Graves White Wines
Without a doubt Graves is the most diverse region in the Bordeaux area because it is renowned for both great white and great red wines and also because it includes the Sauternes region made famous for its sweet "pudding" wines (in fact most French would prefer to drink it with a plate of foie gras) . Situated South-East of Bordeaux the region is mainly low lying on the flood plains on the south side of the river Garonne is made up of gravelly soils (hence the name Graves) that lend themselves to wines that are more structured and stronger than the mellow Merlot wines of St Emilion.
Some of the world's most revered wines come from here think Haut Brion, Y'Quem for starters and you get the picture. You will also get a picture of very expensive wines so, rather like Pomerol on the other side of the river, the discerning wine buyer needs to be sure they are not buying just because it is expensive - price is no guarantee of quality.
The reds are usually mostly Cabernet Sauvignon based with a slug of Merlot giving dry, powerful wines that are best cellared for at least 5 years. The whites are Sauvgnon Blanc based but the best ones have a good helping of Semillon to give a more layered, interesting set of flavours. Semillon is actually a grape that only thrives in gravelly soils, I have a winemaker friend who has tried to use it in a white wine from a mix of clay/ limestone soil and frankly it is rather flat and, for want of a better word, gloopy. Once grown in gravel it becomes a lovely smooth, deep flavoured grape that adds a whole new level to many one-dimensional Sauvignon Blanc wines.