Sauternes is one of the most famous French wines in Italy. The AOC Sauternes is at the southern end of the Bordeaux wine-growing area and consists of two different appellations: Sauternes and Barsac.
For us humble Sauternes enthusiasts, this represents a fine, expensive wine, to be uncorked on great occasions and possibly avoiding infanticides, that is, uncorking bottles that are at least 15 years old. Can you imagine my surprise when, having arrived in Sauternes, this was the first thing I saw? Sauternes in the bag-in-box at €11 'per litre'... impossible even to imagine, at least for me. I immediately imagined the 'Sciura Maria' filling me up with a bag of grapes and saying 'it's 1 kg and 100 grams... shall I leave it?'. Shivers.
In fact, my expectations were immediately restored and then exceeded thanks to the extraordinary hospitality and a dinner that I dare say was perfect, thanks to the wonderful company of the 'host', the technical director of Château Suduiraut, Pierre Montégut. If you like you can HERE the live report of the evening!
Now I want to take a little step back, to the third day I spent in Bordeaux, Monday 3 April 2017. It was just after 9am when we met our Millésima photographer Frédéric Lot at the H14 for the first Primeur 2016 tasting of Bordeaux wines, organised by the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGCB). What do you think if you put a child in front of a bag of sweets, what will he do? ?
I rushed into the space dedicated to Sauternes and decided to test them all... and then reserve a few more tastings for myself if time was not too tight. This choice stemmed from the desire to have a complete picture of the appellation and the knowledge that since I always have limited time for tastings, an opportunity like this would never happen to me again. And I was right! When we were at Château La Lagune on Thursday 6 April for the Primeur of the 2016 vintage of Sauternes, we had very little time for tastings and I would never have been able to taste so many!
I am therefore happy to share with you my tasting notes of (almost) all the 2016 Sauternes presented at the Primeurs des Grands Crus de Bordeaux ❤
Small reflection on the 2016 vintage for Sauternes
Those written in small print are the ones I didn't get to taste... but I'm glad I got a really good overview of this vintage. The wines suggested to me that there was definitely a long dry spell in the summer: great concentration of flavours, sugars and a pronounced alcoholic content. Many samples I found less characteristic than other vintages: when I think of the nose of a great Sauternes I think of saffron, apricot, honey and citrus. In this vintage I found more tropical than fresh fruit and an explosion of hay and herbs. One senses that the noble rot probably did not take root as it should have done in this not so distinctive nose, especially in some samples. On the whole, the Sauternes tasted turned out to be much more alcoholic than I expected, but many of them retained a nice freshness that went well with the common denominator that makes this an interesting vintage: great structure and pleasant balance.
To remind myself of the best tastings, I used to draw a ❤ in my notebook for the Sauternes I liked, accompanied by a '+' or a '-' (sometimes two).
#no❤ : Sauternes that did not convince me
❤ -: Sauternes that did not win me over but I still enjoyed it and would like to test it again after the right amount of time has passed
❤: Sauternes to buy absolutely
❤ + o ❤ + +: Sauternes that moved me
Classment impérial de 1855
Drawn up on the occasion of the Universal Exhibition in Paris that year by decision of Emperor Napoleon III, who asked for the best wines of Bordeaux to be classified according to a criterion of the fame of the Château and the cost of producing the wine, at the time synonymous with quality. The 'unclassified' wines simply did not undergo this procedure by their own choice.
Premier Cru Supérieur
Château d'Yquem - Sauternes
Where was it? Whereeeeeeeeeee? ???
Château La Tour Blanche - Bommes
Vintage 2016 Intense golden yellow, with a really beautiful colour. I admit, I liked it so much on the nose that I was full of expectations... and instead the mouth failed to convince me. The nose is extraordinarily complex: apple, dried flowers, incense, orange zest, wildflower honey... In the mouth it is really fresh, with excellent ageing potential and an alcohol content that is present but not annoying. The finish did not excite me.
Château LaFaurie-Peyraguey - Bommes
Vintage 2016 Intense golden yellow and crystal clear. The nose is intense, but too vegetal and acidulous. There is a nice note of saffron, the apricot is a little unripe and this mentholated scent has not blended well with the rest. In the mouth, it is too alcoholic, but there is also a nice freshness which gives me hope for its evolution. It would certainly be interesting to taste it in at least 20 years to better understand its continuation.
