Sauternes 2008 at Union des Grands Crus in 2011

May each year, Unions des Grands Crus de Bordeaux arranges their annual visitor’s weekend for private customers. As of 2011, it’s called Week-End des Grands Crus, replacing the earlier name Week-End des Grands Amateurs, which perhaps came across more interesting than inviting to a non-French ear (“Nice to have all you big amateurs visiting!”) slightly unused to alternative the French usage of “amateur”, in particular as part of the expression “grand amateur”… 🙂

I participated both 2011 and 2012, and leading up to my long overdue writeup of the 2012 event, I thought I might just as well translate my notes of the Sauternes presented in 2011 into English.

This event always focuses on the latest bottled vintage, which in 2011 meant the 2008 vintage and in 2012 meant the 2009 vintage. Each producer presents this vintage plus one slightly older vintage of choice, which in most cases means a 1-5 year older vintage.

Here´s a writeup of the wines from Sauternes available for tasting in May 2011, including those from the appellation of Barsac, where they have the choice of calling them Sauternes or Barsac. I tasted these wines towards the afternoon during the tasting day, at which point my palate had already been put to a couple of hours of serious work. Combining that with exhibition/fair-type tasting with crowds and all, naturally means that the scores are a bit less exact than when tasting sitting down in a quiet environment. Since Sauternes show a lot of intensity in its flavours, this environment may be less of an issue than for some other wines. I do notice however, that tasting in this format I have a tendency to compress scores somewhat to the middle, i.e., I sometimes tend to score the best wines a little lower than otherwise (due to some of the finest nuances, that would take time, getting lost) and possibly also overscore the least good, although I think this is less of an issue. To indicate this, all wines get an “?” after their score.

Summing up my impression of the 2008s, I didn’t really find a consistent style. They showed varying levels of botrytis in the nose, and varying fruit aromas. Quality-wise it is definitely a good vintage, but not a top vintage. So I’d say it’s a vintage worth buying, but not one to seek out at all cost.

All wines tasted in May 2011.

Château Bastor-Lamontagne 2008
Sauternes. Grape varieties: 80% Sémillon, 17% Sauvignon Blanc and 3% Muscadelle (vineyard proportions, not blend data for this vintage).
In the nose honey, peach, zest, botrytis, some flower, spice. On the palate sweet(-), very spicy, slighly burnt/caramelized notes, rather good acidity. Heavy/spicy style.
89-90 p?

Château Bastor-Lamontagne 2005
Sauternes. Grape varieties: 80% Sémillon, 17% Sauvignon Blanc and 3% Muscadelle (vineyard proportions, not blend data for this vintage).
In the nose botrytis, zest, peach, flower. More elegant in the nose than 2008. On the palate sweet, peach, citrus, some candied pear, good fruit concentration, good acidity, spicy. Overall more elegant than 2007, more fruit and slightly less spicy.
90-91 p?

Bastor-Lamontagne is often a good buy. It is a nonclassified Sauternes that usually performs on par with most 2nd cru classé wines, but which can often be found for slightly less.

Château Climens 2008
Barsac, 1er cru classé. Grape variety: 100% Sémillon
In the nose honey, flower, dried fruit, botrytis, spice. Sweet on the palate, very spicy, honey, definitely good concentration, rather good acidity, quite pure aromas.
92-93 p?

Château Climens 2006
Barsac, 1er cru classé. Grape variety: 100% Sémillon
The nose is flowery with peach, zest and honey, and some botrytis and spice. Sweet on the palate, spicy, honey, definitely good concentration, dried yellow fruit.
91-92 p?

The competition for being seen as the best 1st cru classé – behind Château d’Yquem (which has a class of its own, 1er cru classé superieur) – is tough, and Climens is one of those that is often mentioned together with a peer group of Rieussec and Suduiraut. I have the impression that Climens tends to be the most expensive of those three. Since it is a Barsac, we should on average expect a little more elegance and citric notes than in the non-Barsac Sauternes.

Château Coutet 2008
Barsac, 1er cru classé. Grape varieties: 75% Sémillon, 23% Sauvignon Blanc and 2% Muscadelle (vineyard proportions, not blend data for this vintage).
In the nose peach, citrus, candied yellow apple, some flower. On the palate sweet(+), botrytis, honey, candied fruit – yellow apple, peach, citrus, good acidity.
91-92 p?

2008 shows a little less power than the 2007, but comes across as more elegant and classically Barsac-styled.

Château Coutet 2007
Barsac, 1er cru classé. Grape varieties: 75% Sémillon, 23% Sauvignon Blanc and 2% Muscadelle (vineyard proportions, not blend data for this vintage).
In the nose noticeable botrytis, spice, peach, some dried fruit and “glue solvent” (but in a nice way). On the palate sweet(+), spice, definitely concentrated, botrytis, dried fruit, zest.
92-93 p?

