Sauternes 2010 – a top vintage tasted at the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux

Sauternes UGCB 20130518 nr 1Comme d’habitude, the month of May included this year’s visitor’s weekend in Bordeaux, Le Week-end des Grands Crus, hosted by the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux. This year, the 2010 vintage was showcased, together with a slightly older reference vintage of choice from each producer.

I tasted all Sauternes wines in the tasting, and this was the third year in a row I have done so. Those who like to read old tasting notes can therefore compare to Sauternes 2008 + reference vintages tasted in 2011 and Sauternes 2009 + reference vintages tasted in 2012.

2010 is definitely a top vintage for Sauternes, as the wines are even in quality and mostly similar in style. I definitely fell in love with this Sauternes vintage! 2010 is a top vintage for regular red Bordeaux and for dry white Bordeaux as well, but it doesn’t always happen that top quality coincides for all these wine types, since Sauternes needs condition for botrytis, i.e., noble rot. A factor contributing to the quality of the 2010 vintage is that the level of acidity is high. This contributes to freshness in most types of wine, but for sweet wines such as Sauternes, a bit of extra acidity is particularly important for the overall balance of the wine. As to the aromas, I found almost all wines to be dominated by citrus and honey, rather than the dried apricots that is often found dominating in many noble rot wines. I did however find the spiciness of the 2010s to be a bit different between wines.

Sauternes UGCB 20130518 nr 3In this wondeful vintage, I liked the Barsac wines even a bit more. Of the five Sauternes villages, Barsac are the only one which can choose between two designations, Sauternes or Barsac. Barsac often gives slightly lighter wines with more citrus notes, although the difference is usually a small one and shouldn’t be exaggerated. Possibly, this further highlighted the things I liked in the 2010 vintage. I scored Château Climens the highest of the wines tasted, and Château Coutet was up at the same level as Château Suduiraut, and was in my opinion even a little better than Château de Fargues. (As usual, Château Rieussec wasn’t in the tasting.)

This means that 2010 is the third vintage of the 2000s that is particularly good in Sauternes, following in the footsteps of 2001 and 2007. 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2009 are also good, but they don’t possess that extra balance and freshness shown by the 2010s. Those that prefer a heavy and spicy style of Sauternes, who were planning to drink the wines almost directly after they buy them, and who aren’t acid freaks, may hold 2005 and 2009 (and perhaps 2006) to be as good as 2007 and 2010. There should be plenty of 2009s on the market.

The reference vintages were distributed as follows: 2009 – 2, 2008 – 1, 2007 – 2, 2006 – 3, 2005 – 3, 2004 – 1, 2003 – 1. I made two observations among these wines: the two 2009s that were included this year as well, I scored higher than last year, and the three 2006s showed more developed notes than expected, more than that shown by the 2005s.

In one sense, the Sauternes producers have been lucky, because all vintages 2005-2011 are good. They did have more problems in 2012, though. But then there is the small problem that these wines are very difficult to sell, in similarity to all sweet wines. So I don’t really know if they on balance consider themselves lucky.

WGC 2012 Sauternes glass

Château Bastor-Lamontagne 201o
Sauternes. Grape varieties: 80% Sémillon, 17% Sauvignon Blanc and 3% Muscadelle (vineyard proportions, not blend data for this vintage).

Nose: honey, botrytis, citrus, flowery, some spice, elegant.
Palate: sweet, good concentration, spice, good acidity.
Summary: a bit more elegany and slightly higher acidity than the 2009. Approachable now, 92 p.

Bastor-Lamontagne is almost always a good buy, probably because it is a non-classified Sauternes while still performing like a 2nd cru.

Château Bastor-Lamontagne 2009
Sauternes. Grape varieties: 80% Sémillon, 17% Sauvignon Blanc and 3% Muscadelle (vineyard proportions, not blend data for this vintage).

