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Sauternes

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Robert Parker hat Anfang Mai seine Sauternes Bewertungen zum Bordeaux Jahrgang 2013 publiziert. Anbei seine generelle Beschreibung und die Top 20


Rotten Luck: Sauternes 2013

Usually, I urge readers to go out and buy Sauternes at the end of my report, but instead...go out and buy Sauternes. Go on. You know you want to. Of course, at time of writing, when my palate is still recovering from being marinated in mellifluous honey, I have no idea how wide consumers will have to open their wallets. But the headline is that 2013 mirrors 1967, 1997 or 2007, years when rotten luck for the Left and Right Banks is good fortune for those whose lives depend upon pourriture noble. Whilst dry red winemakers faced calamity as rot prepared to invade vineyards quicker than the Russian army in Crimea, this same galloping rot was a blessing for the Sauternais.

The Growing Season

Lest we forget that the Sauternes winemakers suffered the same sturm und drang as everyone else in 2013. Springtime inclemency provoked late budding and uneven flowering, coulure affecting the Semillon more than the Sauvignon Blanc, albeit not to the same devastating degree. Coupled with a dose of mildew, vineyard managers had to undertake nettoyage i.e. cleaning up the vineyard to get rid of unripe bunches and berries. The tide began to turn during a blissfully hot July and an equally warm August when there was no heat spikes, although the heat was not enough to make up for the lag of the early season. September wavered between sunshine and rain and still the season hung in the balance: grapes were green, bunches irregular and the spectre of grey rot lurked round the corner.

Then the 'rotten luck.' Summer conditions descended at the end of September and most growers began picking around September 26 or 27, except for around the sub-region of 'Fargues,' where they had to wait another ten days for grapes to achieve full ripeness. Three days of rain from September 28 to 30 was followed by a hot first week in October - perfect conditions for noble rot that swept through the vineyards, botrytis rapidly progressing from the pourri plein to the crucial pourri rôti stage. Cue mass smiles, un-furrowed brows and mass picking up of secateurs, as châteaux conducted their first and second tries that formed a solid foundation for their wines. The grapes tended to be small, the fruit imbued with crisp acidity that predicated what you might call 'zippy' Sauternes wine, citrus fresh with livewire acidity. The harvest stopped around October 4, when there was a violent storm (40mm of rain) and even some localized hail. Thereafter, botrytis formation was staggered and piecemeal as the weather alternated between sunshine and showers. A warm dry period between October 12 and 23 offered a window for picking, then there was another between October 21 and 24.

Toward the end of the month, growers told me that the fruit was sufficiently concentrated, but complexity had been stymied by the soggy conditions. So lots from third and fourth tries could lend final blends more weight; however, you had to be prudent and not water down overall complexity or the tensile zippiness. Most Sauternes producers appear to have used these lots to positive effect, although the blending process will continue for some estates throughout the early part of 2014. However, Nicolas Tari at Château Nairac opted to discard these later pickings en totale in order to preserve that freshness and poise, so that his wine is more in keeping with the style of the growing season.

I tasted through the wines non-blind at Château Nairac (the venue rotates every year.) This is important because, unlike the reds, which have completed their assemblages, the Sauternes samples are unfinished and may not include some lots, which of course you need to be aware of. Indeed, I was forewarned that the warm winter had retarded the development of the cuvées, and some held the view that as of March, the wines tasted as if it was January in terms of evolution. I had to take this into account when assessing the samples.

The 2013 Sauternes definitely has the potential to be a very good, possibly excellent vintage, although it does not possess the flair or the concentration equal to 2009 or possibly even 2011. On the other hand, Sauternes is the best Bordeaux appellation of 2013. The growers were less affected by the difficult growing season, and those crucial first pickings in late September were ideal for top notch Sauternes. Sure, it was a challenging harvest when the picking windows were non-negotiable. Therefore, properties where pickers could march in and out of the vineyard at exact moments produced the best wines (although I do find it amusing these moments are always Monday to Friday.) This year, there is nothing to suggest Barsac is superior to Sauternes or vice versa. Instead, you have to take each château as it comes.

The good news for Yquem lovers is that unlike the 2012 - it exists. Pierre Lurton and his team have fashioned a wine that wants to make a statement that it is back, back, back! It is a little higher in residual sugar (140gm/L), unctuous and lascivious. While it does not quite have the finesse of the 2011 or the astonishing and overlooked 2009, it is a powerful proposition with enormous depth and breadth, a wine that wants to make up for last year's absence. Meanwhile, Denis Dubourdieu has conjured a few droplets of his deluxe L'Extravagant de Doisy-Daëne this year, an extraordinary wine that brilliantly offset its 210gm/L residual sugar with its razor-sharp acidity, deceptively giving the impression that there is less sucrosity. His Château Doisy-Daëne 2013 also displays wonderful precision, which seems to have influenced Doisy-Védrines that is much tauter and more linear in style, dare I say, more like Doisy-Daëne. Both are very fine Barsac wines.

The growing season appears to have favored those with the best terroirs, the likes of Suduiraut, Coutet, Climens, Doisy-Daëne, Lafaurie-Peyraguey and Rayne-Vigneau all turning in splendid wines that are full of tension and breeding. You are not overwhelmed by their power of unctuousness, but thrilled by their tautness and tension, often with a pleasant saltiness on the finishes. There are also promising wines from less well-known estates such as Château Broustet and for the n'th year running, Domaine de l'Alliance. Some properties lacked a little weight and felt a touch hollow, so it is not a clean sweep of success, yet you will find more pleasure here than in other Bordeaux appellations.

As I have lamented countless times, Sauternes remains a style of wine desperately seeking an appreciative audience. The effort that goes into their creation means that they deserve one, yet consumers remain fickle about drinking these wines. I do sincerely hope that prices will remain realistic. If the Sauternais wish to widen their audience, which they must do to remain viable, they have to encourage consumers to buy and drink them first, and not be dissuaded by prices that too often seem excessive, given that you can easily buy older vintages, unjust though that situation is. Given that many consumers will be skipping the 2013 Bordeaux primeur campaign apropos the red, it should not cost too much to fill your cellar with this most magical golden elixir.

So go buy...


96-98 Doisy Daene L´Extravagant
95-97 d´Yquem
94-96 Climens
94-96 Rieussec
93-95 Suduiraut
93-95 Coutet
93-95 Doisy Daene
92-94 La Tour Blanche
92-94 Sigalas Rabaud
92-94 Lafaurie Peyraguey
92-94 Rayne Vigneau
92-94 de Fargues
91-93 Raymond Lafon
91-93 Domaine d´Alliance
91-93 Doisy Vedrines
91-93 Clos Haut Peyraguey
90-92 de Malle
90-92 Guiraud
90-92 Nairac
90-92 Broustet
90-92 Bastor Lamontagne

 


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