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Bordeaux can also be a white wine *mind blown*

Richard Holmes suggests some of South Africa's best white Bordeauxs to sip this winter

13 July 2018 - 00:00 By Richard Holmes
If you love Bordeaux red blends, then you may want to try white Bordeaux, which is usually a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.
If you love Bordeaux red blends, then you may want to try white Bordeaux, which is usually a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. 
Image: 123RF/Victority

The French region of Bordeaux is famous for its iconic red blends, typically combining Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. But did you know there’s an elegant blend of white wines to match?

White Bordeaux is usually a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, the former contributing bright fruit and acidity, the latter bringing richness and texture.

“Sauvignon Blanc is fantastic on its own, but the addition of the Semillon adds another layer of complexity,” says Conrad Vlok, winemaker at Strandveld Wines near Cape Agulhas. Their Strandveld Adamastor is a superb example of the style, with tank-fermented Sauvignon Blanc melding beautifully with barrel-aged Semillon.

“Our area is perfectly suited to this style of blend,” adds Conrad. “The naturally harsh conditions control vine vigour, and the cool temperatures and maritime climate ensure long hang time, slow ripening and great flavour development while still maintaining good natural acidity.”

Another excellent example comes in the Constantia Glen Two, where the 2017 vintage includes a dash of Semillon fermented in clay amphorae.

Despite the drought, the vineyards “still delivered a wine that is fresh, elegant and restrained. The acidity of the 2017 whites is remarkable and this, coupled with the fantastic depth and concentration of flavour, bodes very well for ageing potential,” says winemaker Justin van Wyk.

While coastal vineyards deliver some of my favourite Bordeaux whites, Elgin winery Highlands Road swops sea breezes for mountain setting in their excellent Sine Cera 2015.

“The flavour spectrum of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc is similar, but the structure and character are different while being superbly complementary,” explains owner Michael White. “The careful wooding of this wine, on top of signature Elgin fruit and typical minerality, give it sophistication and complexity.”

The same could be said for the Drie Papen Fontein blend from Fairview. Though the cellar’s in Paarl, winemaker Anthony de Jager turned to Darling vineyards – with some coastal influence for the fruit – for this almost even blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.

Look for lemony freshness, salty minerality and subtle oak on the nose, while “the high proportion of Semillon in this blend adds a complexity and rich mouthfeel which will allow the wine to mature in the bottle,” says Anthony.

This article was originally published in the Sunday Times Neighbourhood: Property and Lifestyle guides. Visit Yourneighbourhood.co.za