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Wine of the Week – a bargain from southwest France

As the weather warms up in the UK, we’ve selected a fine, fresh white from southwest France that costs £15, but tastes like something selling for double that price.

Our chosen drop for this week is from Domaine du Grand Mayne, whose Réserve Sauvignon Blanc / Sémillon picked up a Gold medal in 2020’s Global Sauvignon Blanc Masters in the ‘oaked blend’ category.

Using grapes from the limestone-clay soils of the Côtes de Duras, a region immediately south of Bordeaux, this area has the same Atlantic-influenced climate as its more famous neighbour, but tends not to command such high prices.

Also like Bordeaux, Côtes de Duras uses Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon for its white wines, combining two grapes with complementary characteristics, the former providing pungency and acidity, the latter adding complexity as well as texture.

For those who know the fine whites of Bordeaux, particularly those from Graves and Pessac-Léognan, you’ll be aware that this blend of grapes is typically exposed to some form of oak influence, bringing creamy, nutty characters to the wine, the sort of flavours more commonly tasted in a Chardonnay.

But, when Sauvignon Blanc is fully mature, it produces wonderful results when aged in barrels – especially when some Sémillon is added used for its oily-fresh traits – with great white Bordeaux exhibiting delicious notes of pineapple and cream in its youth, and something more like honey on toast with age.

However, such wines are pricy, costing more than £20, commonly £30, and, in the case of Haut-Brion Blanc, a Sauvignon-Sémillon blend from Graves, over £500 for a bottle on release.

In the case of our Wine of the Week, a blend of fully-ripe Sauvignon and Sémillon, which has been fermented in new oak, and aged for seven months in 1-4 year-old barrels, one can have something tasting like a fine white Bordeaux, and for under £15, if only – it currently retails for £14.95.

As for the taste, this is a creamy but bright white, with layers of flavour from vanilla and pineapple, to peach and grapefruit. It’s richer than a Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre for example, where oak is rarely used in the winemaking, but it’s fresher than a Chardonnay from a top site in Bourgogne’s Côte de Beaune, where of course barrel-ageing is the norm.

The wine: Domaine du Grand Mayne, Réserve Sauvignon Sémillon, 2017

The region: AOP Côtes de Duras, south west France

The medal: Gold – The Global Sauvignon Blanc Masters 2020

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