If you’ve been by our shop recently, you most likely noticed we were making space. Making space for what? More wine, of course. We’re 33% complete with another trio of incoming containers bringing us all sorts of goodies from overseas. This last one was chock full of Bordeaux. Red and white; sticky white, that is. Yes, I mean Sauternes. Most of our 2007 Sauternes selections are now in stock, including my favorite, Chateau Coutet!
I’m not going to get all sentimental about this, though I should point out that 2007 was the first vintage I tasted out of barrel in Bordeaux. So when I saw the forklift unloading palates stacked with wood cases with 2007 printed on them, I felt that things had come full circle. There were a plethora of memorable moments on that trip, but one of the most memorable was our stop at Chateau Desmirail in Cantenac for the UGC Sauternes tasting. Having spent the morning driving from the other Medoc UGC tastings at Pontet Canet and Lascombes, tasting 50 or so young, tannic, red wines, the thought of cleansing the palate with some luscious Sauternes was a brilliant idea. I just didn’t know how brilliant.
|I’ve said before that I’m a big fan of the 2005 vintage in Sauternes, yet I’d heard that 2007 was another stellar vintage for the region, and I was anxious to taste what I was hearing about. What a show. We got there around lunch time, the masses were still busy feeding themselves, and we had the room almost to ourselves. Only in such an empty tasting room could the following have happened. While tasting the Chateau d’Arche, I experienced a humorous episode. A sample was poured for me, I swirled it in my glass, and took a whiff. It was puzzling. I was already half way through the tasting, and these botrytised wines have similarities, but this was something strangely different. I swirled and inhaled again. It was unmistakable. Floral. I mean reaaaally floral; I started to write: “Weird faux floral thing, shampoo-like …”, I stopped. I turned around, and they were cleaning out the spittoon behind me and mopping the floor with soapy suds. Ah. I took my pour elsewhere in the empty room, and continued tasting. I found the majority of the wines to show great weight, buoyed by zippy acidity, wrapped around the ever so important botrytis. As I approached the finish line, having just tasted the opulent Chateau Guiraud, I stepped forward to sample one of my fave’s, Chateau Coutet. It’s a double-edged sword when you approach a tasting with expectations. I got my sample, gave it a swirl, and started jotting things down. “Enigmatic. Orchard fruit, a hint of grass, not getting any botrytis … marshmallow.” Then I tasted, “Dense, has depth, there’s the botrytis, it intensifies on the palate, deep, what a fine wine. Finish has depth, botrytis, lively acid, and fades slowly. Long.” Okay, there it was. I believe it was right there and then when I began to understand the difference between Sauternes and Barsac. The Guiraud was very good, yet somehow obvious. The Coutet was delicate, elegant; it was the waltz to the Guiraud’s tango. I tasted the final quintet, and it was time to go. Thank you Chateau Desmirail. Thank you for hosting a most lovely Sauternes tasting.|
|This past January, The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux came to Los Angeles to pour the bottled 2007’s, and, as you would imagine, I was psyched to see how they turned out. I found many of the reds to my liking; and with their mineral drive and lively acid levels, the dry whites were stellar. Yet the wines of Sauternes stole the spotlight that day. Seriously, TV cameras and everything. I was looking around wondering where Angelina Jolie was. I tasted through the newly bottled stickies, and found them ethereal. When I got to the Coutet, again, I was expecting a lot, but they didn’t fail me. Again, I got that depth, that pleasant pinch of all taste sensors, the botrytis, but the way the flavors seemed to intensify on the palate was extraordinary. Again, the finish was deep, complex, and lengthy. Bravo! I staggered through the end of the Sauternes section much like a prize fighter pinned to the ropes. I mean this figuratively, not literally, I am a professional, ergo I spit. But now that these lovelies are here in our shop, I can take one home and drink it! I think I just may treat myself to a half bottle tonight!|
PS Sauternes are not dessert wines. Sure you can have them with dessert, as dessert, or as an aperitif, as the French do. You can pair them with savory cuisine. That’s right, savory cuisine. And I’m not just talking about foie gras. (Insert eye roll here). In fact, I was discussing this very topic with Sandrine Garbay back in April (Sandrine is the Maitre de Chai at Chateau d’Yquem), and when foie gras came up we collectively rolled our eyes at this good, but very tired pairing. Imagine seeing the same film every time you go to the cinema!?? Aline Baly, proprietor of Chateau Coutet visited our shop back in May, and we discussed the same subject at length. Especially now, in a day and age where so many exotic flavors and types of cuisine are available to us, the wines of Sauternes are extremely versatile and can pair with almost anything. A good customer of ours (and reader of these Sunday emails) was picking up a bottle of Sauternes earlier this week. We asked him what he was going to drink it with, and he said, “Hunan Lamb”. That’s the spirit! – Peter Zavialoff
Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments regarding savory Sauternes pairings, 2007 Bordeaux in general, or the latest transfer gossip: firstname.lastname@example.org
From The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin, “This has a relatively simple but crisp nose with dried honey, apricot, quince and a touch of almond. The palate is well balanced with good acidity and botrytis, pure, quite linear with white peach, pear, a touch of mandarin and citrus acidity cutting through its viscous texture towards the finish. It improves the more it remains in the mouth, the nose seeming to absorb energy, the palate becoming ever more “pixilated”. This is another intellectual Sauternes that should age beautifully. Drink 2012-2030+ – 94 points”
*Vineyard photo from tripadvisor.com; bottle/glasses from chateaucoutet.com