If I ever had to choose only one wine to drink for the rest of my life it would probably be a Sauternes. The luscious golden liquid with flavours that move from pineapple and tropical fruits when youthful to the deeply complex dried fruits, honey and gingerbread with age are a wonder to behold. At this year’s Decanter Bordeaux event I was lucky enough to get tickets for the Château Suduiraut and Château Coutet tasting. Our speakers were Pierre Montégut (Suduiraut) and Aline Baly (Coutet).
We were given a history of the area, wines and château and talked through how the flavours develop as the wine age. Château Suduiraut is based in Sauternes and produces 84,000 bottles a year; Château Coutet is in Barsac and produces 42,000 bottles a year from the oldest and largest property in the area. Both speakers joked about whether Barsac or Sauternes produced the better wines – apparently Barsac is better in the ‘regular’ good years, whereas Sauternes really shows itself in the exceptional years although they will need ageing to show this.
We tasted three vintages – 2004, 1997 and the exceptional 1989. The Coutet is made from 75% Semillon, 23% Sauvignon Blanc and 2% Muscadelle. The Suduiraut is 90% Semillon and 10% Sauvignon Blanc. The 2004s were fresh, with tropical fruits such as pineapple and hints of ginger and jasmine. The sweetness was still apparent on both of these and gripped at my teeth. The 1997s were deeper in colour and starting to show more complexity with dried fruits, hazelnuts and marmalade aromas and flavours. The 1989s were darker again in colour and much more complex on the nose. The sugar was now fully integrated and although these wines are very obviously sweet wines, you are not overpowered by that sweetness as you are in the younger wines. The aromas and flavours were of dried nuts, tobacco, dried citrus and bitter orange (Suduiraut) and dried fruits, caramel, orange marmalade and gingerbread (Coutet). These are the wines that make me smile when I drink them. The complex aromas, the unctuous liquid, the warming alcohol – Aline Baly would like us to call them ‘Golden Wines,’ I think this is a great name for these treasures of Bordeaux.
After the tasting we headed downstairs to a talk by Decanter’s Jim Budd on the pitfalls and scams surrounding En Primeur. A very interesting and informative talk but the highlight for me was trying Château Coutet’s En Primeur. The nose was so youthful and tropical that it reminded me of the pineapple juice I was given straight out of the tin for a treat as a child. Then I took a sip and the sugar rush hit my mouth and found its way straight into a small hole I hadn’t realised was there in one of my molars. Wow and ouch I went at the same time. I’m not sure even with my sweet tooth that I could drink much of this but it was very interesting to compare it the other older vintages we had tried earlier. I can’t wait to visit Bordeaux in September so I can try more of the vintages and compare them with those I have already tasted – all in the name of education, of course.