Nose: spicy honey, botrytis, some baked yellow fruit, fried apples, slightly aromatic.
Palate: sweet+, noticeable spice, quite concentrated, honey, rather good acidity.
Summary: a bit more concentrated and spicy than the 2010. Approachable now, 92 p.

My score last year: 90-91 p

Château Climens 2010
Barsac, 1er cru classé. Grape variety: 100% Sémillon.

Nose: citrus, honey, some mineral, discrete spice notes, flowery, quite elegant, but rather discrete.
Palate: honey, loads of citrus, quite concentrated, botrytis, powerful acidity, mineral notes, some spice. Long and pleasant aftertaste.
Summary: elegant, very fine balance, less spicy than the vintage standard. Enjoyable now, can definitely develop, 96+ p.

Here I handed out the highest score. Climens is often the most expensive among the Sauternes featured at this event, i.e., it is the second most expensive in Sauternes after Château d’Yquem (excepting odd wines such as Château Gilette and Doisy-Daëne Cuvée Extravagance). I don’t always score Climens the highest in this lineup. Last year, it was Suduiraut who came out best of the 2009s.

Château Climens 2005
Barsac, 1er cru classé. Grape variety: 100% Sémillon.

Nose: honey, citrus and other yellow fruit, botrytis, some spice, slightly developed notes, definitely elegant.
Palate: honey, strong spice notes, quite concentrated, botrytis, good acidity, fine balance, long aftertaste.
Summary: spicier than the 2010, and while not as elegant as that vintage (very few wines are!) it is definitely elegant for a wine this spicy. Comes across as rather ready, but doesn’t show the really developed notes yet, 94 p.

My score last year: 92-93 p

Château Coutet 2010
Barsac, 1er cru classé. Grape varieties: 75% Sémillon, 23% Sauvignon Blanc and 2% Muscadelle (vineyard proportions, not blend data for this vintage).

Nose: honey, botrytis, ripe yellow fruit, intermingling spicy and flowery notes, definitely elegant.
Palate: honey, very good concentration of fruit with loads of citrus, spice notes, quite good acidity with freshness and elegance, mineral notes, long aftertaste.
Summary: wonderful now, can surely develop, 95(+) p.

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).

Nose: slightly spicy, honey, ripe yellow fruit, aromatic and with hints of herbs, slightly developed notes, elegant.
Palate: honey, spice notes, quite concentrated, citrus and other yellow fruits, quite good acidity. Balance and elegance, long aftertaste.
Summary: 94 p

My score last year: 94-95 p, in 2011 I scored it: 92-93 p?

Château de Fargues 2010
Sauternes. Grape varieties: 80% Sémillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc (vineyard proportions, not blend data for this vintage).

Nose: citrus, honey, some liquorice, botrytis, flowery notes, rather discrete nose.
Palate: citrus, quite concentrated, liquorice, botrytis, some spice notes, good acidity, elegant.
Summary: one of the more citrus-dominated and closed. Young, can definitely develop, 94+ p.

Château de Fargues 2005
Sauternes. Grape varieties: 80% Sémillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc (vineyard proportions, not blend data for this vintage).

Nose: honey, dried fruit including dried apricots, botrytis, discrete flowery notes, slightly developed.
Palate: honey, quite concentrated, noticeable spice, good acidity.
Summary: some development, can take more, 93 p.

My score two years ago: 92-93 p?

Château de Rayne-Vigneau 2010
Sauternes, 1er cru classé. Grape varieties: 74% Sémillon, 24% Sauvignon Blanc and 2% Muscadelle (vineyard proportions, not blend data for this vintage).

Nose: honey, citrus, some dried apricots, some liquorice, botrytis, slightly flowery.
Palate: honey, some spice, citrus, dried fruit, good acidity, some elegance.
Summary: 93(+) p.

Château de Rayne-Vigneau 2009
Sauternes, 1er cru classé. Grape varieties: 74% Sémillon, 24% Sauvignon Blanc and 2% Muscadelle (vineyard proportions, not blend data for this vintage).

