For many wine drinkers, Bordeaux produces mainly red, and sweet white wines.
This is due mostly to remarkable marketing efforts of Bordeaux wine merchants of Quai des Chartrons, and the English, who for centuries, favoured this region’s light red wines.
Of course, Bordeaux growers and winemakers also made dry white wines, but most, if not all, were medium dry, flat, and loaded with sulphur to prevent chemical changes.
Originally, Bordeaux produced more white wine than red, which was bought in bulk by shippers for blending, bottling and marketing. Some were from Entre-deux-mers, and marketed as appellation Bordeaux controlee; others merely brands.
Large shippers could afford marketing expenses, and traveling
executives to promote these essentially low quality wines to unsuspecting consumers abroad.
Then the market changes around 1980`s. Young educated people with an interest in wine started to travel, and quickly learned about quality. They refused to pay for inferior quality white wines and growers and shippers were forced to change their lucrative scheme of deception.
Of course, large-scale change in mentality and practice requires a long time, especially with stubborn Bordelaise who were deluded that their white wines were fine.
After the 1956 frost that decimated many of the vineyards in borderline and unfavourable locations were planted to white vines, many growers planted red grape varieties to take advantage of the fame of Medoc and St. Emilion.
Today, there is surplus of mediocre red Bordeaux, and only 12 per cent of the total production is white. White grape varieties yield more, and require less sunshine. Bordeaux growers would benefit if only more attention is paid to yields and wine making.
Eventually, far-sighted shippers and leaders persuaded many of the growers to use appropriate techniques and thanks to rich savvy, well informed immigrants to institute changes in white wine making.
University of Bordeaux’s professors of viticulture helped introduce modern techniques to make clean, fruity, palatable, and balanced dry wines that the market requested for which its was willing to pay.
Andre Lurton, owner of Chateau Bonnet in Entre deux mers has been an advocate of better quality dry white wines for a long time. The Lurton family descendents own and operate many vineyards and wineries outside of Bordeaux, France.
Now, even better known chateaux produce fine white wines, which they either neglected, or were incapable of producing. They now pick their white grapes (mostly sauvignon blanc, and semillon with a sprinkling of muscadet) at the peak of maturity, rather than solely on
the basis of sugar content.
The fermentation is at low temperature to preserve aromatics and render the wine fresher. Chateau Bonnet, Chateau Reynon, Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte and many others small estates produce now fine dry white wines that can compete any in France and elsewhere in the world. Many of these estates also produce outstanding red wines.
Y. Mau, Schroder et Schyler, Sichel buy, blend and bottle fine generic dry white Bordeaux wines from Entre deux mers, Premieres Cotes, Loupiac and Ste. Croix du Mont to create their own brands.
Market forces were responsible for these huge positive changes, teaching growers and winemakers the important lesson never to ignore demand and supply.