I notice that this was the only producer to bring a 2007, which many wine critics hail as a top vintage in Sauternes, although its a mediocre vintage for red Bordeaux. And I did rate this 2007 higher than the corresponding 2008.

Château de Fargues 2008
Sauternes
In the nose botrytis, some smoke, dried yellow fruit, honey. The nose improved in the glass. Sweet on the palate, very spicy, concentrated honey notes, dried yellow fruit, good acidity. The palate was better than the nose.
92-93 p?

Château de Fargues 2005
Sauternes
In the nose flower, honey, zest, spice, oak barrel notes, rather closed. Sweet on the palate, spice, honey, dried yellow fruit, very concentrated palate.
92-93 p?

Both de Fargues wines were rather closed in the nose. I interpret that to mean that they are made in a style that begs for some aging.

de Fargues is usually seen as the best among the nonclassified Sauternes producers, but then again the wine is priced at the level of the best 1st crus classés. de Fargues is owned by the Lur Saluces family, the previous owners of Château d’Yquem (now owned by LVMH). de Fargues therefore used to be something of a “second château” of Yquem, and is/was sometimes said to share a certain similarity.

Château de Rayne-Vigneau 2008
Sauternes, 1er cru classé. Grape varieties: 74% Sémillon, 24% Sauvignon Blanc and 2% Muscadelle (vineyard proportions, not blend data for this vintage).
In the nose heather honey, spice, botrytis, flower, peach, zest. Sweet on the palate, candied yellow fruit, spice, good acidity, good concentration, pure aromas.
91-92 p?

Château de Rayne-Vigneau 2004
Sauternes, 1er cru classé. Grape varieties: 74% Sémillon, 24% Sauvignon Blanc and 2% Muscadelle (vineyard proportions, not blend data for this vintage).
In the nose botrytis, zest, candied yellow apple, peach, some developed notes with some “glue solvent” (not in a bad way…) and spice. Sweet on the palate, good body, spice, dried yellow fruit, botrytis, good acidity.
90-91 p?

The 2004 comes across as slightly clumsier and more spicy than the 2008 on the palate, but the developed notes in the nose are quite nice, and makes the 2004 somewhat similar to a botrytized Riesling in the nose.

Château Doisy Daëne 2008
Sauternes, 2me cru classé. Grape varieties: 95% Sémillon, 5% Sauvignon Blanc
In the nose botrytis, yellow apple, pear-flavoured ice cream, peach, some flower. Sweet on the palate, noticeable spice, yellow apple, peach, rather good acidity, botrytis.
90-91 p?

Château Doisy Daëne 2006
Sauternes, 2me cru classé. Grape varieties: 95% Sémillon, 5% Sauvignon Blanc
In the nose winter apples, candied yellow apples, spice, botrytis, some glue solvent. Sweet on the palate, noticeable spice, botrytis, honey, candied apple, some citrus. Comes across as a little foursquare.
89-90 p?

Doisy Daëne is often considered the best amon the 2nd crus classés, and is led by Denis Dubordieu, who is also a professor of oenology at the Bordeaux university. Doisy Daëne also produces a special wine called l’Extravagance, consisting of extra heavily botrytized grapes. That wine relates to a standard Sauternes in the same way a heavy Trockenbeerenauslese relates to a Beerenauslese, and has had very variable grape composition over the vintages (including 100% Sauvignon Blanc), so it’s probably to be considered an odd creation than a super cuvée within the normal Sauternes style.

Château Doisy-Védrines 2008
Sauternes, 2me cru classé
In the nose zest, peach, dried fruit, some mint and herbs, spice. Sweet on the palate, good concentration, honey, definitely spicy, dried yellow fruit, rather good acidity.
90-91 p?

Château Doisy-Védrines 2002
Sauternes, 2me cru classé
In the nose botrytis, heather honey, herbal aromas, dried yellow fruit, slightly developed notes with a positive touch of “glue solvent”. Sweet on the palate, rather spicy, candied yellow apples, peach, very good acidity, some spice. Shows rather pure fruit aromas on the palate for a developed Sauternes.
90-91 p?

Château Guiraud 2008
Sauternes, 1er cru classé. Grape varieties: 65% Sémillon, 35% Sauvignon Blanc (vineyard proportions, not blend data for this vintage).
In the nose peach, yellow apple, dried fruit, some flower, some honey and spice. Sweet on the palate, spice, botrytis, honey, candied yellow fruit.
90-91 p?

Château Guiraud 2003
Sauternes, 1er cru classé. Grape varieties: 65% Sémillon, 35% Sauvignon Blanc (vineyard proportions, not blend data for this vintage).
In the nose spice, botrytis, heather honey, dried yellow fruit, noticeable developed notes. On the palate sweet(-), huge concentration, very spicy, honey, acidity slightly low. Tends towards the foursquare, but good concentration.
90-91 p?