Nose: citrus, liquorice, honey, dried apricots, discrete flowery notes.
Palate: honey, powerful citrus notes, liquorice, some spice, botrytis, good acidity.
Summary: 93(+) p

My score last year: 90-91 p

Intresting enough, I found a lot of citrus combined with liquorice in both the 2010 and the 2009. And I didn’t mind.

Sauternes UGCB 20130518 nr 2

Doisy Daëne, Doisy-Védrines, Guiraud and La Tour Blanche

Château Doisy Daëne 2010
Sauternes, 2me cru classé. Grape varieties: 89% Sémillon, 11% Sauvignon Blanc.

Nose: citrus, botrytis, cool mineral notes, discrete flowery notes, slightly spicy, definitely elegant.
Palate: citrus, some tropical fruit, quite concentrated, honey, definitely good acidity, elegant and balanced.
Summary: young, enjoyable now, can definitely develop, 92+ p.

Château Doisy Daëne 2003
Sauternes, 2me cru classé. Grape varieties: 95% Sémillon, 5% Sauvignon Blanc

Utseende: golden yellow
Nose: spicy honey, hint of a herbal note (combes as heather honey), dried apricots, baked apples, some glue and solvent note.
Palate: sweet+, spice, quite concentrated fruit, dried apricots, overripe yellow fruit, balancing acidity.
Summary: shows the character of a hot vintage and is clearly developed, 91 p.

My score last year: 90-91 p

Château Doisy-Védrines 2010
Sauternes, 2me cru classé. Grape varieties: 80% Sémillon, 15% Sauvignon Blanc and 5% Muscadelle (vineyard proportions, not blend data for this vintage).

Nose: citrus, botrytis, honey, some mineral, rather elegant.
Palate: quite concentrated, citrus, honey, mineral, some spice, botrytis.
Summary: elegant style, young but approachable, 92 p.

Château Doisy-Védrines 2008
Sauternes, 2me cru classé. Grape varieties: 80% Sémillon, 15% Sauvignon Blanc and 5% Muscadelle (vineyard proportions, not blend data for this vintage).

Nose: honey, botrytis, ripe yellow fruit, some glue and solvent note of the developed Sauternes type.
Palate: quite concentrated, tropical fruit, honey, spice, botrytis, rather good acidity.
Summary: some development, 90 p.

My score two years ago: 90-91 p?

Château Guiraud 2010
Sauternes, 1er cru classé. Grape varieties: 65% Sémillon, 35% Sauvignon Blanc (vineyard proportions, not blend data for this vintage).

Nose: citrus, honey, botrytis, some flowery notes, a hint of mineral, elegant.
Palate: citrus, quite concentrated, botrytis, some spice notes, liquorice.
Summary: young but rather enjoyable, can definitely develop, 93 p.

Château Guiraud 2006
Sauternes, 1er cru classé. Grape varieties: 65% Sémillon, 35% Sauvignon Blanc (vineyard proportions, not blend data for this vintage).

Nose: citrus, dried apricots and dried tropical fruit, botrytis, spice and some solvent notes.
Palate: citrus, tropical fruit, dried fruit, some honey, good acidity.
Summary: not really a lighter style, but less concentrated than 2009 or 2010. Developed notes emerging, 90 p.

Château La Tour Blanche 2010
Sauternes, 1er cru classé. Grape varieties: 83% Sémillon, 12% Sauvignon Blanc and 5% Muscadelle (vineyard proportions, not blend data for this vintage).

Nose: citrus, honey, dried fruit, botrytis, some flowery notes.
Palate: honey, dried apricots, citrus, spice, rather good acidity.
Summary: good concentration, and while a fine wine it didn’t quite reach the best 2010s in elegance or balance, but can develop, 92 (+) p.

