The Odd Graves
Like all fine wines, this (on the left in photo above) 1985 Château La Tour Martillac Blanc (since 1990 written as Latour-Martillac) is both indescribable (because language is never quite capable of encompassing the complex pleasures of something experienced by our senses) yet can be fully understood (if by understanding we mean a taking of extreme pleasure in what we cannot explain).
While not quite as odd as other “odd bottles” I’ve written about, this is, nonetheless, a nearly thirty-year-old white wine. It was, as to be expected, nearly golden in color, but it was not at all oxidized. To the contrary, it was fresh, vibrant, and holding the promise of up to ten years to go. It did not taste like other old white Graves, was not so much smoky as steely, though it did have a satisfyingly waxy feel in the mouth (others have described younger vintages of white Graves as having a “lemon wax” nose).
This wine predates by two years the 1987 creation of the Pessac-Leognan appellation. It is therefore labeled Graves (for the district’s gravelly soil). More simply, it is a white Bordeaux, most of which are, like this wine, blends of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon (and sometimes, as here, a small bit of Muscadelle). Some of the most wonderful wines I’ve ever tasted are white Bordeaux (kiss the hand that offers you a glass of any vintage of Domaine de Chevalier blanc).
Château La Tour Martillac is one of only six classified growths for both its white and red. You can buy recent vintages of the white for between $30 and $80, which is reasonable for a fine Bordeaux. I suggest, however, that you first try any inexpensive white Bordeaux you come upon. Some, like the 2012 Château Haut Rian I recently bought for $9.99, will blow your wine-mind. I wish everyone in the world could have a taste of it.
First published February 2015