When white Bordeaux is great, it is spectacular……The problem is there are comparatively few great examples of really fine white Bordeaux, even though there are a lot of 'sound to good'. Many of the best come from Pessac-Léognan in the northern Graves. Among the finest expressions white Bordeaux, we could count Haut-Brion, La Mission Haut-Brion, Smith-Haut Lafitte, Domaine de Chevalier and Pape-Clement…….The most reasonably priced of these would still be in excess of £50 per bottle, which is sufficiently high for interest to remain niche. Wines from further afield such as the enterprising and remarkably fine Les Champs Libres from the Guinadeaus of Château Lafleur’s project in the Fronsac have certainly shaken things up and added interest to this category. In fact, Les Champs Libres, classed as a simple Bordeaux Blanc is anything but and comfortably justifies its price, also now in excess of £50 per bottle, despite coming from less familiar terroir.
All of this leaves us pondering where to find great value in white Bordeaux. Well, I think we have found a wine that punches well above its weight, that remains remarkably affordable and will provide a stark contrast to the vast majority of wines in its category and price bracket.
I tasted the 2016 Château Gazin Rocquencourt, offered here at £135 per 6 bottle case in bond, and was immediately impressed. I had never heard of the estate.
The 30 hectare estate of Gazin-Rocquencourt can trace its origins to the 17th century – it is located on a clay/ gravel hilltop on the left bank of the Eau Blanche in Léognan. The Bonnie family, owners of nearby Château Malartic-Lagravière, bought the property in 2006 and gradually went about rebalancing the vineyard and elevating the quality, understanding that their attention was most needed in the vines, which are today managed using organic and biodynamic principles. An entirely new winery followed in 2007 which is entirely gravity-fed, meaning no pumps are employed for the handling of the wine. Finally, the château and its grounds were restored in 2008.
While the estate extends over 30 hectares, 22 are devoted to vineyard. Of this, just two and half hectares are planted to white varietals, all of which is Sauvignon Blanc. Young Sauvignon vines can deliver impressive fruit quality, and that is clearly the case here as the vines are just eight years of age. For me though, a key point is this: many of the clones of Sauvignon Blanc employed in white Bordeaux just do not deliver interesting fruit; more recently planted vineyards are using far superior clones, carefully selected after painstaking research, to great effect. In fact, the style of the Gazin Rocquencourt Blanc reminded me of Les Champs Libres; both are made entirely from Sauvignon Blanc from meticulously selected clones, fermented in oak and aged on lees.
Sauvignon Blanc in Bordeaux tends to be fermented in oak which imparts a rounder quality to the wine, taming Sauvignon’s zingy fruit, and building complexity. The Gazin Rocquencourt is fermented in oak then aged on its lees in traditional French oak barriques, with the percentage of new oak kept to just 40%. This is an impressively crafted wine and it comes as no surprise that Michel Rolland consults to the Bonnie family on the winemaking here.
The 2016 is a joy to drink now but will age. I was really impressed by the ripe, textural fruit that hints at the exotic, though always retains its freshness and poise. There is a fine complexity here for a wine of this level, with the lees ageing having played a great role in building breadth and a textural finesse on the palate. It also reveals really impressive length with a tangy, lively finish. This is going to be fascinating as it ages, but I must confess I am not sure I would be able to hold off as it shows that well now. In many respects it is worth buying a couple of six bottle cases, one that you will enjoy all too easily now and one that you should try to hold off from broaching, to see how it matures.
I find it fascinating that there are these little gems available even in a region as well-charted as Bordeaux…..to the best of my knowledge no-one else is offering in the UK, but I was interested to read Neal Martin’s review below.
2016 Château Gazin Rocquencourt Blanc
£135 per 6 bottle case in bond
93 points, Neal Martin, vinous.com
The 2016 Gazin-Rocquencourt Blanc has a well-defined, complex bouquet of dried orange peel, beeswax and yellow flower aromas. The well-balanced palate offers orange zest, mango and pineapple aromas, a lovely waxy texture and fine delineation and persistence on the finish. This is an outstanding showing and comes strongly recommended. Tasted blind at the annual Southwold tasting. 2020-2035.
Please let us know of your interest.
All the best,