Château La Tour Blanche 2006
Sauternes, 1er cru classé. Grape varieties: 83% Sémillon, 12% Sauvignon Blanc and 5% Muscadelle (vineyard proportions, not blend data for this vintage).

Nose: honey, spice, botrytis, dried aprictos, some development with solvent notes.
Palate: honey, dried fruit, quite concentrated, spicy, good acidity.
Summary: rather developed, heavier than the 2010, spicy style, 92 p.

Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey 2010
Sauternes, 1er cru classé. Grape varieties: 90% Sémillon, 8% Sauvignon Blanc and 2% Muscadelle (vineyard proportions, not blend data for this vintage).

Nose: honey, spice notes, citrus, botrytis.
Palate: citrus, honey, botrytis, spice, rather good acidity.
Summary: 92 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).

Nose: honey (heather honey?), citrus, some dried tropical fruit, botrytis.
Palate: honey, citrus and tropical fruit, powerful concentration of fruit, spice notes with some mineral, good acidity.
Summary: somewhat developed, could develop more, 93 p.

My score last year: 91-92 p, and in 2011: 91-92 p?

Château Nairac 2010
Barsac, 2me cru classé. Grape varieties: 90% Sémillon, 6% Sauvignon Blanc and 4% Muscadelle (vineyard proportions, not blend data for this vintage).

Nose: citrus, some tropical fruit (pineapple), botrytis, some honey, some spice.
Palate: good concentration, honey, some spice notes, quite a bit of citrus and some tropical fruit.
Summary: elegant, surfing on the vintage style, not that powerful. Rather approachable, 92 p.

Château Nairac 2007
Barsac, 2me cru classé. Grape varieties: 90% Sémillon, 6% Sauvignon Blanc and 4% Muscadelle (vineyard proportions, not blend data for this vintage).

Nose: honet, tropical fruit, botrytis, some spice.
Palate: honey, good concentration of fruit with tropical fruit, good acidity, some spice, some botrytis.
Summary: rather fruity and tropical, fine balance. Could develop more, 91 p.

My score last year: 91-92+ p

Château Sigalas Rabaud 2010
Sauternes, 1er cru classé. Grape varieties: 85% Sémillon, 14% Sauvignon Blanc and 1% Muscadelle (vineyard proportions, not blend data for this vintage).

Nose: honey, liquorice, botrytis, dried yellow fruit.
Palate: honey, yellow fruit, dried apricots, good acidity, noticeable spice.
Summary: 93 p.

Château Sigalas Rabaud 2004
Sauternes, 1er cru classé. Grape varieties: 85% Sémillon, 15% Sauvignon Blanc and 1% Muscadelle (vineyard proportions, not blend data for this vintage). Served from a decanter.

Nose: spice, honey (heather honey), dried apricots, discrete development with some notes of solvent.
Palate: honey, spice, botrytis, dried fruit, apricots, some citrus, good acidity.
Summary: 91 p.

Château Suduiraut 2010
Sauternes, 1er cru classé. Grape varieties: 90% Sémillon and 10% Sauvignon Blanc (vineyard proportions, not blend data for this vintage).

Nose: honey, citrus, botrytis, some dried apricot, discrete flowery notes, elegant.
Palate: honey, citrus, quite concentrated, definitely good acidity, some mineral, long aftertaste.
Summary: elegant, yummy now, could develop, 95+ p.

Château Suduiraut 2006
Sauternes, 1er cru classé. Grape varieties: 90% Sémillon and 10% Sauvignon Blanc (vineyard proportions, not blend data for this vintage).

Nose: honey, dried apricots, citrus, botrytis, flowery notes, some spice notes, hints of development.
Palate: honey, good concentration, dried apricots, spice, good acidity.
Summary: development has just begun, will develop more, 92+ p.

In summary: those who aren’t completely adverse to sweet wines, should definitely keep an eye out for the 2010 Sauternes!

Since the 2010s showed so much citrus notes, this seems like a suitable finish:

The Swedish version of this post can be found here.

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