Recent impressions and snippets

2009 Ch Suduiraut Lions de suduiraut
From Sauternes, Bright pale lemon colour, tropical fruit salad, with lime and orange blossom; palate displaying greater apricot and some toffee. Light oak at finish and some honeycomb.  I haven’t seen this label before, but it seems like a second label, and intentionally an earlier drinking style – potentially from younger vines or from lesser graded barrels. 2009 was a rich and successful year for Sauternes, and this wine was a stimulating surprise.

Likely to be excellent value, drink to 2025 and 90 points

2008 Ch Lafaurie-Peyraguey
Also from Sauternes, this wine was a deeper light bronze colour. This wine was made with attitude- the fruit had more intensity, and much greater oak impact- conveying a complex wine of spices and vanilla. 2008 is regarded as a lesser vintage than 2009.  Unfortunately, the dark honey bouquet was accompanied by some varnish and fly-tox notes. Although this distraction declined with breathing, it still remained, rendering the wine unsound for me (two bottles tried with similar results), although other tasters were more complimentary. The palate had a furrier, more complex marmalade and mineral texture. Winemakers at the tasting suggested aspergillus (an undesirable fungus) was present along with the botrytis. This is a wine to divide opinion, with the grubbiness battling power.

Not rated.

1975 Baileys (Bundarra) Vintage Port
Glenrowan Victoria. Previously tasted in Nov 2015.

This was a canny auction purchase from 2019 with the level at the base of the neck. The cork was meagre, but had performed its duty faithfully over the intervening 45 years!

Still owning a dense bricky colour, the wine was replete with liquorice, mocha and some rose-petal. The palate was sweet but vibrant- iron tonic, blackberry, coffee, milk chocolate and lush mouthfeel. Another tribute to the late Harry Tinson’s winemaking prowess. Old-fashioned, but frighteningly enjoyable.

From a very good season, drink to 2030, 91 points.

Two (young) Sauternes from 2014

2014 sauternes

Served blind (as usual), it’s always a useful, and challenging exercise to predict the future of young wines, especially with this style where acidity, sweetness, oak, and botrytis clamour for attention. The usual balance, length and complexity assessment follows, as does the hoped-for appearance of an “x factor”- some compelling attribute that delights the senses and intellect.

2014 Ch La Tour Blanche 14%
This wine was pale in colour, displaying rich tropical fruits (especially just-ripe pineapple), a fresh, ripe, rich, bright palate bursting with citrus and stonefruits; botrytis makes its presence felt, and supportive, creamy spicy oak oak made this supple fresh wine easy to drink, but with effortless potential (82% Semillon, 12% Sav blanc, 5% Muscadelle, 130 g/l residual sugar; from the Bommes area within Sauternes). Ch La Tour Blanche has excellent QPR and I have four vintages represented in my cellar.

To 2035 and 93 points – and potential for a higher score in the future

2014 Ch Suduiraut 14%
This wine had a deeper colour, but was still a bright light gold. Here the aromas were more oak-derived, with marzipan, and a very pleasant coconut/sunscreen oil riding along with citrus and yellow peach (90% Semillon, 10% sauv blanc, 150 g/l residual sugar; from Preignac within Sauternes). This wine had greater density, richness and mouthfeel than the wine above, but will be a fascinating exercise to watch these in the coming years – or decades. Ch Suduiraut is sparse in my cellar, but now on the radar for some backfilling!

Drink to 2040, and 94 points – with potential for improvement.

What a triumph to see two quite different, very youthful, delicious expressions of Sauternes wines from estates a mere 4 kilometres apart, but subject to the botrytis vagaries of fogs on the gentle hollows, the different varietal composition, staggered picking times, and the varied winemaking inputs.

Sauternes, again

In recent weeks, I’ve enjoyed 3 excellent sauternes from different vintages – from full-sized bottles.

The underlying question is “what is the right age to drink sauternes?”. There must be some allowance made for half vs full bottle size, producer and vintage, but is there even a rule of thumb?

Certainly we would aim to avoid immature wines, wines that are nowhere near their optimum; similarly we want to avoid drinking relics, whose best times are well past.

I want to see interplay of fruit flavours and development, with the desirable attributes of balance, length, concentration and a sense of place.

Sauternes have the ability to mature for a long time; their regime of high alcohol, medium sugar – say 120 to 150 g/l, low acid contrast to say a Mosel Riesling equivalent BA with its low alcohol and high acid; but both contain the stuffing to ensure a long life – cork permitting.

So 3 different vintages with ratings and general comments from Wine Spectator Sauternes vintage chart

1995 87, drink- sweet and balanced, uneven quality

1998 88, drink- elegant, refined and delicious

2005 93, hold- opulent and structured with underlying finesse

vitsoc feb 2016

1995 Ch Suduiraut 13%

90% Semillon, 10% sauvignon blanc in Preignac. Amber/gold colour, but alive with pear, apricot, marmalade and vanilla bean. Fully ready, and its churlish to mention how a 21- year-old wine needs a touch more acidity to provide better refreshment, and an even higher score; being tasted next to the de Fargues did it no favours, but in its own right – no problem!

Drink now-2020; 93 points

1998 Ch de Fargues 13.5%

Owned by the de Lur Saluces family, the wine (80% semillon, 20% sauvignon blanc) is from a highly regarded property -whose wines I have not previously tried- made in the same fanatical and meticulously low yielding methods as Ch D’Yquem. Lighter in colour than the Suduiraut, this wine is a stunner, very ripe and sweet with a lime-juice and guava palate, refreshing acidity and the finest ultra-silky palate.

Drink to 2025, 96 points

2005 ch la tour blanche

2005 Ch La Tour blanche 14%

Approx 80% Semillon, 15% sauvignon blanc, 5% muscadelle, from Bommes. Gold/Amber colour, barley sugar, vanilla, citrus and poached pear. Ripe, with grippy balanced phenolics. Almond meal, and some complex tropical fruit reverberate on a long creamy palate. Fantastic fresh wine, with buckets of time ahead.

Drink to 2025, 95 points

High scores, and these wines often come up at auction with prices that are – relatively speaking, value for money (the 1995 Suduiraut and the 2005 La Tour Blanche for under $100). And my conclusion for optimum decadent drinking? From lesser years, 10-15 years; from best years 15-20 years, with numerous exceptions.