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Tasting: Chateau Le Bruilleau 2011

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An aged, Semillon-dominant Bordeaux Blanc. This is going to be interesting.

Full disclaimer: tasted via sample received from distributor.

Semillon. There is no grape on earth quite like it. I’m probably biased since I grow the damn thing – but this is nothing like the Hunter Valley Semillons I’m used to.

Semillon has a history of always being a bit of a ‘lesser’ grape – it’s a lesser grape in Bordeaux, outside of Sauternes and Barsac, and around the world it’s seen as a good blending grape (more often with Sauvignon Blanc in a Bordeaux Blanc style) then a single variety.

So often is it blended as a lesser component with Sauvignon Blanc that finding a Semillon-dominant wine from Bordeaux that isn’t sweet is a rare treasure indeed.

This example comes from Pessac-Leognan in Graves – left bank, south of the city of Bordeaux. It’s a blend of Semillon (70%) and Sauvignon Blanc (30%) and comes from a small 2.10 hectare vineyard owned and run by the same family for four generations.

Barrel fermented, then 50% spending 9 months in new french oak, the other 50% in temperature controlled vats and around 9 months on fine lees.

This is an interesting wine.

Brilliant yellow colour, call it gold. Lots of aged characters hit you straight away – almond, marzipan, a nutty, toasty element with some bread and hay. After exposure to oxygen, you get some more primary characteristics, but the main takeaway here is all secondary and tertiary.

The palate has some intensity but again, it’s all about aged characters – dried apricot, nuts, ginger and a slight cheesey/buttery element. Fruit flavours of lemon and lychee are there, but they struggle to make their presence known. This is not a wine for lovers of crisp, young flavours – it’s a complex little thing that’s going to take some time to open up.

I tasted this wine ahead of a run of Semillon masterclasses we’re running in the cellar door over summer – looking for something to put France on the map. Whilst this wine doesn’t quite fill that brief, there’s enough going on here to make me think it could be worthwhile including as an aged example of Bordeaux Blanc.

It’s going to be an interesting summer.

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