Clos Haut-Peyraguey - Bommes
Vintage 2016 ❤ – – Golden yellow, crystal clear. The nose is quite intense, quite complex and fine. Notes of fruit in syrup meld into acacia honey, with an almondy confectionery finish. In the mouth it is better, very balanced, with a nice sweetness and softness. In the mouth the correspondence with the nose is good, a little less fresh than I would have liked but still fresh, and with a nice harmony. It will probably be at its best in about fifteen years... so drink it at the right time but don't wait too long.
Château Rayne Vigneau - Bommes
Vintage 2016 ❤ - Intense golden yellow and crystal clear, a special note for the colour because it is the one I found most beautiful of all. The nose is interesting: very mineral, with notes of saffron, rock salt, tobacco leaves, vanilla and just ripe fig. In the mouth, fortunately, a nice freshness stems an alcoholic content that is for now too intrusive. Excellent ageing potential, I hope to be lucky enough to taste it again... in at least 30 years.
Château Suduiraut - Preignac
Vintage 2016 ❤ – – Golden yellow, crystal clear. On the nose there is a hint of alcohol, which I do not like. However, after swirling it around in the glass for a while, pleasant notes of saffron, avocado and a very ripe pear come out, merging into a light citrus fruit, citron grass and a nutty finish. In the mouth it is fresh, very very warm (too warm), savoury and balanced. I am not fully convinced by this intrusive alcohol content, but I am sure it will improve because it has good potential. To be drunk in about 10 years, served chilled.
Château Coutet - Bersac
Vintage 2016 ❤ + Golden yellow, crystal clear, consistent but not overly so. The nose is different from the others and I think that blind I would be able to distinguish it easily. The saffron notes take a back seat in favour of a very pleasant peach in syrup, the softness of lime honey, to fade into a dried rose and then forgotten. In the mouth it has a nice sweetness and softness, but is well balanced by an extraordinary freshness. The finish is long. I would only pair it with my lake at night.
Château Climens - Bersac
Vintage 2016 ❤ Golden yellow, crystalline, fairly consistent. The nose is fine and complex, quite intense. Lime honey prevails, then notes of mango, vanilla and white pepper. Good nose-mouth correspondence, with a non cloying sweetness and nice freshness. Balanced and harmonious, I would like to try it in fifteen years or so served chilled with langoustines and passion fruit.
Château Guiraud - Sauternes
Vintage 2016 ❤ Golden yellow, crystalline, fairly consistent. The nose is more delicate than the other Sauternes tasted. Light notes of figs, saffron, dried rose that fade into a balsamic finish. Not particularly complex. In the mouth, however, it is perfect, exactly as I expect a great Sauternes to be: balanced, fresh, sweet but not cloying, persistent and harmonious. Very long finish.
Château Sigalas Rabaud - Bommes
Vintage 2016 ❤ ++ Golden yellow, crystalline, fairly consistent. The nose is intense, saffron blends into a well-defined fruit. Notes of apricot, pineapple, apple juice, candied pear. After swirling the glass a couple of times, the scents shift to spice, particularly vanilla, and a balsamic finish comes out that is capable of conquering. In the mouth, it enters firm and balanced, has a nice acidity and great freshness that makes me think of long ageing.
Château de Myrat - Barsac
Vintage 2016 ❤ - - Intense golden yellow and crystal clear. On the nose the botrytis is not so explosive, but the aromas are well delineated and there is good complexity. Notes range from saffron to lemon jam. On the palate it is warm and soft, with excellent freshness and a nice tanginess that nicely balances the very pronounced residual sugar. Harmonious, with a long, almondy finish that gives it great longevity.
Château Doisy Daëne - Barsac
Vintage 2016 ❤ – Golden yellow, crystal clear. The nose is very distinctive, a note of dried hay prevails, fading into fresh sage, rock salt and ending in a distinct saffron. A second pass reveals dried rose, ripe apricot and caramelised fig. In the mouth it enters warm, soft, perhaps a little alcoholic compared to others, but the freshness is well balanced and overall it is harmonious. Interesting, although I would have liked it to be longer on the finish.
