Sublime, Magical Sauternes. Sadly Underappreciated. Fix that!
on 30/01/16 at 4:13 pmWine
The Grands Crus de Bordeaux wine tasting of the 2013 vintage rolled into the Fairmont Miramar hotel and, even though the 2013 vintage got a bad rap, the place was packed. There were over 70 Châteaux pouring and that, dear reader, is daunting for this wino who swallows and doesn’t spit, which I find disgusting especially when some guys – usually guys – hose their spit into a bucket like a pissing contest. Now, I noticed, little plastic cups are provided so spitters can discretely let loose into the cup and then dump their spit into a silver bucket. Spitters claim, when there are so many wines to sample, that spitting is the only way to go. But absorbing alcohol and getting palate fatigue, no matter your tasting method, is an occupational hazard. Some may disagree with the ‘hazard’ part. Anyhow, because I read that the 2013 reds were practically undrinkable at this point, I bypassed the reds – “quelle horreur!” – and tasted the white Bordeaux which were really very good.
But the “pièce de résistance” were the Sauternes. Oh my, just sublime. I zoomed over to the Sauternes and Barsac table where there were 10 Châteaux – a totally doable number – and started with the famous Château Suduiraut…concentrated gold sunshine silk in a bottle. I swooned and then proceeded to taste them all. I wasn’t disappointed. The others were lighter than the Suduiraut and I could imagine drinking them everyday! The aphrodisiacal, tropical aromas come primarily from the Semillon grape, precisely infected with botrytis. Sauternes are mostly made up of 80% Semillion, 20% Sauvignon Blanc but can vary with a minimum of 70% Semillion, a varying percentage of Sauvignon and occasionally a smidgen of Muscadelle. However it is made, it is magical and, happily, 2013 was a very good year for Sauternes. Interestingly, climate change has worked in Sauternes’ favor as the warmer temperatures spread botrytis more quickly, resulting in deeper concentration and, as a result, Sauternes has had a fabulous run in vintages from 2000 through 2013. Sometimes rotten is good!
Sauternes get a bad rap in the States. They are thought of as sweet dessert wines when, really, they are so much more. In France, Sauternes are sipped as apéritifs, drunk as a digestifs instead of cognac, paired with seafood like scallops and shrimp, white poultry especially draped with sauces, excellent with foie gras, blue cheese and strong enough to stand up to spicy Chinese and Indian food. That’s a pretty delicious range. Not so good with sweet desserts but wonderful with fruit which is what you should be having for dessert anyway, right?!
These Châteaux were pouring their heavenly 2013 Sauternes:
Château Bastor – Lamontagne
Château Doisy Daëne
Château de Fargues
Château Haut – Peyraguey
Château Lafaurie – Peyraguey
Château de Rayne Vigneau
Château La Tour Blanche