweet fruit and too much oak.
• Bonny Doon Gravitas 2014 ($16, purchased, 13.5%): Proper white Bordeaux channeled through California, so brighter citrus fruit, less flinty, and a little rounder, but still delicious. The difference between this wine and the first two is so vast that it’s difficult to put into words.
• Planeta Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2014 ($20, purchased, 13%): This red blend from one of my favorite Sicilian producers was sadly disappointing. Though it’s well made, with red fruit and some spice, there’s not enough going on for what it cost: Not complex enough, with almost no finish; not enough Sicilian dark fruit; and not earthy enough.
The biggest mistake I made with this wine was not buying a case after I tasted the first bottle. But I only bought two bottles the next time, and the Les Maurins was gone the third time I went back to the store.
Which is the catch for the Les Maurins ($7, purchased, 12%) – otherwise a $10 Hall of Fame wine. It’s an Aldi product in the U.S. (though apparently widely available in Europe), which means availability is always going to be a problem.
Which is incredibly frustrating, because this is a great cheap wine – not quite as well done as the $10 Chateau Bonnet Blanc, but very well done and so much better than most of the wine that costs $7 that I have to taste. For one thing, it’s a white wine from the Bordeaux region of France that tastes like white Bordeaux, with lemon-lime fruit, chalky minerality, and a very clean finish. It’s not too citrusy or too fruity, two common problems with cheap white Bordeaux (much of which isn’t all that cheap at $12 to $15).
So those of us in the 33 states with Aldi stores should watch for the Les Maurins. There is also a $7 Les Maurins red Bordeaux, which is apparently as equally as well made as the white and is a big hit in Australia. Hopefully, that will show up here sooner rather than later.
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.
? Mateus Rose NV ($5, purchased, 11%): I don’t remember this wine, popular when I was in high school, tasting like raspberry 7 Up. But that was a long time ago. The wine has been repackaged since then, so that it’s in a clear glass bottle instead of the traditional green and doesn’t look quite the same as it did. And maybe it did taste like raspberry 7 Up all those years ago, which isn’t offensive — just odd.
? Chateau Graville-Lacoste Graves 2014 ($20, purchased, 12%): The legendary Kermit Lynch imports this French white Bordeaux, and it’s another example why you should buy any wine that has Lynch’s name on it. Look for freshness, minerality, and a clean sort of citrus flavor. Well worth every penny of the $20 it cost.
? Muga Rioja Reserva 2011 ($23, purchased, 13%): This Spanish tempranillo blend from one of my favorite producers was much lusher and fruitier than I expected, without as much of the tart cherry acidity and herbal appeal that I like about wines from the Rioja region. Having said that, it’s well worth drinking, and should age for close to forever. As it does, the fruit and oak will probably give way to more traditional flavors.
?Peter Yealands Pinot Gris 2014 ($12, purchased, 13%): Why grocery store wine makes me crazy. Yealands is a respected New Zealand producer, and this white should have been delicious. But the bottle I bought was a previous vintage that was bitter and pithy on the back, and much of the fruit, freshness and crispness — hallmarks of pinot gris — were gone. Who knows how long it was sitting and baking in some warehouse? Did anyone at Kroger care?
Is any wine worth $100 a bottle? That’s the question the Wine Curmudgeon has been agonizing over since I started this wine thing all those years ago, and I still don’t know that I have an answer. But I do know how much fun it was to taste the Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc 2011 ($100, sample, 13%) to try to find the answer.
The Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc is a beautiful wine, a white Bordeaux that takes what most of us know about that blend and says, “Close your eyes, taste this, and don’t say anything quite yet.” There is so much going on, so many layers of flavor — lemon, honey, almonds, spring flowers, peaches, minerality — that I don’t even know where to start to describe it. It’s also very young; the layers overlap and nudge each other, each vying for attention. Eventually — two years? three? four ? — they’ll start to blend, and the wine will be that much more impressive.
Finally, a word about oak. Regular visitors here know how I feel, that oak should be part of the wine and not its reason for being. Also, white Bordeaux, given that it’s made with sauvignon blanc, is difficult to oak well. The Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc turns all of that on its head, and the oak is another layer that adds quality, flavor, and complexity — and it too, will eventually blend into the whole.
Highly recommended, and a wonderful gift for anyone who loves and cares about wine. And if you do taste it, let me know if it answers the $100 question.