By now you must have realised that I have a passion for sweet wines. Something that four years ago I would never have drunk willingly. My only reference at the time would have been cheap medium-sweet German wines that were drunk in the local pub. Then when I was out having dinner with the family, having just started my WSET education, I decided to try the dessert wine; it was a Vin Santo. The aromas hit my nose with a blast; the sweet liquid slowly edged its way down the glass, a melody of flavours jumping around my mouth, honey, dried fruit and nutty, and I was smitten. Since then I try to have dessert wine every time we go out – for educational purposes, of course.
So with my passion well and truly ablaze I was not going to miss the opportunity to attend the Award Winning Wines from Sauternes event at this year’s Decanter French Fine Wine Encounter. I attended the session last year hosted by Château Coutet and Château Suduiraut and we tasted some amazing wines. This year there were six châteaux displaying their wares; including a very special something from Château Doisy-Daëne.
Our hosts for the event were Pierre Montegut (Suduiraut), Aline Baly (Coutet and wonderful promoter of ‘gold’ wines), Virginie Achou-Lepage (Climens) and Fabrice Duburdieu (Doisy-Daëne).
A little bit about the grapes used in Sauternes and Barsac –
Sémillon – This is what gives the wines their outstanding ability to age. The susceptibility to botrytis (noble rot) of the three grapes is what gives Sauternes and Barsac their sweet, concentrated flavours. Provides richness and fullness to wines. Possibly related to Sauvignon Blanc.
Sauvignon Blanc – ‘Like spice in food – adds complexity and character but is not the main component.’ Sauvignon Blanc is the third most planted variety in France. It is highly susceptible to botrytis and it is also very vigorous requiring low vigour rootstock.
Muscadelle – Susceptible to botrytis and Oidium. This is a vigorous variety that gives a youthfulness to the wines. The amount of plantings have been falling in France. It is also used in the sweet wine from Monbazillac. Despite the similar sounding name it is unrelated to the Muscat varieties.
Wines we tasted:
Château Suduiraut, 1er Cru Classé 2005 – 90% Sémillon, 10% Sauvignon Blanc – an elegant wine, rich, full bodied with honey, apricots and dried fruits. The estate is owned by AXA Millésimes.
Château Climens, 1er Cru Classé 2007 – 100% Sémillon. Stone fruit, honey and dried fruits, full bodied with warming alcohol. 2007 was a perfect year for botrytis.
Château Coutet, 1er Cru Classé 2007 – 75% Sémillon, 23% Sauvignon Blanc, 2% Muscadelle. Mandarins and nectarines, dried fruit and a refreshing acidity. Based in Barsac, the wine estate was established in 1643 and comprises of 38.5ha. My favourite gold wine.
Château de Myrat, 2eme Cru Classé 2009 – 88% Sémillon, 8% Sauvignon Blanc, 4% Muscadelle. Pineapple, lemon drops with a hint of spice. The estate has been owned by the Pontac family since 1937.
Château la Tour Blanche, 1er Cru Classé 2009 – 90% Sémillon, 10% Sauvignon Blanc. Floral, sweet peach, rich and full bodied. The château is owned by the Ministry of Agriculture and is used as a school of viticulture and oenology.
Château Doisy-Védrines, 2eme Cru Classé 2002 – 82% Sémillon, 15% Sauvignon Blanc, 3% Muscadelle. Oranges, dried and crystallised fruit with a long length. This wine is made in a style to make it more like a Sauternes than a Barsac.
Château Doisy-Daëne 1971 – Nutty, dried orange, fruit cake – very deep in colour and good acidity. Fabrice said that this was made at a time when they had an obsession with concentration and there was less sugar in the wines. Owned by the Dubourdieu since 1924.
This was another brilliant ‘gold’ wine tasting with fascinating input from the families and people involved. If Decanter have a similar event next year make sure you get a ticket, just leave one for me!