Château Doisy - Védrines - Barsac
Vintage 2016 ❤ Golden yellow, crystalline, it forms very, very close bows that descend slowly. The nose is really elegant, intense, complex, with ripe apricot blending perfectly with saffron, candied pear and magnolia. In the mouth, it has a great freshness that gives it great ageing potential. Balanced and harmonious. Pity only for a finish that could have been even longer.
Château d'Arche - Sauternes
Vintage 2016 Golden yellow, crystal clear and consistent in the glass. The nose did not convince me because I found it too little intense and complex. In the mouth it improved, and the warm sensation is tempered by a nice freshness and a long finish.
Château Filhot - Sauternes
Vintage 2016 Golden yellow, crystal clear and consistent in the glass. The nose wins but does not convince: good intensity, somewhat lacking in complexity and above all the aromas are not well delineated. What does stand out, however, is a dried pineapple that blends into a fairly intense citrus note. In the mouth, the structure is pleasant and it has a nice freshness, even if the botrytis is not felt as I would have hoped and it is too soft.
Château Broustet - Barsac
Vintage 2016 ❤ + Golden yellow. On the nose, notes of saffron, hay, caraway, dried figs and acacia honey. On the palate it is firm and balanced, sweet but not cloying, with a freshness that makes it a Sauternes with extraordinary ageing potential.
Château Nairac - Barsac
Château Caillou - Barsac
Château Suau - Barsac
Château de Malle - Preignac
Vintage 2016 ❤ – Pale golden yellow, crystal clear. On the nose, notes of vanilla, dried fig, saffron, sugared almond and acacia honey. In the mouth, it is very pleasant, balanced and with a very long finish that hints at its ageing potential. Definitely a great Sauternes, but one that failed to make itself unforgettable.
Château Romer du Hayot - Fargues
Château Romer - Fargues
Château Lamothe - Sauternes
Château Lamothe Guignard - Sauternes
Vintage 2016 ❤ – – Golden yellow, crystal clear and consistent in the glass. The nose is not particularly intense, but has good complexity, with notes of ripe tropical fruit, hay and brown sugar. In the mouth it is elegant, balanced and very fresh. I found it to have a slightly weaker structure than the others.
Château Bastor - La Montagne - Sauternes
Vintage 2016 Intense straw yellow with golden hues, consistent, forms very close bows. On the nose, saffron fades into chestnut honey, the finish is apricot and cedar grass. In the mouth it is sweet, fresh, warm... indeed very warm. On the whole not so balanced, too much shifted to softness that does not make me think of great ageing potential. However very elegant, I would probably wait 4 or 5 years and drink it as an aperitif, served chilled.
Château de Fargues - Fargues
Vintage 2016 ❤ + Intense golden yellow, crystal clear and consistent. The nose is full and precious saffron, dried figs, hazelnuts, lime honey. In the mouth it enters fresh, with a great sapidity that contrasts with the sweetness creating a wonderful balance. There is a good correspondence between nose and mouth, even if the palate shifts slightly to more acidic fruit such as apricot. Elegant and with great freshness, it can age for a long time. Long finish. A perfect match for a perfect evening in the bathtub.
I admit that as much as I am a Sauternes worshipper, I had never tasted a Barsac Cru and a Sauternes Cru 'consciously', that is, expecting marked differences between one and the other. I sensed great differences in terroir, identifying two macro-categories: Barsac and Preignac on the one hand and Sauternes, Bommes and Fargues on the other. On the whole, I preferred the Sauternes from the Barsac Cru, which shifted more towards saffron and honey notes than the Sauternes Cru, which shifted more towards hay and dried flowers. I liked the 'border' Sauternes such as Preignac's very much for their never cloying tropical fruit.
I hope to soon fill in the gaps of Sauternes that I have not tasted... in the meantime, I have a magnificent Magnum of Suduiraut 2011 that I have decided I will uncork the day before I die, hoping to know in advance and that this will happen as late as possible!
I recommend that you learn more about Sauternes by reading the blogs of my fellow Millésima Blog Awards winners:
- Rob Frish, Odd Bacchus 'Sauternes: It's What's For Breakfast'.
- Jeff Barrows, Food Wine Click 'SAUTERNES VERTICAL TASTING AT CHÂTEAU SUDUIRAUT'
Thanks to Millésima for sponsoring this wonderful trip among the Grands Crus de Bordeaux!