I’m a great lover of Sauternes. Even if I don’t drink it on a regular basis, I am rarely disappointed when I open a bottle. I took advantage of a Portes Ouvertes weekend on Saturday the 7th of October to go to Sauternes and Barsac with Jarad and Gabriel, two young American enologists studying vineyard estate management at Bordeaux Sciences Agro (ex-Enita). I love these occasions to learn more about Bordeaux, and inevitably come away with a few bottles for the cellar…
This trip was both intense and pleasurable. I say intense because we visited thirteen estates. While this is not a record for me, it makes for a very full day.
In fact, we visited 5 first growths before lunch!
We started out at Ch. Rayne Vigneau, owned by the Crédit Agricole. This is one of the appellation’s great estates that more or less went into hibernation for a number of years. There has been a major effort to improve things and this is clearly reflected in recent vintages. We tasted the 2008 Madame de Rayne, the second wine, which was an attractive commercial wine, but the 2009 Rayne Vigneau was in another category altogether and the best I think I’ve ever had from this château: a very stylish, classy wine. I came away with a half bottle.
Also on sale in their boutique was a rare and unusual gift set. This consisted of three bottles of wines from the Crédit Agricole estates (Rayne Vigneau, Grand Puy Ducasse, and Meyney) aged in barrels made from the rare Morat oak: http://www.indianwineacademy.com/item_1_500.aspx
After a short stop at the Maison du Vin in Sauternes to pick up a map of châteaux participating in the Portes Ouvertes and tasting their generic Sauternes, 2012 Duc de Sauternes (the less said, the better…), we went on to Ch. Guiraud, owned by the Peugeot family along with Olivier Bernard and Stéphane de Neipperg. We tasted the second wine, le Petit Guiraud, from 2013 which did not leave as memorable impression. However, the 2005 Guiraud was much better, even though the degree of bitterness on the aftertaste detracted from the overall impression. Viticulture at Guiraud is both organic and biodynamic. I find that Guiruad takes on a deep color fairly early in the game and that it is not always one for the long haul.
Next stop was at Ch. La Tour Blanche, which has also been a lycée viticole since 1911. This large estate has a fine track record and students there help make the wine. Seeing as there was a sizeable crowd by the time we arrived (you didn’t used to see large groups of Chinese, how times have changed!), we stayed only long enough to sample the 2011 vintage, which was one of the better wines of the day.