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2012 La Croix de Carbonnieux, Ch. Carbonieux, Graves
The vineyards of Château Carbonnieux, in the superior Pessac-Léognan appellation, in the Graves region of Bordeaux, can trace its history back to the 13th century, but the history of the modern Carbonnieux dates from the 1950s, when Marc Perrin acquired the estate. A complete fresh start was made at this time when the harsh winter of 1956 wiped out the remaining vines in what were by that time rather unkempt vineyards. The new plantings were laid out to the plan perfected in the 18th century when the Château was at its peak.
Since the 1980s Carbonnieux has been producing excellent red and white wines, in the classic Pessac- Léognan style. The whites are made from roughly two thirds Sauvignon Blanc and one third Sémillon and the reds from two thirds Cabernet Sauvignon and one third Merlot. The whites are barrel-fermented and spend 10 further months in the barrel on the lees, one third of which are new, each year. The reds spend 18 months in barrel that are also one third new.
The blend used for White Graves and Sauternes and rarely encountered outside France. In the great dry whites of Graves, Sauvignon Blanc tends to predominate in the blend, although properties such as Smith Haut Lafite use 100% Sauvignon Blanc while others such as Laville Haut Brion have as much as 60% Sémillon in their final blends. Sauvignon Blanc wines can lose their freshness and fruit after a couple of years in bottle - if blended with Sémillon, then the latter bolsters the wine when the initial fruit from the Sauvignon fades. Ultimately Sauvignon Blanc gives the wine its aroma and raciness while Sémillon gives it backbone and longevity.
In Sauternes, Sémillon is dominant, with Sauvignon Blanc playing a supporting role - it is generally harvested about 10 days before Sémillon and the botrytis concentrates its sweetness and dampens Sauvignon Blanc`s naturally pungent aroma. It contributes acidity, zip and freshness to Sauternes and is an important component of the blend.
Graves is the region which first established Bordeaux's wine reputation. Its wines were exported to England as early as the 12th century and Samuel Pepys drank Ho Bryan (sic) in London on 10th April, 1663.
The names Graves is derived from ‘gravel’ and the best soils are gravel-rich, mixed with sand and occasionally clay. Graves is larger in areas than the Médoc but produces only half the amount of wine. The best wines of Graves were initially classified in 1953 with this classification being confirmed in 1959.
Until 1987, this entire region, which runs immediately south of the city of Bordeaux until it reaches Sauternes, was known as the Graves and its entirety is still sometimes informally referred to as such, but from the 1986 vintage a new communal district was created within Graves, based on the districts of Pessac and Léognan, the first of which lies within the suburbs of the city.
Pessac-Léognan has the best soils of the region, very similar to those of the Médoc, although the depth of gravel is more variable, and contains all the Classed Growths of the region. Some of its great names, including Ch. Haut-Brion, even sit serenely and resolutely in Bordeaux's southern urban sprawl.
The climate is milder than to the north of the city, and the harvest can occur up to two weeks earlier. This gives the best wines a heady, rich and almost savoury character, laced with notes of tobacco, spice and leather. Further south, the soil is sandier with more clay, and the wines are lighter, fruity and suitable for earlier drinking.
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