In the second of three articles about Bordeaux, Peter Ranscombe praises a selection of organic white wines from one of its overlooked areas.
OPEN a wine textbook at the page marked “Entre-Deux-Mers” and chances are the words will relay the story that the region between Bordeaux’s Garonne and Dordogne rivers is flat and dull and only produces cheap and cheerful white wine – plus some bog-standard unripe merlot.
Last month’s pre-lockdown visit to Bordeaux reminded me that trotting out that old cliché only tells half the story.
Over lunch at La Table, a busy bistro in the village of Créon, three organic winemakers demonstrated why there’s so much more to the area than boring supermarket fodder.
The wines made by Sandrine Piva are a case in point.
Her family arrived in the Entre-Deux-Mers from Italy in 1924 and have been farming organically since 1984.
Organic farmers don’t use synthetic chemicals, but instead opt for traditional treatments likes copper and sulphur to protect their vines from diseases.
For me, organic wines always have more concentrated aromas and flavours than their conventional counterparts, and that was certainly true of Piva’s 2018 Château des Seigneur des Pommyers Entre-Deux-Mers (£10.99, Vinceremos), which crackled with exciting and enticing lemon aromas.
Its tingling acidity was balanced by a waxy texture supplied by the 30% of semillon blended into its sauvignon gris and by its intense lemon rind flavours and sea salt-like tang.
Piva’s sparkling 2015 Domaine Piva Crémant de Bordeaux reverses the blend, with 20% sauvignon gris added to the dominant semillon to produce red apple, asparagus and lemon aromas and flavours, plus some rounded brown sugar on the finish.
Tricks up their sleeves
Guillaume Moreau’s 2019 Château Farizeau Entre-Deux-Mers demonstrates that more than one style of white can be made in the area.
Moreau, who has been farming organically for ten years, leaves his sauvignon blanc, semillion and muscadelle grapes to hang for longer on the vine, allowing more fruit flavours to build up, yet without venturing into pudding wine’s late harvest territory.
The result is so much concentrated lemon curd that it’s verging on peach, with 24 hours of skin contact between the skins and the juice building up such a rounded feeling in the mouth that it’s hard to believe its not had some oak ageing or lots of stirring of its lees, the dead yeast left over from the fermentation that turns sugar into alcohol.
Moreau steps into sweeter realms with his 2019 Château Farizeau Cuvée Charlotte, an equal blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon with echoes of sweet lemon curd and key lime pie.
It’s sweet and creamy, yet light on its feet, with a twist of acidity to keep it fresh.
Much fresher green and red apples come marching through on the finish, making me mull trying a glass of it alongside apple tart as an alternative to the more obvious match of lemon meringue pie.
The 2017 Château Ferran Entre-Deux-Mers Haut-Benauge Tucaou by Julien Ferran shows that it’s not just wines from more famous areas like Graves and Pessac-Léognan that can take a bit of oak ageing.
Drawing on his winemaking experience, including 20 years of farming organically and biodynamically, Ferran ages his wine for 12 months in French oak barrels, which adds more body to the wine and helps to balance its acidity.
There are delicious creamy notes mixed in with the fresh lemon juice and grapefruit flavours too.
To this rollcall of exciting Entre-Deux-Mers offerings to try, I’m adding the Nobody’s Perfect range from English winemaker Dawn Jones-Cooper at Monfaucon Estate.
Jones-Cooper bottles sauvignon blanc, semillon and muscadelle as single varieties and as blends.
She even dabbles in chardonnay, which isn’t one of the approved grape varieties for the official Entre-Deux-Mers “appellation d’origine contrôlée” (AOC) classification – or these days appellation d’origine protégée” (AOP) – and so is bottled as “Vin de France” or French table wine.
Don’t let the lack of an AOC designation be off-putting – these are organic and creative wines in the style of the great winemakers from the Languedoc in the South of France or Tuscany in Italy, who have thrown off the shackles of the tightly-controlled AOP systems.
I always keep an eye peeled for Jones-Cooper’s wines, with her sauvignon blanc and lightly-sparkling wine are now available from Feel Good Grapes, the new organic and biodynamic online wine retailer run by friend and fellow wine writer Mike Turner.
Peter Ranscombe offsets the carbon dioxide emissions from the international flights he takes for his wine trips by paying the Trees For Life charity to plant Scots Pines and other native species near his birthplace in the Highlands – find out more at http://bit.ly/SF_Trees