The greater Graves region begins literally in the city of Bordeaux and extends 25 miles to the southeast along the Garonne River. Virtually all the best wines (including the Bordeaux region's finest dry whites) come from the appellation of Pessac-Leognan. Pessac is in the southern outskirts of Bordeaux itself, while Leognan is essentially an area of woodlands several miles to the south. The deep gravel of Pessac produces some of the earthiest, most soil-driven wines of Bordeaux, and their sometimes wild notes of roasted meat, tobacco, leather, iron, and hot stones can be a bit of a shock to the uninitiated. These distinctive wines have plenty of tannins to support aging but are rarely austere in the early going.
A relative handful of white Graves are super-concentrated, minerally, uncompromisingly dry wines that evolve very slowly in bottle and are capable of lasting for decades. These are rare and expensive and often stubbornly closed in their youth. But the majority of today's whites Graves are made in a distinctly modern, fruit-driven style, aged with their lees in barrel to give them more texture, fat, and early appeal. There can be a great sameness to many of these wines, which are frequently more about varietal fruit character, new oak, and lees than about the soil from which they come. Sadly, the racy, crisp style of white Bordeaux that was based largely on Sauvignon Blanc and did not rely on new oak barrels for its flavor has become rare.