1997 Ch Rieussec 14%

It’s startling to recognise the abundant fruit power this wine style can possess. From the website, its composition is around 95% Semillon, 4% Muscadelle, and a squiggle of Sauvignon Blanc. The typical treatment is 18-26 months in oak (approx. 50% new). And the wine has just soaked up this oak, and is bursting with fruit vitality.

1997 ch rieussec

The cork has performed its task.

This wine is drinking superbly. Deep, bright gold in colour, one can luxuriate in apricot, citrus peel, lime, quince, vanilla, and light honey and almond. Apple and raisin appear on the viscous palate, joined by barley sugar, sweet spices and lime.  The wine is resoundingly fresh, obviously complex, and lingers effortlessly. Sweetness and acidity are highly harmonious here.

Drink to 2030 (but why wait?) and 96 points.

Two from Barsac, two from Sauternes

It’s a source of wonder that one area can produce a great dry wine styles of the world (red Bordeaux, with Cabernet Sauvignon allied with Merlot and other red varieties), and also one great sweet white wine style (Barsac and Sauternes, made generally from Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc). The dry whites can be tantalisingly complex too.

The Sauternes area is usually blessed by fogs, and botrytis can perform its magic. Low yields and the concentration delivered by botrytis mean the wines can absorb an extensive amount of oak, adding even more complexity, and while attractive as young wines, have the potency to last for decades.

Two wines were served masked; they turned out to be from the same producer with just one years difference in the vintage. While I successfully initially estimated the wines as around 20 years old, the more advanced nature of the second (and actually younger) wine made me guess a little older. The wines were from Chateau Coutet.

1996 Ch Coutet (barsac) 14%
75% Semillon, 20% sauvignon blanc, 10% muscadelle

The wine was a bright light copper orange liqueur colour, displaying some vanilla, dark honey, fresh and dried apricot plus crème brulee; the palate lush, with attractive slightly bitter orange marmalade, sweet spices and texture. Full-bodied with grace and balance. Harmonious with drive and length. At its peak.

Drink to 2026, and 93 points

1997 Ch Coutet (barsac) 13.5%
80% Semillon, 10% sauvignon blanc, 10% muscadelle)

Three bottles were opened, the bottle I was served from was most successful; another bottle was nearly as excellent; the third bottle however was plain and comparatively dull.

The wine had a similar bright dark gold colour, and showed darker, riper fruit flavours – stewed fruits with some ripe tropical notes. Overall, while seemingly a little sweeter, and with a silky palate, it was simpler in its characters, and seems a drink-soon proposition.

Drink to 2023, 90 points.

The next two wines were half-bottles from terrific QPR producers from the outstanding 2009 vintage. Dim restaurant lighting thwarted proper assessment of colour, and the bottles quickly emptied, preventing more leisurely appraisal at home.

2009 Ch la tour blanche (sauternes- Bommes) 13.8%
Semillon, sauvignon blanc and Muscadelle) 150 g/l rs

Bright and clear gold colour, this wine was packed with floral tropical fruit notes, of mango, orange peel, green pineapple backed up with green nettle and barley sugar; altogether complex and delicious. It was rich and complete on the palate, with racy acidity cutting through its lushness. I’m a happy purchaser, with a few more bottles for the future

Drink to 2030 and 92 points

2009 Ch Raymond Lafon  (sauternes) 13.5%
80% semillon, 20% sauvignon blanc, 138 g/l rs

The colour was clear, albeit slightly darker than the wine above. It seemed to show brighter perfumed fruits, greater honeyed richness and a grippier palate, but not quite the intrigue of the first wine, and seemed readier,

Drink to 2026 and 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.

Mixed drinks, recent short impressions

2003 Joh Jos Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese 8%
Very pale lemon in colour, there is an array of the usual petroleum (not kero), and faint smokiness mixed with tropical fruits of mango, passionfruit, a pull of citrus, flint and warm spices. The palate is sweet, fresh, viscous  and long-lasting. The wine got better as it sat in the glass.

Its not easy to resist the style, one of my favourite Mosel vineyards plus the combination of freshness and bottle-aged complexities. It’s a triumph of old vines and winemaking nous over the heatwave European 2003 vintage.

95 points, and drink to 2030.

2014 Chateau La Tour blanche 14%
Sauternes (83% semillon, 12% sauvignon blanc, 5% Muscadelle; 130 g/l r/s)

A great VFM Sauternes producer, and a wonderful result from an excellent vintage. Light gold in colour, the wine displayed vibrant nettle, stonefruit, pineapple rind and bright lemon icing sugar. The palate showed more barley-sugar, and some vanilla pod to add to the aromatics. Rich, sweet, balanced with much more pleasure to cover over the next ten to fifteen years.

