Tag Archives: Sauternes

Sweet tooth (Bordeaux, France – Day Five)

It seems somehow fitting that the last day I will be visiting wineries is spent tasting some of the most famous dessert wines in the world. Graves is in the southern part of Bordeaux on the left bank but a long way from Medoc. It is a special area in the sense unlike other parts of Bordeaux all three of the famous wines are produced here; namely red, white and dessert wines. Red wine is the largest proportion of production, and in fact this was the origin of claret wine. In the original classification of 1855 one red wine was given first growth classification,which was Chateau Haut-Brion. Graves is also famous for the sweet wines, most importantly wines from Sauternes and Barsac which were also classified back in 1855. As you would remember I visited Chateau d’Yquem which is the most famous Sauternes house that has been given special First Growth Superieur status, but there are a number of other first growth estates. The varieties used for these wines are semillon and sauvignon blanc with a little muscadet. The fruit is harvested so late that the berries are botrytised and the sugar concentrated, and it is not uncommon for several passes to be made through the vineyard during the harvest to ensure only the best botrytised fruit is selected. The fermentation is stopped whilst there is still a high level of residual sugar in the wine, which is where the sweetness comes from. I visited two Sauternes estates in the morning and finished the day with an estate in Saint-Emilion.

The many aromas of sauternes captured by Chateau Suduiraut

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Chateau Suduiraut – 27/07/2012

Chateau Suduiraut 1989
Looking a little oxidative, possibly due to it being open a few days(?), showing some nutty notes and some watercress and celeriac, just like an old semillon should, some minerality and dried banana and fig. Creamy yet still bright and fresh texture, caramel and vanilla showing through but the sweetness is really dying down, very late dried apricots which would have been prominent in youth. Very complex and long, on the warm side at 14.5% alcohol, but lot’s of dried fruit complexity.

Chateau Suduiraut 1997
More brightness and showing minerality, oily and kerosene notes, dried citrus. Very nutty on the palate and texture, creamy and yet dense in the apricot and dried peach, denser but more linear through the palate with some nice savoury elements as well. Textured and bold but tight and fresh. Still plenty of life left in it, more complexity in the nose than on the palate for now.

Chateau Suduiraut 1999
Less expressive aromatically, very tight and linear on the nose, showing a lot of the minerality, finesse and elegance with a lot of freshness and more citrus than stone fruit. Denser and more concentrated than the 1997, but very tight and volumous, bright and textured at the same time, developing a little nuttiness and some lovely ripe vegetable elements like pumpkin and sweet-potato, great minerality and a core of acidity. Very shy at the moment, in a trough period of the ageing, needs another 10 years.

Chateau Suduiraut 2002
Quite different aromatically, showing some barley and wheat notes possibly as it is quite closed, very subtle caramel. Nice candied characters on the palate, dense and very concentrated viscosity, quiet in the palate as well, but showing a lot more youth in the dried apricots and warmth. Quite closed with a lot of intensity and potential or the future, powerful expression and bold volume and texture.

Chateau Suduiraut 2006
Combination of fruit and also some very subtle spice and celeriac aromatically, oil and minerality, thick and viscous. Very powerful and full of fruit, very full in the texture and viscosity, creamy and bold, layers of flavour and complexity, quite tropical and sweet, a real fruit salad of pineapple, passionfruit, mango and papaya. The weight and viscosity adding to the impression of sweetness. Juicy and approachable but very complex and elegant given time.

Chateau Suduiraut 2009
Kind of fat on the nose, looking slightly dull and inexpressive. Creamy buttery, slightly flabby aromas, not seeing enough brightness of fruit, seeing an evolution of style and winemaking perhaps. Quite thick and intense, very ripe fruits on the palate, warm and intense, but still quite well balanced, probably far too young to be appreciating and understanding this wine, it is designed for age and development in the bottle.

Chateau Suduiraut tasting

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Chateau Guiraud – 27/07/2012

Le G de Chateau Guiraud 2011
Very classic sauvignon blanc aromas of kiwi, white peach, guava, citrus and passionfruit. Very slightly grassy and mineralic. Crisp bright and fresh, albeit a little on the oaky side. Textured and a little warm, nice and round with persistent acids and fruit. Quite classy with the potential of ageing 5-10 years.

Petit Guiraud 2006
Nice oily petroleum kind of nose, very mineralic and slightly flinty. Extremely fresh and bright, only a little viscosity and texture, some sweetness but well integrated with the oak. Persistence and character, very young at the moment, wonderfully subtle and elegant, closer to a sweet German than a sauternes. Wonderful texture and purity, so simple yet so elegant. My style of sauternes, showing the difference with the sauvignon blanc.

Chateau Guiraud 2008
Quite tight aromatically, extremely fresh and lean, showing some green notes from the sauvignon blanc, bright fresh fruits, small apricots and white peach. More intense creaminess from smaller yields, definitely some influence from barrel but still showing so much elegance and freshness, bright concentrated fruits, well balanced alcohol and sweetness, will develop exceptionally well.

Chateau Guiraud 2002
Nicely developing nose, showing some dried fruit aromas now, more creaminess and vanilla influence, minerality and oiliness expressing more now. Denser and a little fuller, more extraction and phenolic compounds, a little more density in the oak but with some maturity. Brightness of acidity starting to settle down and the more complex elements opening up a little. Certainly more concentration that needs more time.

Chateau Guiraud 2005

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Full circle (Bordeaux, France – Day One)

There is a kind of poetry to my arrival in Bordeaux at this point in my trip. After this week I will be taking a hiatus from the wine discovery for about seven weeks, travelling through the UK, Ireland and Northern Europe playing the part of the cliché Australian backpacker. After this I will be working the vintage in Germany and will be having a different wine experience to the one I have had over the past 10 months. This therefore means that Bordeaux is the last wine region I will visit until November when I finish vintage and finish off my French wine discovery in places like Burgundy and the Loire Valley. In a way my journey has been leading up to Bordeaux as it is considered to be the greatest wine region in the world. Wine consumers and critics are more widely enamoured of this region than any other to the point that Bordeaux wines often sell for exorbitant prices in secondary markets if they are from a prestigious house and a great vintage. Bordeaux has created such a strong image around itself, the wines and the appelations that very few wine connoisseurs would struggle to name at least one left bank appellation. This region is the reference for marketing, branding and wine style for so many regions around the world that the cabernet sauvignon variety is the most widely planted in the world. There are thousands of wineries around the world who attempt to produce wine in the Bordeaux model, using the classic varieties and winemaking techniques to produce robust full-bodied and oaky wines. Almost every country I have visited has at least one Bordeaux variety planted, and there are many examples of the blend from Germany, Italy, Portugal, Chile and the USA. So after being shown so many ‘bordeaux’ wines in my journey coming here to taste the original and still the best is like the end of a pilgrimage. My first day was spent in the south eastern parts of Bordeaux at Chateau Canon La Gaffeliere, Chateau L’Eglise Clinet and Chateau d’Yquem.
Outside the famous Chateau d’Yquem

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Chateau d’Yquem – 23/07/2012

Chateau d’Yquem 2006
Bright golden colour, not a hint of orange. Very concentrated oily nose, apricot peach pear, dry honey and vanilla beans, finesse and elegance but very aromatic. Intense creamy texture, vanilla lanolin, fresh fruits, some delicate sweet spice, quite bracing in the acidity and astringency, needs some more time to soften and develop, A very textured wine, hiding a lot of its complexity under creaminess and alcohol.

Chateau d’Yquem from the year of my birth, not a real bottle and not tasted regretfully

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