The Golden Glow of Sauternes

Dessert wines shine at the 2008 Bordeaux Futures Week. (Part one in a series)


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It is not going to be an easy year for sales of Bordeaux 2007 futures. Nobody, not even the most optimistic of Bordeaux wine producers, past masters at saying black is white, will make great claims for 2007. The sunny month of September saved the vintage, but it did not make it a great one.

Except in one corner of Bordeaux>, in Sauternes and Barsac and in Pessac-Léognan. It was Sauternes' chance to shine on the first day of the 2008 Bordeaux futures campaign. And shine it did. These are glorious wines, the best rich, opulent promising long aging. "It's a great year," said Christian Seely, who directs Château Suduiraut. "I would compare it with 2001." It's a beautiful year," echoed Pierre Lurton, director of Château d'Yquem.

Sauternes in 2007 is one in a long line of great vintages in Sauternes since the turn of the millennium. Apart from 2001, there has been 2003, 2005, 2006 and now 2007.

What makes these wines so great this year? It is the range of flavors and tastes, from the honey and lemon of the lesser properties, to the powerful, dry botrytis flavors of the top growths. As always, with great Sauternes, these wines also have acidity. This year, that acidity is in fine balance with the richness, setting the scene for the sweetness.

Sauternes 2007 is especially exciting because there are hardly any dull wines. A couple may lack the intensity, but the majority, at whatever level, offer a complete package of richness, sweetness and pleasure. If you buy nothing else from Bordeaux this year, buy Sauternes.

Tomorrow, the other success: the whites of Pessac-Léognan. Look also for the reds from this region.

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Sauternes/Barsac ratings March 31 2008
Barrel samples

96-98 Château d'Yquem, Sauternes.
Impressively balanced, with new wood giving spice and the elegant fruit giving orange marmalade tastes. It's rich, unctuous, but also restrained, the richness balanced with great acidity —R.V.

95-97 Château Guiraud, Sauternes.
This is going to be great Sauternes. It has all the richness, powered with botrytis, perfumed honey and lemon. Power is the main impression, and the concentration —R.V.

95-97 Château la Tour Blanche, Sauternes.
A beautiful wine, with all the elements in the right place. It has peach fruits, fresh acidity, lively lemon, and all that is lifted over richness and intense botrytis —R.V.

94-96 Château Coutet, Barsac.
 In the ethereal style, this wine shows all the freshness of Barsac, lit with flashes of yellow fruits, some delicate botrytis, and fine acidity. It finishes with a lively freshness —R.V.

94-96 Château Rieussec, Sauternes.
Big, powerful, relatively dry, but intensely botrytized, with lovely acidity and intensity. This is an impressive wine, just starting on its development —R.V.

93-95 Château Doisy-Védrines, Barsac.
A great, deliciously balanced mouthful of lemon, honey, apricots and a touch of brioche. A lovely wine, not big, but almost floating —R.V.

93-95 Château Suduiraut, Sauternes.
This has the magic balance of freshness with richness, a great mouthful of honey, apricots and lemon. The feel is opulent, delicious —R.V.

92-94 Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey, Sauternes.
Fine, ripe and already well developed, this comes across as a wine of great pleasure, elegant and fruity. There is some good apples and cream flavor, as well as dense botrytis —R.V.

92-94 Château Nairac, Barsac.
Fresh, relatively delicate, feathery with attractive lemon and peach flavors, an underlay of fine botrytis. Deliciously on the lighter side —R.V.

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91-93 Château Bastor-Lamontagne, Sauternes.
Delicious, fresh wine, an edge of tannins, layered with dry botrytis and fresh acidity. This could well be a wine that needs aging, showing young structure —R.V.

91-93 Château Clos Haut-Peyraguey, Sauternes.
Weighty, dry with botrytis, this is a wine that will develop slowly. It misses intensity initially, but then a complex series of flavors from spice to fruit come through —R.V.

91-93 Château Doisy-Daëne, Barsac.
Pepper, spice aromas on this fresh, delicate, but potentially impressive wine. There is lovely acidity here, as well as an underlay of intense botrytis —R.V.

90-92 Château de Fargues, Sauternes.
Big, ripe, dense and concentrated, this throws together sweetness and botrytis in equal measure. Thank goodness for the acidity and the fine lemon perfumes —R.V.

90-92 Château de Malle, Sauternes.
With toasty, spicy aromas, this has some fine ripeness, the wood a counterpoint to the freshness and lime flavors. At the end, it is apricots which come through —R.V.

90-92 Château de Myrat, Barsac.
This seems caught between a dry exterior and a rich, but still structured interior. Serious, but with aging potential —R.V.

90-92 Château Romer, Sauternes.
High acidity here, a relatively dry wine, with some good freshness, backed by the dryness of the botrytis. Balance is as important here as richness —R.V.

90-92 Château Sigalas-Rabaud, Sauternes.
Dry, old gold, firm and ripely structured. The wine has density, spice, some nutmeg, the acidity perhaps submerged in all this richness —R.V.

89-91 Château Broustet, Sauternes.
Intense botrytis aromas, honey and very ripe fruit. A powerhouse of richness, delicious and full, just touched with lemon —R.V.

89-91 Château Caillou, Sauternes.
A delicious, fresh wine initially, but it does show great balance, crisp fruit over some richness, but elegant rather than powerful —R.V.

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88-90 Château de Rayne-Vigneau, Sauternes.
Lemony and grassy, this owes a lot to spice, new wood rather than fruit. Quite tight at this stage —R.V.

88-90 Château Romer-du-Hayot, Sauternes.
Smoky, toasty aromas are followed easily by new wood tastes. This wood dominates the initial palate, but then the weight of rich fruit comes through, balanced with acidity —R.V.

88-90 Château Suau, Barsac.
Light, fresh, with apricots and sweet fruits, and only light botrytis flavors. It is already well balanced, with honey and lemon sweetness —R.V.

87-89 Château Filhot, Sauternes.
Lean, this is a lemongrass and herbal flavored wine, touched by spice, but with only a modicum of richness —R.V.

87-89 Château Lamothe-Guignard, Sauternes.
Fine, full, rich, with balanced freshness and richness. The wine is relatively straightforward, a good opulent taste, leaving some citrus aftertaste —R.V.

86-88 Château d'Arche, Sauternes.
On the austere side, a wine that is dominated by dryness, the richness only a hint. Yes, there is botrytis, but at the moment it's under wraps —R.V.

86-88 Château Rabaud-Promis, Sauternes.
Lemon candy flavors, somewhat confected, a fresh wine that doesn't yet hang together —R.V.

85-87 Château Lamothe, Sauternes.
Missing the richness and opulence of 2007, this is a mineral, austere wine that only comes to life when the acidity kicks in —R.V. 

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