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2015 Ch. Villa Bel-Air Blanc, Graves
Château Villa Bel-Air is located in the Southern part of Graves, in the parish of Saint-Morillon, near La Brède. Villa Bel-Air's buildings have been listed as part of France's historical monuments and are a perfect illustration of the French Revolution period.
In 1988, the Cazes family, already owners of Châteaux Lynch-Bages and Les Ormes de Pez, bought Villa Bel-Air. Jean-Michel Cazes undertook an important programme of restoration and enlisted Daniel Llose (General Technical Manager for the Cazes family) and Guy Delestrac to improve the vineyards. The old parcels of land, which had been pulled out, were replanted and the property was equipped with a new drainage system.
The production at Villa Bel-Air is done with great care and the wines are traditionally fermented in stainless steel. After blending, the wines are oak aged for 12 to 15 months and each barrel is racked every three months. The wines produced are supple, elegant, well balanced and display luscious tannins.
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.
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