Friday, July 24, 2009

Chateau Carbonnieux, Cru Classe de Graves

On Friday we woke for the first time to cloudy skies, but the day was still rather warm at around 67F. Rather sadly, we got in the car to head out for our last day of winery visits. Once again Google Map failed us and we had to call Ch. Carbonnieux to apologize for being late and to ask for directions. They told us to go all the way to the town of Leognan and then to turn left at the cemetery. This worked beautifully and we were happy to arrive and meet the owner, Philbert Perrin, who provided a most enchanted tour of the estate.

He explained that Carbonnieux was one of the oldest properties in Bordeaux started by Benedictine monks in the 13th century. They have 90 hectares (45% white and 55% red), and are one of only 6 cru classe in Graves that produces two colors of wine. He told us the famous story about the monks selling the white wine to the Sultan of Turkey and labeling it as “mineral water.” It was the sultan’s favorite drink for many years. Thomas Jefferson also visited Carbonnieux in the 1700’s and wrote about it along with Haut Brion in his journals.

The vineyards are gravel with clay and some limestone. Age of the vines ranges from 27 to 32 years. They average 40 hectoliters per hectare and produce 500,000 bottles (rather large). They are on double guyot with a total of 8 buds per vine.

For winemaking, I wanted to focus on the white since Carbonnieux is so well known for their excellent white Pessac-Leognan. After triage, they destem and lightly crush the grapes, then place them in cool temperature controlled oval tanks for one night of skin contact. Next they are pressed using a pneumatic press, and then placed in a cold tank (8-10C) for a 3 day debourbage. Alcoholic fermentation is started in stainless using selected yeast, but finishes in barrel. They have 35 different parcels, and the wine spends 10 months in 25% new oak where it receives battonage every week. Philbert demonstrated how to do battonage with a special barrel they had set up for visitors. The wine is also topped as needed; and is blended in July in stainless. It also receives bentonite fining and is lightly filtered before bottling. It is protected by gas when moved or in tank (CO2 and nitrogen).

We tasted two wines: 2005 Ch. Carbonnieux Rouge – medium ruby; bright berry nose/palate; complex with a mineral finish. Smooth tannins, good concentration and nice balance of acid, fruit and light oak. Very approachable now. Elegant. 2007 Ch. Carbonnieux Blanc – glowing straw with white rim; grass and pineapple nose; melon and grapefruit on the palate with a very long, juicy finish.

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