Retailers should not be surprised to see distributors stocking their shelves over the next few weeks with white Bordeaux and Italian whites. And we’re not talking about Prosecco and Pinot Grigio.
Over the past three years, winemakers have noticed there’s been a steady growth in the sales of blended white wines.
For instance, Bordeaux whites may represent only about 9% of production, but their sales climbed nearly 18% to €21.87 million ($27.07 million) in 2017. That’s up from €18.58 million ($23 million) in 2015, according to the Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux.
Retailers have a range of recommendations for customers looking for medium- and full-bodied whites, including bottlings from Entre-Deux-Mers, such as Château Bonnet’s White (SRP $7), and Château du Champ’s Treilles Vin Passion (SRP $10), produced by biodynamic champion Corinne Comme in Côtes de Bordeaux. Both of these wines are blends of Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Muscadelle.
Other dry white Bordeaux-style, well-structured and delicate offerings hail mainly from Graves and Pessac-Léognan. Not unlike their red cousins, they, too, are barrel-aged and spend months on the lees, so it would not be surprising to find that the whites of Clos Floridène and Château Latour-Martillac, Grand Cru Classé de Graves (SRP $29 and $36, respectively) can be aged for 10 years or more.
The Blend Trend Expands in Italy
The Bordelais are not alone in noticing the sales growth of white blends.
“There seems to be a movement in Tuscany and Italy, generally speaking, towards rediscovering the potential for fine white wines,” said Axel Heinz, Ornellaia’s winemaker, in an email. The iconic super Tuscan winery has been experimenting with different grapes and vinification methods for its white, Poggio alle Gazze dell’Ornellaia, for several years.
It’s no longer 100% Sauvignon Blanc, according to Heinz. Instead, it has become “a blend of Sauvignon, Viognier and Vermentino. The vineyards have changed, too. We virtually replaced them all in different sites.
“The vinification has evolved from 100% stainless steel to a 100% barrel-fermented to now a mix of barrel fermentation, stainless steel (tanks) and concrete eggs. Our goal is to make a wine that is immediately pleasant, but with enough substance and structure to age,” he said. It has an average price of $57 a bottle, according to wine-searcher.
In Sicily, the blend trend is also in full swing. Firriato’s Le Sabbie dell’Etna Bianco, a blend of two native grapes, Carricante and Catarratto, credits its sharp minerality and crisp acidity to the volcanic soils of Mt. Etna. It’s becoming part of the effort to give volcanic wines their own identity. It generally sells for $21 a bottle.