The range of fruit flavours, the complexity and balance makes the wine a delight.

94 points, and drink to 2030 (at least)

2014 Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey
Sauternes (93% Semillon, 6% sauvignon blanc, 1% Muscadelle)

Served (masked) at the same occasion as the La Tour Blanche above, this wine looked darker in colour, showed greater – and simpler- tropical fruits, and custard apple. The palate was sweet, fresh and supple, but with greater oak presence, some hardness, and some bitterness. Time may help, but the contrast did not help its cause.

87 points, drink to 2023.

1952 Saltram Pinnacle selection Show Muscat 18.8%
Barossa muscat, stored in small oak, believed to have been bottled sometime in the 1980’s.

Colour (after decanting) was a bright khaki, and the wine showed caramel, toffee, mocha. Some raisin character, and a degree of vanillan oak and rancio.

Served masked as usual, the mix of attributes made it difficult to decide style between muscat and tawny; the lushness pushing for muscat, the rancio pointing to tawny. Revealed as muscat,  the wine itself was excellent, and a nice piece of Barossa history.

90 points, drink now.

2003 Taylor Fladgate Vintage Port
A devastatingly hot year in Europe, but most Port producers declared the vintage. Cork – or storage- struck; the bottle I sampled was strong, powerful in colour, but the flavour impact was tertiary mixed mocha and coffee grounds; and the wine looked plain, young, raw and lacking finesse. A hasty look at remnants from another two bottles opened showed more expected fruit flavours of violets and dark cherry, but time and the amount left conspired against further contemplation

Not rated, but I will have other opportunities!

Random recent drinking

2010 Ch La Tour blanche 14% (sauternes)
80% Semillon, 15% Sav Blanc, 5% Muscadelle, 130 g/l rs
A chateau that overdelivers on bang-for buck, there is stonefruit, barley-sugar, just-ripe apricot and cumquat. Oak plays in the background and this is delicious.
93 points, and irresistible to 2025, or longer.

2007 Joh Jos Prum Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Auslese AP29,  7.5%
Ripe red apple, petroleum, minerals.Crunchy, some fruit rind notes too on the palate, bracing, lovely tingly, pebbly drive.
The 2007 Mosel Rieslings have emerged from their shell and are providing rewarding hedonistic drinking
92 points, and drink to 2030 or beyond

2004 Ch Climens 13.5%, (Barsac)
Glue smells accompany apricot cream and almond. Very sweet, but with a some bitterness too. It had the misfortune to be contrasted with the next wine, and while this half-bottle was eminently drinkable,
86 points. Perhaps an underperforming bottle.

2005 Ch Doisy-daene 14% (Barsac)
Another VFM producer, and the wine shows nutmeg and cinnamon spices, pineapple and vanilla. Classic palate length, with sweetness and acidity just right.
93 points, and drink to 2028.

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.

a few Sauternes and Barsac

laf and doisy

Bill Blatch has a marvellous site on this wine style http://bordeauxgold.com/bill-blatch/

2001 Ch lafaurie-peyraguey (sauternes 13.5%)

from half-bottle; 90% Semillon, 5% sav blanc, 5% muscadelle. Quite an advanced dark gold colour; waxy, “skinsy”, smoky oak and nuts over ripe apricots, lemons some bitterness present, and another example from an excellent year for sweet wines.

Drink to 2022; score 91

2005 Ch Doisy-daene (barsac 14%)

From half-bottle; 95% Semillon, 170 g/l rs. Lighter colour, lighter elegant style; barley sugar, prominent acidity, passionfruit and orange blossom. Amazingly, seems not as sweet as the L-P, but  all in balance. More time will be rewarding.

Drink to 2025, score 92+

roumieu

2010 Ch Roumieu

A producer I haven’t tasted before – these two wines were served blind.

Bright light pale straw colour, syrupy sweet, tropical fruit, stonefruits and pineapple, with an overlay of green nettles, almost a celery. Tightly wound with abundant cleansing acidity.

Drink now-2025, score 90

1970 Ch Roumieu

Colour suggests the wine is clearly older, and exudes some petroleum and light toffee characters. Some waxiness on the palate and there is still fruit and acid, but slimmed down. While this wine has seen better days, the contrast is quite enjoyable. Seems about 25 years older.

Unmasked, same company but 40! years older. I’m amazed at this.

Drink now, score 87 (I have not added any points for surprise at its drinkability at such an age)