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2008 Ch. La Garde, (blanc) Pessac Léognan
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Scores and Reviews
Château La Garde is a rising star of the Pessac-Léognan wine appellation owned by the dynamic Bordeaux negociant company Dourthe-Kressman. It is a medium-sized property with 47 hectares of vineyards in, planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc.
The Cabernet-dominated red wines are soft, well structured and packed with smooth, ripe fruit which makes them very attractive young, though they also possess good medium-term cellaring potential. The red wines display the true Graves minerality underneath an exuberant cassis-and-plums aroma.
Albeit predominantly a red wine vineyard, it does have at its heart a small patch of land which is more suited to the production of white wine, from which a mere 1,000 cases of exquisitely-scented, vibrant white Bordeaux is produced each year.
What is unique to La Garde is the presence in the vineyard of a parcel of rare Sauvignon Gris, a close cousin of the Sauvignon Blanc but a varietal which yields a slightly richer, rounder character to the finished blend. 50% of the wine comes from this grape and the touch of complexity it imparts lifts this wine above most of its competitors.
The investment made by Dourthe in both vineyard and cellar is now beginning to bear fruit, both figuratively and literally, in the form of exceptional wines of both colours, and any re-assessment of the Pessac-Léognan classification would surely see La Garde feature amongst the Classified Growths.
An important white grape in Bordeaux and the Loire Valley that has now found fame in New Zealand and now Chile. It thrives on the gravelly soils of Bordeaux and is blended with Sémillon to produce fresh, dry, crisp Bordeaux Blancs, as well as more prestigious Cru Classé White Graves.
It is also blended with Sémillon, though in lower proportions, to produce the great sweet wines of Sauternes. It performs well in the Loire Valley and particularly on the well-drained chalky soils found in Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, where it produces bone dry, highly aromatic, racy wines, with grassy and sometimes smoky, gunflint-like nuances.
In New Zealand, Cloudy Bay in the 1980s began producing stunning Sauvignon Blanc wines with extraordinarily intense nettly, gooseberry, and asparagus fruit, that set Marlborough firmly on the world wine map. Today many producers are rivalling Cloudy Bay in terms of quality and Sauvignon Blanc is now New Zealand`s trademark grape.
It is now grown very successfully in Chile producing wines that are almost halfway between the Loire and New Zealand in terms of fruit character. After several false starts, many South African producers are now producing very good quality, rounded fruit-driven Sauvignon Blancs.
In 1986 a new communal district was created within Graves, in Bordeaux, based on the districts of Pessac and Léognan, the first of which lies within the suburbs of the city. Essentially this came about through pressure from Pessac-Léognan vignerons, who wished to disassociate themselves from growers with predominately sandy soils further south in Graves.
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.