Bordeaux En Primeur Day 1: Sauternes
Producers are feeling the effects of the recession though Sauternes still shines.
The view over St. Emilion.
Bordeaux is learning the meaning of that well-worn phrase: it's the economy, stupid. However much the Bordeaux producers talk up the 2008 vintage—and there is much in its favor—the conversation comes right back to the recession.
It is the economy that is keeping buyers—especially American buyers, who are even rarer this year than the region's greatest wine—away from the Bordeaux futures week, which began today.
It is the economy that makes a group of producers sitting round a dinner table bemoan the fact that price dominates everything this year. According to Edouard Moueix, scion of the family that owns Château Pétrus, probably a mere 10 châteaux will sell their wines with ease this year. "The rest of us are being punished for the mistakes of about 20 producers who were greedy in the good years. For the rest of Bordeaux, prices remain reasonable. We will be charging the same price for our wines, Pétrus apart, as we charged in 2001."
But, at the base of the Bordeaux pyramid, it is the economy that makes it possible for Moueix to buy a barrel of red Bordeaux to blend in his generic wines, at "the same price as we paid in 1986." Who said Bordeaux was expensive?
The wines: a golden glow from Sauternes
It is a magnificent year in Sauternes. The wines show power, concentration, intense botrytis coupled with and balanced by finely fresh acidity. Everything that makes a Sauternes vintage one for aging. It was an exciting start to Bordeaux futures week.
As with so much of Bordeaux, the last half of September saved the harvest, and provided "great good luck", according to Xavier Planty, director of Château Guiraud. "We were able to take our time, getting the berries just when they were right." The downside is small quantities—in some cases down by 60 percent on 2007—because of spring frosts. "These will be precious and rare wines," said Planty.
Wine Enthusiast's European Editor Roger Voss will report tasting notes daily from En Primeur Futures Bordeaux. Note: Because wines tasted were barrel samples, the reviews have a spread of scores.
Today Sauternes. Tomorrow Margaux.
96-98 Château d'Yquem Sauternes. Impressively balanced, with the fruit rich, intense with a golden glow. The acidity is as important as the freshness, giving a delicious lift to the core of dry, concentrated botrytis. Obviously a great wine for long-term aging.-R.V.
93-95 Château Doisy-Védrines Barsac. The ripe fruits go straight to the heart of this powerful, orange peel and citrus wine. There are yellow fruits, balanced with fresh acidity. The ensemble is rich, but balanced.-R.V.
93-95 Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey Sauternes. A powerful wine, its botrytis character dominant. But there are complex flavors underneath; the fruit is ripe and it's impressively concentrated.-R.V.
92-94 Château Suau Barsac. With its big, almost dry core of botrytis, this is going to be an intense wine—many years from now. At present, the acidity gives it some freshness, while it remains concentrated.-R.V.
92-94 Château Filhot Sauternes. An impressive wine. It shows just the right balance of dry botrytis and sweet fruit, bringing a firm structure as well as ripe bitter orange marmalade flavors.-R.V.
92-94 Château de Myrat Barsac. With its gold color, this wine announces richness and rounds in the mouth, giving sweetness, tropical flavors and big, ripe fruit. The texture is similarly rich. Only on the finish does the acidity arrive.-R.V.
92-94 Château Rabaud-Promis Sauternes. Sweet, with a toffee element, this wine has ripe fruit and is full of bitter orange flavors. It's richly fine, concentrated and tight. The aftertaste is rich, with great wafts of fruit.-R.V.
92-94 Château Rieussec Sauternes. Rich rather than sweet, this is stuffed full of botrytis. The wine is powered through with this dusty texture, rolling richly but catching the dried fruit character.-R.V.
92-94 Château Clos Haut-Peyraguey Sauternes. Like many of the Sauternes in 2008, this is dominated by huge, concentrated botrytis. The fruits are dried, with orange peel coming through as a final, fresh lift.-R.V.
92-94 Château La Tour Blanche Sauternes. A full-in-the-mouth wine, its botrytis a big, rich character among the super-rich fruit. There is power here and intensity of flavor. Overall, a dense, concentrated wine.-R.V.
92-94 Château Guiraud Sauternes. Firm, richly structured and powered through with botrytis. There's a tight, dried apricot and peach character and the acidity compensates with a great vivid character.-R.V.
91-93 Château Doisy-Daëne Barsac. Dry and concentrated, this is a powerful wine with great swathes of dry botrytis cutting through the fruit. A wine that, at this stage, shows power and density.-R.V.
91-93 Château Sigalas-Rabaud Sauternes. On the dry side, this wine has a powerful texture and is firm and ripe with big botrytis flavors and a very dry core. Obviously a wine for aging.-R.V.
91-93 Château Suduiraut Sauternes. Rich, generous, opulent, and showing big swathes of intense fruit and orange marmalade. The dried fruits shine in this powerful, sweet wine.-R.V.
90-92 Château de Fargues Sauternes. Big, rich botrytis character from the first aromas right through the palate. The wine is rich in orange marmalade, intense and concentrated.-R.V.
90-92 Château de Malle Sauternes. Lively, fresh fruit here, with a light lemon bite along with the dry botrytis element. The wine has great vivacity and is deliciously crisp on the finish.-R.V.
90-92 Château Caillou Barsac. A rich, toffee aroma introduces a wine that's definitely sweet, with caramel and baked apple flavors. It is ripe, freshened by acidity, but generally richly sweet.-R.V.
89-91 Château Lamothe-Guignard Sauternes. Smooth, opulent, powerful, this wine is big in yellow fruits, mango, banana, and has a rich, intense texture. Not exactly sweet, more super rich.-R.V.
89-91 Château Lamothe Sauternes. Finely structured, showing a peach skin texture which lifts the rich botrytis character. The wine is dominated by that botrytis and has a firm, fine character.-R.V.
89-91 Château Romer-du-Hayot Sauternes. Very ripe, gold character wine, with rich fruit and an almost toffee-sweet flavor. The wine has a nectar quality, but the acidity gives it a final fresh lift.-R.V.
89-91 Château de Rayne Vigneau Sauternes. A firm dry wine, its character dominated by its dense structure. The fruit is just one of the many elements in this concentrated Sauternes.-R.V.
89-91 Château Coutet Barsac. With a big, rounded character, this wine is relatively soft, toasty almost, the fruit open, generous but unfocussed. It offers richness with a final tang of dryness.-R.V.
88-90 Château Bastor Lamontagne Sauternes. A light style wine that moves into delicate citrus and crisp fruits. It shows a lively palate, with a tight, dry core of botrytis.-R.V.
88-90 Château Broustet Sauternes. Tensely structured, showing dry botrytis above everything else. There is big concentration here, while the wine only just shows final freshness.-R.V.
87-89 Château d'Arche Sauternes. Firm, ripe, densely structured and is almost a meal in itself. The texture is dry, also rich, and powerful.-R.V.
86-88 Château Nairac Barsac. Intriguing wine which brings richness along with fresh, lemon acidity. It takes on a character of a lemon candy, perhaps confected. It is not yet properly integrated.-R.V.