Many believe that first-born children are the most capable and a recent Norwegian study even goes so far as to assert that eldest siblings possess an intelligence quotient (IQ) averaging three points higher than their younger brothers and sisters. A similar phenomenon is playing out in the French red stronghold of Bordeaux, the white wine of which has to struggle for attention. Most white bordeaux is relatively humdrum but there are exceptions - and there is no question that long-lived and outstanding white bordeaux is produced consistently from the region's Pessac-Leognan appellation.
Bordeaux's principal dry white wine appellations include Entre- Deux-Mers, Blaye, Graves and Graves de Vayres but almost 60 per cent of white wine produced in Bordeaux is labelled simply Bordeaux AC.
Graves is French for 'gravel', or 'gravelly terrain', a key soil characteristic contributing much to Bordeaux's success both with white wine and its famed left-bank Medoc reds because gravel provides much needed drainage in a region with rain-sodden winters. Gravel is prevalent in Bordeaux as the region is cut through by two sizeable rivers, the Dordogne and the Garonne, which combine to form the Gironde Estuary. Between these two rivers is the triangular Entre-Deux-Mers (literally 'between two seas') appellation, producing clean fresh and tart, if unexciting, everyday whites. Entre-Deux-Mers will always struggle to produce top-class whites because it is muddy and forested, and vines excel only in dry, sunny years.
In 1987, the Pessac-Leognan district was carved out of Graves. Within the new area are most of what were Graves' most famous properties. Across the Dordogne, Graves de Vayres produces quality wines, though fewer and fewer whites. One can find some jewels among the barrel-fermented wines here.
Blaye generally produces quiet generic whites - oddly, though, they are based on the innocuous ugni blanc variety of grape rather than sauvignon blanc or semillon, which are prevalent in Bordeaux.
Michel Lynch Reserve 2008, AC Graves
Minerally, lemon and gentle fruit notes. A fresh, simple and 'honest' wine with balanced acidity stimulating a tart, clean medium-length finish. Ready to drink now and a match for fresh oysters.
Available for HK$125 at Watson's Wine Cellar (tel: 2606 8828).
Clarendelle Blanc 2005, AC Bordeaux
Very quiet, straightforward wine of the sort you would find served in a French bistro. A French man's wine - not expected to say much, just to quietly take its place at the table and refresh the palate. Try with steamed garoupa.
Available for HK$168 at Watson's.
Louis de Montgerac Reserve 2004, AC Bordeaux
Honeyed, nutty and orange-peel notes with good length. Good complexity for the price. Medium-gold and oxidative notes suggest it is peaking, so if you like your wines young and pert, pass this one by. Serve with steamed scallop with garlic and rice noodles.
Available for HK$66 at Watson's.
Debra Meiburg is a master of wine