In retrospect I can’t really say why this came across as “sweet(-)” when it is a 2003, where most Sauternes have a little more residual sugar than usual, and lower acidity on top of that, which usually makes a sweet wine taste more sweet. It must be the spicy notes that somehow took over.

Château La Tour Blanche 2008
Sauternes, 1er cru classé. Grape varieties: 83% Sémillon, 12% Sauvignon Blanc och 5% Muscadelle (vineyard proportions, not blend data for this vintage).
In the nose zest, some herbs, botrytis, slightly flowery, slightly spict, definitely elegant. On the palate sweet(+), definitely concentrated, spice, honey, candied yellow fruit, zest, good acidity. Slightly Riesling-like in the nose.
91-92 p?

Château La Tour Blanche 2003
Sauternes, 1er cru classé. Grape varieties: 83% Sémillon, 12% Sauvignon Blanc och 5% Muscadelle (vineyard proportions, not blend data for this vintage).
In the nose spice, botrytis, candied yellow fruit, zest. On the palate sweet(+), quite concentrated, spice, honey, candied yellow fruit, slightly alcoholic but with pure aromas.
91-92 p?

Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey 2008
Sauternes, 1er cru classé. Grape varieties: 90% Sémillon, 8% Sauvignon Blanc och 2% Muscadelle (vineyard proportions, not blend data for this vintage).
In the nose botrytis, spice, honey, dried yellow fruit, some flower. Sweet on the palate, botrytis, spice, dried yellow fruit.
90-91 p?

Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey 2005
Sauternes, 1er cru classé. Grape varieties: 90% Sémillon, 8% Sauvignon Blanc and 2% Muscadelle (vineyard proportions, not blend data for this vintage).
In the nose spice, zest, botrytis, candied yellow fruit, honey. Sweet on the palate, noticeable spice, honey, candied yellow fruit, zest.
91-92 p?

Château Nairac 2008
Barsac, 2me cru classé
In the nose honey, spice, dried yellow fruit. On the palate sweet(-), peach, dried yellow fruit, spice, good acidity. Fresh style.
89-90 p?

Château Nairac 2004
Barsac, 2me cru classé
In the nose botrytis, zest, some spice, developed with some “glue solvent” notes. Sweet on the palate, noticeable spice, honey, dried yellow fruit, fresh acidity.
89-90 p?

The two Nairac wines came across as less poweful than many other, but both showed a very fresh style.

Other Sigalas Rabaud vintages on display at a visit in May 2011

Château Sigalas Rabaud 2008
Sauternes, 1er cru classé. Grape varieties: 85% Sémillon, 15% Sauvignon Blanc and 1% Muscadelle (vineyard proportions, not blend data for this vintage).
In the nose honey, slightly earthy notes (not unpleasant), botrytis, pech. Sweet on the palate, noticeably spicy, zest, peach, candied yellow fruit.
90-91 p?

Château Sigalas Rabaud 2003
Sauternes, 1er cru classé. Grape varieties: 85% Sémillon, 15% Sauvignon Blanc and 1% Muscadelle (vineyard proportions, not blend data for this vintage).
In the nose botrytis, developed notes, honey, zest, spice. Sweet on the palate, definitely good concentration, noticeably spicy, honey, dried yellow fruit.
91-92 p?

Château Suduiraut 2008
Sauternes, 1er cru classé
In the nose botrytis, honey, some flower and herbal notes, spice, elegant. Sweet on the palate, zest, peach, dried yellow fruit, quite good acidity with freshness, some spice. Elegant and fresh.
92-93 p?

Château Suduiraut 2003
Sauternes, 1er cru classé
In the nose botrytis, concentrated honey notes, spice, peach, zest, dried yellow fruit, candied apple, slightly flowery, developed notes. On the palate sweet(+), full bodied, very spicy, loads of honey, enormous concentration, dried yellow fruit, balancing (but not really high) acidity. Rather a honey-coated sledgehammer than a finely chiseled wine, but without compromise within that style!
93-94 p?

Suduiraut is a strong candidate for being the best 1er cru classé Sauternes. This time I thought that Suduiraut 2008 and Climens 2008 showed approximately equally strong (and so did the nonclassified de Fargues 2008), but Rieussec 2008 was not available for comparison, since they didn’t participate. To me, Suduiraut 2003 was the best wine available for tasting.

I notice that I scored the eight 1st crus 90-93 points, and the three 2nd crus 89-91 points, if we only consider the 2008s. So as a group, the 1st crus did outperform the 2nd crus, but not at all by very much.

As a final piece of advice, I think that currently fashionable low carb diets should never be allowed to get in the way of the pleasure of drinking Sauternes!

The Swedish version of this post can be found here.

This entry was posted in 2008, Sauternes, Sémillon. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Sauternes 2008 at Union des Grands Crus in 2011

  1. Pingback: Sauternes 2010 – a top vintage tasted at the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux | Tomas's wine blog

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