I still remember the experience clearly. I walked into the wine shop, armed with my new found expertise provided by Alexis Lichine and Alexis Bespaloff, and purchased my first ” serious wines” to age. The year was 1977 and the wines were 1975 Château Carbonnieux Blanc and 1971 Rouge. They were priced outrageously at about ten bucks a bottle. I bought three bottles of each and placed them with honor in the new, but still empty, racks I had constructed in the unused coal bin in the cellar of the old house I lived in at the time. I had selected these wines because of the lovely stories provided by two famed Alexis’ about the Château and its wines. I kept the reds for many years and the whites for at least two or three years before pulling the corks. The precise tasting notes have long ago left my memory, but I remember them with pleasure and a certain sentimentality.
This warm recollection has led me to order many a bottle of Carbonnieux over the years. More often than not I drank the Blanc as it was widely available and a staple on wine lists. However, those days are long gone and I haven’t seen a Carbonnieux Blanc on a wine list for a long time, but suddenly there it was on the list yesterday at lunch and I could not resist the warm tug of nostalgia and ordered a bottle of the 2004. The Carbonnieux white wine vineyards are planted to 65% sauvignon blanc, 34% semillon and 1% muscadelle and, although the semillon is the junior partner, its smooth creamy oily textures dominate the blend, while the sauvignon blanc provides lift, highlights and zest to the finish. Considering the improvements in winemaking at this estate over the last decades, it’s safe to assume that these are far better wines than I drank in the past. While there are more profound whites from Graves, this is a lovely wine with a character that easily flows across the palate. In addition, the 12.5% alcohol maintains the liveliness of this wine instead of letting the dense oily character of overripe semillon make the wine heavy and dull. This Grand Cru was just labeled Graves when I first drank it, but the wine is now part of the prestigious Pessac-Léognan Appellation, which was first created in 1987.
This trip down memory lane made for a very pleasant lunch. Like, music, wine can also transport us to a different time and place.