Château Carbonnieux: the legendary white wine from Bordeaux

In this article, I want to talk about the dry white wine produced by on one of the oldest and largest estates in the Bordeaux region, Château Carbonnieux. The estate has belonged to the Perrin Family for four generations, and all the wines produced are red and white dry wines that are all qualified as Grands Crus Classés de Graves (Classified Growths) and are under the appellation Pessac-Léognan A.O.C.

In 1953, 14 châteaux from the Graves region were awarded the title of “Crus Classés” (Classified Growths), either for their white wines or red wines or both. Château Carbonnieux was renowned for both its red and white wines.

Château Carbonnieux is located in Léognan, in the heart of Pessac-Léognan AOP, and the vineyard surrounds the castle which is on top of a hill. The terroir is characterised by a great diversity of its soils that allow the estate to create different plots to enhance the complexity of the wines produced. Each plot has a name and identity, and all the winegrowing activities are specifically targeted with consideration to their characteristics.

The soils can be a combination of different textures and structures: clay and gravel, gravel (different deepness and size), clay and limestone, sand and gravel, clay, limestone.

The grape varieties have been chosen to suit to soil characteristics, so that each vine can express itself at its best, taking up all the nutrients that are needed to create the widest aromatic spectrum. The estate stretches for over 200 hectares, of which 100 hectares are vineyards: 55 hectares are reserved for black grape varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot) and 45 hectares are dedicated to white grape varieties (Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, Sauvignon Gris).

The vines are grown following a sustainable and eco-friendly viticulture approach, with the aim of protecting the environment and vineyard workers, using the integrated pest management system to preserve the eco-systems by limiting the use of chemicals. In 2017, the winery gained the ‘High Environmental Value’ Level 3, the highest level of this certification, that corresponds to a more general scheme of environmental certification for farms. It is a French certification, supervised by the Code of Agriculture and the Code of Maritime Fishing, to promote environmentally friendly agricultural practices that conserve biodiversity and natural resources.

Here is a summary of the characteristics of the grapes used for making the wine tasted: 

Sauvignon Blanc: this is a white grape variety, with late budding and relatively early ripening, making it well suited to be grown in cool climates and regions with a threat of early autumn rains. It grows vigorously, therefore, it gives its best in poor soils. The canopy must be carefully managed to avoid shading and under-ripening, causing an overly green fruit flavour. Dry white Bordeaux blends have pronounced intensity aromas of grass, bell pepper and asparagus, with gooseberry, grapefruit, and wet stone flavours, typically showing medium body and alcohol, rather than high acidity.

Sémillon: this is a traditional variety of the region; it is a mid-ripening variety, susceptible to botrytis bunch rot and to noble rot in the right conditions. In dry white Bordeaux blends, it provides low to medium intensity aroma (apple and lemon), body and acidity to soften Sauvignon Blanc’s more intense flavours and high acidity. This variety is suited to French oak fermentation and/or maturation, as it can develop and amplify vanilla and spicy notes taken from that.

Château Carbonnieux – Pessac-Léognan A.O.C. – 2014 – Grand Cru Classé de Graves

78% Sauvignon Blanc, 22% Sémillon

This vintage was characterised by early flowering and slow ripening. The cool summer preserved all the aromas in the grapes. The grapes were handpicked and sorted on tables. The quality of harvest was excellent, with low yields at 40 hl/ha. The grapes were gently and slowly pressed to avoid the extraction of tannins and avoid excessive amounts of solids and inert gases were used to avoid oxidation. The must was then clarified by cold clarification. The fermentation and ageing took place in oak, 25% of which were new, for 10 months with lees stirring to enhance the complexity of the wine.

  • Look: medium lemon.
  • Smell: pronounced aroma intensity of tomato leaf, asparagus, grass, lemon, lime, apple, biscuit, toasted bread, cheese, vanilla, cedar, charred wood, cinnamon, nutmeg, almond, hazelnut, ginger.
  • Taste: dry, medium (+) acidity, medium alcohol, full body, pronounced flavour intensity, long finish.
  • Pairing: tuna tartare.

The acidity is well balanced by the fresh fruit concentration without dominating any components; instead, it undercuts and perfectly balances out the dense texture and full body gained from barrel maturation. The aromas are very well detectable, defined and complemented between primary, secondary, and tertiary ones. The flavours come from different clusters of expressive fruit (lemon, lime, apple) and lees ageing (toasted bread, cheese), that do not overwhelm the fruity ones, but integrate and support them, adding an extra layer of complexity. The finish is long, with the fruity aromas leading the charge, with oak derived and tertiary aromas gradually taking over. With bottle ageing the primary aromas will evolve furthermore in tertiary ones, enhancing the complexity of the wine. 

Producer: Château Carbonnieux

posted in:
White Wine

I live in a stunning and charming land, where wine culture is a pivotal element in everyday life and has been part of the culture for centuries.
I believe that wine tasting, although requiring a certain rigor, should be fun, and above all it has to be a sensory and enriching journey.

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