Chardonnay From Bordeaux, France…..You Read That Right

You’ll Never Guess What Grape This Bordeaux House Ripped Out Merlot For! Domaines de Malet Roquefort has surprised their neighbors and the entire wine world as I wrote about in Men’s Journal and share here.

Chardonnay From Bordeaux, France.....You Read That Right

Was it Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, or Malbec, one of the other red grape varieties permitted in Bordeaux? Or was it Sauvignon Blanc or Semillon, one of the white grapes permitted in Bordeaux. What if it was none of these? What was it? It was another well-known grape variety, however, a variety that is not expected in Bordeaux. So, what was it? It was Chardonnay.

Chardonnay? From Bordeaux? Did I read that right? That is what I thought. Was I sure it was not from Burgundy where Chardonnay reigns? Nope it was Bordeaux! More specifically, it was “G” By Gaffelière, possibly the first Chardonnay in Bordeaux.

Chardonnay From Bordeaux, France.....You Read That Right

“G” By Gaffelière is a new release from Domaines de Malet Roquefort, a winery established in 1705 and located on the right bank in Bordeaux. Alexandre de Malet Roquefort, son of Comte Léo de Malet Roquefort, is one of three siblings from the ninth generation of the family. After working as a cellar master in Argentina, he returned to Bordeaux where, in 1995, he created the wine merchant Maison Malet Roquefort which specializes in Bordeaux Grands Crus. He sold the business in 2015 to concentrate on the family properties, which consists of seven estates. In 2000, Alexandre joined forces with his father, who was the head of the family property, Château la Gaffelière (1er Grand Cru Classé-St Emilion). Together they started major renovation projects and key investments in the estates.

Chardonnay From Bordeaux, France.....You Read That Right

In 2010, Alexandre joined Château La Gaffelière full time and continued the in-depth work he had initiated in the vineyard and cellar. Part of this work was doing soils studies of the 22 hectares on the property. What he found was that the 22 hectares consisted of different plots, and different grapes would be more appropriate than what was planted there. Cabernet Sauvignon was pulled out and instead the vineyard was planted with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. However, there was a one-acre plot that was not suited for those two grapes. This plot with clay-limestone soils was cooler than the rest of the property. Alexandre decided to plant a white grape variety, but instead of the approved Sauvignon Blanc, he chose Chardonnay.

Making a Chardonnay in Bordeaux means that the finished wine cannot be labeled Bordeaux AOC. Instead, it is declassified. For an established, traditional Grand Cru winery in St. Emilion to produce a declassified wine is very unorthodox. But “G” By Gaffelière is a brand and an experience and it is unorthodox in every way.

Chardonnay From Bordeaux, France.....You Read That Right

The Chardonnay plot is named “Le Palat” in honor of the eponymous Gallo-Roman villa found on the estate. Unlike most vines that are vertically trellised, the Chardonnay vines are trellised using an ancient, single pole method (“en echalas”). This method is costly, but it was chosen because it mimics the historic Gallo-Roman trellising. It also works well in face of current climate change, giving the berries different exposures to sunlight.

To make the wine, the grapes are harvested by hand. Vinification is done in small presses, equivalent in size to a barrel. The Chardonnay is 100% sur lie and battonage is done daily for the first month. The wine undergoes partial malolactic fermentation, varied by vintage, and there is no racking. The wine is aged in a combination of new French oak and amphoras for 18 months to two years.

Chardonnay From Bordeaux, France.....You Read That Right

Another unorthodox element of the wine is that the Chardonnay is not vintage dated, but rather a multi-vintage (MV) wine. What does that mean? Think of Champagne in which each release is a blend of different vintages and vineyards. With “G” By Gaffelière, the grapes come from one vineyard, but the blend is different vintages. A blend is a way to create a style so that the experience is the same year and year. Doing a multi-vintage wine is an art as doing that over 10 or more years is not easy. The result is a wine that specifically expresses the terroir, but not the specific vintage.

Episode 1 of “G” By Gaffelière is the first release. As the vines were planted in 2015, the first vintage was in 2020 and released in 2023. Episode 1 is a single vintage (2020) there were 580 bottles produced. The wine is elegant with beautiful texture and minerality. These wines retail for $230 and 130 bottles were sent to the US and are available at Wally’s Wine & Spirits in Los Angeles. 800 bottles of Episode 2, a blend of 2020 and 2021 vintages, was produced and will arrive in the US in September 2024. Episode 3 will be a blend of 2020, 2021, and 2023, and so on.

A multi-vintage Chardonnay is not what I expected from a traditional Bordeaux house but it was definitely a pleasant surprise. It was worth ripping out the Merlot for this wine.

Read the original story in Men’s Journal.