Lagrange abandoned white wine in the early 1960s when the estate fell on hard times economically, according to director Marcel Ducasse, who joined Lagrange after Suntory purchased it in 1983. The Japanese wine and spirits corporation invested $40 million to renovate the chateau and winemaking facilities.
The estate returned to white wine to put some of its vineyard land to better use. "We found a 4-hectare \[10-acre\] parcel that was not able to produce good ripeness for the red grapes, so we T-budded to white vines," Ducasse explained. T-budding is a type of field grafting done to prevent the loss of production that would occur with replanting, because new vines require three to four years of growth before bearing fruit suitable for winemaking.
The 1997 Les Arums de Lagrange (not yet rated) is made from 60 percent Sauvignon Blanc, 30 percent Semillon and 10 percent Muscadelle. The wine is fermented in barrels (50 percent new), after which it is aged in oak for 11 months, followed by six months in bottle. It carries only the Bordeaux appellation, which is typical for white wines in the Medoc.
Named for the calla lilies that grow around the chateau, Arums is also a play on words, said Ducasse. The name sounds like "arome" -- the French word for aroma. The chateau made 1,000 cases of the 1997, which will sell for about $25 per bottle in the United States.
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