On the Trail

More Magic From the Graves

David Driscoll

When it comes to truly great terroir in Bordeaux, it's always easiest to talk about Pessac-Leognan: the epicenter of the Graves. It's a pretty simple explanation. The name Graves comes from the French gravier (or gravel in English) due to the rocky, stoney, gravely soils the region enjoys. The mineral flavors that are inherently passed on to the grapes are often perceptible in the wines themselves, which is why many producers in the Graves grow both red and white grapes. While flinty and stoney notes make wonderful highlights in a complex array of cabernet flavors, they add perhaps even more depth and nuance to sauvignon blanc. One of only six producers in the Graves to have both its red and white wines classified is Malartic-Lagravière, named after the Count Hippolyte de Malartic who purchased the estate at the end of the eighteenth century. Part of what makes the Malartic property so special is the fact that it sits on a slope with deposits of gravel that run more than twenty feet deep. That positioning not only forces the vines to struggle, it allows for superior drainage—an advantage that many hillside vineyards enjoy.

We were highly impressed with the entire crop of 2015 Pessac-Leognan wines during our visit to the region this past April. The 2015 Pape Clement was a stunner. Domaine de la Chevalier was elegant as always. Haut-Bailly was refined and graceful. Even Smith-Haut-Lafitte seemed to be overachieving with a cuvée that simply blew us away with its complexity. For value, however, we were perhaps most impressed with the 2015 Malartic-Lagravière, a wine that seemed to effortlessly glide over the palate with supple fruit, pretty aromatics, and a juicy finish thanks to the lovely acidity. My colleague Alex and I went back to taste the wine repeatedly and each time we picked up more nuance. The fleshiness of the blackberries, the vibrant minerality that penetrated the fruit and balanced the ripeness, and the freshness of the wine as a whole. The wine was simply perfect. Zero flaws. Outstanding through and through. Then early this morning we received the price. "Back up the truck," Clyde joked in an email to our Bordeaux staff. At $49.99, the 2015 Malartic-Lagravière represents not only one of the vintage's top values, but one of the best wines of the year—period. It also happens to be a hair under fifty bucks, putting it right there with Malescot as one of the few "must-buy" releases thus far.

I ran through the critical reviews this morning and it's clear that our group experience was far from an anomaly. Across the board, the reception to the wine has been stellar. Now it's simply a matter of how much we can get. If you've been waiting patiently to peruse the entire 2015 Bordeaux spectrum, don't wait on the Malartic. We knew it was good before we knew the cost. Now, for the money, we know just how good it is.

-David Driscoll