|Size:|| BT (75cl)|
|Available:|| In bond||
80% Semillon, 20% Sauvignon Blanc
17.5 points, Decanter - Lovely aromatics with floral notes, ginger and marmalade. Layered flavours with wonderful freshness in the background. Balanced, focused, well crafted Sauternes. Drink 2021-2041.
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80% Semillon, 20% Sauvignon BlancSemillon:
Semillon, responsible for the legendary dessert wines of the Sauternes and once the most widely planted grape variety in the world, is today generally undervalued.
The variety is relatively easy to cultivate and consistently produces six to eight tons of grapes per acre from its vigorous vines. It is fairly resistant to all diseases with the notable exception of rot. The grape ripens early and adopts a pinkish hue. The thin skin means there is a definite risk of sunburn or raisining – therefore it is best suited to areas with sunny days and cool nights.
In France the Semillon grape is grown mostly in the Bordeaux where it is blended with Sauvignon blanc and Muscadelle. It is most famously known as the foremost contributor to the sweet white wines of Sauternes, Barsac and Cerons. In such wines the vine is exposed to “noble rot” or Botrytis cinerea which consumes the water content of the fruit, concentrating the sugar present in its pulp. When attacked by Botrytis cinerea the grapes shrivel and the acid and sugar levels are intensified.
It is also grown widely in Australia where it is used to produce a dry wine, usually exhibiting citrus flavours of lemon, lime or green apple. For some time it was incorrectly identified as Riesling.
This variety gets its name from the French word sauvage (“wild”) and blanc (“white”) due to its early origins as an indigenous grape in South West France. It is planted in many of the world’s major wine regions, producing a crisp, dry and refreshing white varietal wine. Conversely, it is also a component in the sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac.
In France Sauvignon Blanc is grown in the maritime climate of Bordeaux as well as the continental climate of the Loire Valley. The climates of these areas are particularly favourable in slowing the ripening on the vine, allowing the grape more time to develop a balance between acidity and sugar levels. Like Cabernet Sauvignon, this variety closely mirrors its terroir in the taste. The chalk and marl of Sancerre and Pouilly produces wines of richness and complexity while areas with more compact chalk soils produce wines with more finessse and perfume.
The wine has also become well-established in New Zealand and Australia. Sandy soils over slate shingles have become the most desirable locations for plantings due to the good drainage of the soil and poor fertility that encourages the wine to concentrate its flavours in lower yields. (Click here to close this window)
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Sauternes is home to sweet wine producers such as Yquem, Raymond-Lafon and Rieussec – giving rise to arguably the very best dessert wines in the world. The diversity of the terroir and fiercely independent nature of estates means that each wine is very personal. The end result is usually a golden, sumptuous and intricate wine with individual characteristics depending on the producer.
Sauternes wines usually make use of ‘noble rot’ or botrytis cinerea. This special type of mould requires a unique terroir to flourish and Sauternes can provide this. The small tributary of Ciron is perhaps the biggest contributing factor – as it flows towards the warmer Garonne a moist mist develops that lingers over vines during dawn. This early-morning moisture encourages the development of the botrytis cinerea spores and, when it evaporates each day, it dries out the vines and their fruit. This ensures that the ‘noble rot’ will not become the destructive ‘grey rot’. The rot then dehydrates the grapes and concentrates their sugars without contributing any mouldy flavours. In comparison the grey rot, which thrives in consistent damp, simply degenerates the grapes into a foul-smelling (and foul-tasting) mush.
Sauternes is an illustrious region producing sweet whites of stratospheric quality and should not be overlooked by any budding wine connoisseur.
Gravels, clays and limestone
Type of wine produced:
Powerful yet delicate sweet white wines
Sauvignon, Semillon, Muscadelle
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One phrase which is being used increasingly to describe the 2010 vintage is ‘embarrassingly good.’ Given how 2009 was lauded to the heavens by the bordelaise as ‘the best ever’, it’s something of an awkward truth that – a mere twelve months later - we are faced once more with awe-inspiring quality. A due sense of cynicism is to be expected, but this mustn’t interfere with our appreciation of what is, quite objectively, a fabulous vintage.
Not that this came as a sudden surprise, as Bill Blatch (Bordeaux expert and negociant) notes: “Back in November, many owners were already quietly confident that their ’10 was better than the already legendary ’09 but, coming hot on the heels of the hallowed 2009s, they seemed embarrassed to say it too loudly. Today, half of Bordeaux is less timid in assessing ’10 as great as, if not greater than ’09.” He adds, “There is one point of total agreement: It is totally different from its predecessor.”
What we appear to have is more of a stylistic shift, while the quality has remained essentially static in its excellence. This quality isn’t reserved to the top tiers of Bordeaux producers, either. David Peppercorn MW observes that wines are attractive at all levels, from lesser properties all the way up to Grand Crus: “Those with lesser sites have made excellent wines.” He added that he would be quite happy to list many of them as everyday wines at the prestigious West End Garrick Club, where he sits on the wine committee.
Not quite so opulent and concentrated as their stunning predecessor, but the Sauternes and Barsacs of 2010 compensate for this by being the prettiest vintage in a very long time. Lovely, pure, fresh and floral – these are lush, sweet wines that are simply delectable.
“Overall, the 2010s are in a lighter, slightly less opulent style than many other recent good vintages - they are less sweet and less massive than the rich 2009s, for example. These are very pretty wines, with lovely bright acidity and beautifully pure fruit flavours, which should be particularly delicious in their youth.” – Ken Mackay MW. (Click here to close this window)