Chateau Olivier Pessac-Leognan Blanc 2013 and Chateau de Fieuzal Pessac-Leognan Blanc 2012
Fads and brand are fascinating. While red Bordeaux has broken all sorts of price and culture barriers, creating a luxury brand that has been gobbled up particularly by wealthy Chinese buyers, white Bordeaux remains one of the world’s great wines at quite fair prices for the quality.
At the BCLDB’s 2013 Bordeaux release I was not surprised to see most of the very unsatisfactory red Bordeauxs sell out early but the vastly superior quality and QPR whites languish on the store floor. The wealthy buyers, particularly Chinese buyers, do not desire these wines with the same all-consuming passion as the reds. That’s a boon for buyers who are not in the 1%. Typically white Bordeaux is hard to find in most markets, but BC offers a broad selection of high quality estates and reasonably fair pricing.
2013 v. 2012
2013 is a truly great vintage for Bordeaux white. June was cold and wet. July saw a massive rain and hail storm. Heat in July, August and early September helped the vintage along and the grapes ripen, but late September saw a huge rain storm and massively increased moisture and humidity, threatening rot. As such, the harvest began in late September and went into early October, which is earlier than most domaines were hoping. Botrytis was rampant and yields very low. Luckily the white grapes faired well with the conditions for higher acidity giving structure to the finished wines. Now that they have been bottled, the overall quality for white is extremely high, and better even than expected. Though the overall density is lesser than the 2012 vintage, the completeness of the wines is remarkable and they are fresher, more complex and better balanced than the last several years. These wines can drink now and offer great value for the cellar.
2012 is also an excellent vintage for white. Though flowering was uneven and there were rains that pushed up the red wine harvest by a week from mid to early October, the white varieties were all picked in September during optimal conditions. Because the evenings were quite cold, there was less botrytis than usual. These wines are lower in acidity than the 2013s but still fresh. In my view they offer less balance and vibrancy than the 2013s, making them a step down on the overall quality ladder, but are still excellent and impressive wines overall.
It is extremely interesting to compare 2013 to 2012 white Bordeaux (both of which remain available in our market) because it shows what the top estates can do with significantly different vintage conditions, and also offers a strong study in terroir vs. vintage influences.
Chateau Olivier is one of Bordeaux’s oldest estates. Its 220 hectares are planted with 50 ha’s of vines, with the rest creating a biodiverse estate with forests and grazing land. The white vines are on the older side at 40 years average age. The breakdown is 12 hectares planted 55% Semillon, 40% Sauvignon Blanc and 5% Muscadelle. This makes about 3,000 cases. The white sees a cold soak maceration for 33% of the grapes prior to fermentation. Fermentation takes place in steel, is finished in oak and the wine is then aged in oak under lees prior to bottling.
Olivier is one of the best value premium whites in the province right now. The quality is in the upper echelon for white wine but the pricing is within reach. Expect the 2013 to be extremely alive, scented, complex, long and elegant.
Excellent to Excellent+ and Highly Recommended Value
$60 + tax at BCLDB
Chateau de Fieuzal plants its white grapes in a 50/50 split between Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. Vines average 35 years age. Vinification and ageing is in 50% new French Oak and there is no malolactic fermentation. Like Olivier, Fieuzal makes a tiny 3,000 cases of white on average per vintage.
The 2012 Fieuzal blanc is richly textured and impressively concentrated. It is not as fresh at the 2013 version (of either Olivier or Fieuzal), but its lower acid profile will offer pleasure to those looking for a softer wine that yet retains structure and complexity.
$79 + tax at BCLDB