Confusion Corner: Haut Benauge

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It happens at least once a month: someone emails me (or calls me out over social media) claiming that the list of Bordeaux Appellations in the CSW Study Guide is missing Haut Benauge.

While I love to be called out over social media as much as anyone, here is my typical response: Haut Benauge is not an AOC (but it is a defined sub-zone of two different AOCs), and it is not “missing” from the list.

So…what exactly is Haut Benauge?

Haut Benauge is a region located within the Entre-Deux-Mers area of Bordeaux, situated “between the two rivers” (the Dordogne and the Garonne), to the east of the Cadillac AOC. Haut Benauge covers nine communes: Arbis, Cantois, Escoussans, Gornac, Ladaux, Mourens, Saint-Pierre-de-Bat, Soulignac, and Targon.

The name “Haut Benauge” is an homage to Jean de Foix (1414–1484), the Viscount of Benauge. The 11th-century Castle of Benauge is still standing, and is open to visitors by appointment.

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The terroir of Haut Benauge is differentiated by the surrounding areas due to its elevation and soils. The elevation is slight (between 85 meters/275 feet and 118 meters/390 feet) but is sufficient to define an elevated ridge, formed when the sea floor was pushed up and out of the sea via the movement of the Pyrenees Mountain range several million years ago.

The soils of Haut Benauge reflect its aquatic past, and include limestone, fossilized oyster shells, sand, gravel, and clay.

Haut Benauge was defined as an appellation in 1955 and designated as a sub-zone (defined geographical indication) of BOTH the Entre-Deux-Mers and the Bordeaux AOC. This is where the confusion seems to come in. Here are the two different wines that may carry the Haut Benauge name:

  • Bordeaux-Haut Benauge AOC:
    • White wines only, produced using any mix-and-match blend of Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris, and/or Muscadelle
    • May be dry/off-dry or sweet; there is a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 60 g/L residual sugar
  • Entre-Deux-Mers-Haut Benauge AOC:
    • White wines only, based on a minimum of 70% (combined) Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris, Muscadelle, and/or Sémillon; there is an allowed maximum 30% Merlot Blanc, and an allowed (combined) maximum 10% Mauzac, Colombard, and Ugni Blanc
    • Must be dry with a maximum of 4 g/L of residual sugar

Photo of the Castle of Benauge by Henry Salome, via Wikimedia Commons

Fun fact: Haut-Benauge is the only appellation located within the Entre-Deux-Mers area that does not have a boundary that touches one of the defining rivers of the area (the Dordogne nor the Garonne).

Some excellent examples of Haut Benauge wines are produced by Château Morlan-Tuilière and Château de Bertin. These wines are known to be a great value for lovers of white Bordeaux wines—enjoy!

References/for more information:

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas… missjane@prodigy.net

About bubblyprof
Wine Writer and Educator...a 20-year journey from Bristol Hotels to Le Cordon Bleu Schools and the Society of Wine Educators

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