By Celia Strong
Yep. A new year is here which means we get to discover lots of new wines. Who could be so lucky? But, think of it this way. We’ve worked at learning new wines for years now. And we’ve earned the chance to continue with more. Lots more. For sure, we can always have others join us. The more the merrier, but stopping now would be awful. All that we’ve learned and shared would be wasted, and wasted is not what we want. (And, please, do not assume “wasted” has to mean seriously into a bottle!) Wasted would be not using and enjoying what we’ve already learned and made part of us…and not moving forward with more. So, waste not. We move on and travel on. To our first new wine for the new year.
Bordeaux is calling to us this week. This is the largest grape growing area in France, with almost three hundred thousand acres. An average vintage is about seven hundred million bottles…more than fifty-eight million cases. Some are very inexpensive, and some are the most expensive in the world. Eighty-nine percent of all these wines are red. That’s like six bottles of red for every one bottle of white, which leaves us in the minority with our white wine for this week; but, we can get more on that in a moment.
The history of wine in Bordeaux started with the Romans, probably in the mid-first century, AD., when they began growing grapes and making wine for local consumption. In the twelfth century, the popularity of Bordeaux wines in England increased dramatically. That was when the English king, Henry Plantagenet married Eleanor of Aquitaine. Aquitaine was located in a corner of Bordeaux, so the union made England a perfect market for these wines. At that time, the wines of Graves were considered to be the best Bordeaux made. The Hundred Years War disrupted trade between the two countries, but at the end of that, in 1453, the French retained control of the province and of its winemaking. In the seventeenth century, Dutch traders drained the swampy area that was Médoc, so that they could plant vines there. Malbec was the most planted variety in the Médoc, until the nineteenth century when Cabernet Sauvignon replaced it. In 1855, the chateaux of Bordeaux were classified, meaning rated in five levels. (When you study Bordeaux wines more than we’re going to today, you learn the good and the bad points of this classification. Either way, it is still an important feature in their wine industry).
Over the past several months, we have many times talked about the five Bordeaux red varieties that are allowed, legally. For white wines, they also use, and blend, several varieties. Sémillon is their main white grape. It is used for dry wines as well as their famous Sauternes. In smaller proportions, they also use Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle. For perspective, fifty-four percent of Bordeaux white grapes are Sémillon, thirty-six percent are Sauvignon Blanc, seven percent are Muscadelle and three percent are the remaining allowed varieties – Ugni Blanc, Colombard and Folle Blanche. Dry white wines are made throughout the region. Usually, these wines are “Bordeaux Blanc,” appellation wines; and, usually they come from sub-regions that make just red wines. There are a few sub-appellations that are allowed for white wines…Graves, and Entre-Deux-Mers for dry whites and the famous Sauternes for dessert wines.
Our wine, for this week, comes from Château Teyssier, located in the Saint Émilion appellation, on what is known as the Right Bank. Because this is only an appellation for red wines, ours is a Bordeaux appellation. In the eighteenth century, this property was mainly a farm. In 1869, it was acquired by Jules Roy, a historian, who built the chateau and planted the vineyards. In 1994, when Jonathan and Lyn Maltus bought Teyssier, it was a neglected five acre estate. They invested in a modernized winery and cellar, and even built a second winery. Jonathan Maltus is considered by many to be a “cult winemaker.” Besides several locations in Bordeaux, he has worked on projects in the Barossa Valley in Australia and a venture in Napa Valley known as World’s End. Chateau Teyssier is known for a good quality red wine, made from eighty-five percent Merlot and fifteen percent Cabernet Franc. They make ten to twelve thousand cases of this red. They make their white wine from about three-acre plot and a four and a half acre plot of grapes…only about one thousand cases each year.
Pezat is this white wine…our white wine. It is made from ninety-five percent Sauvignon Blanc and five percent Muscadelle. In this part if France, Sauvignon Blanc ripens slowly, due to the maritime climate. This lets the grapes develop a good balance between acidity and sugar levels. Their wines here are known for their green freshness, crispness, zestiness and food friendly textures. Muscadelle is a new variety for us. And not related to Muscat, Moscato, Muscadine or Muscadet. Actually, it is a cousin to Viognier, which means aromatics – floral and perfume – and fruitiness and a silky smoothness. When barrel aged, Muscadelle can be rich with caramel and butterscotch flavors. These grapes are grown in a hilly part of the property. They are picked at night and allowed little skin contact when they are gently crushed. This allows the underlying fruitiness of both varieties to be as strong as possible. The wines are made and allowed to sit for a short time on their lees – for more complexities and flavors…and brightness. So, now just imagine how dry and crisp Sauvignon Blanc tastes with an itty bit of floral perfume and fruitiness and silkiness and caramel. At the Château, they say this is a wine to keep in your refrigerator. That way it’s always ready for you to drink some.
Our Pezat is pale yellow with intense aromas…citrus, white peaches, white flowers, coupled with lengthy flavors and a lingering finish. Imagine it with freshwater fish, boiled shrimp, Asian seafood recipes, sushi, lobster or crab raviolis, mild cheeses or savory soufflés. Or how’s this? Ready for you when you get home. Perfect. A new refreshing, zesty white wine to start our new year with. For $15.99. Enjoy.