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Bordeaux 2011 In Bottle: Sauternes & Barsac

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

IMG_5408There is still no doubt that the most exciting wines coming out of Bordeaux in 2011 are the sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac. If that sounds like faint praise given that the reds are not up to much, it is not meant to be. 2011 forms the third in a trio of successful, consecutive vintages here in this district and by any gauge it is a very good vintage. The wines have slightly less weight and perhaps more obvious acidity than those of 2009 and 2010, though the picture is not really that straightforward. Certainly they seem to have much more to them than 2007. Given that 2011 remains well priced and that many are already delicious, these are Bordeaux 2011s you could be enjoying this winter, although they also have the depth and acidity for further bottle development.

A dozen wines were shown by the Unions des Grands Crus de Bordeaux last month. All were enjoyable, especially after eighty lean reds from the same vintage. It is a gross simplification but they broadly divide into three styles – those with race and vibrant acidity, those with gloss and polish and then the unctuous and seriously sweet.

I’d put Château Bastor-Lamontagne, Château Giraud [perhaps surprisingly], Château de Rayne Vigneau and Château La Tour Blanche in this first category. There’s elegance, freshness here to these wines but also depth and length. They will age well but their balance makes them attractive now for their delicacy and vitality.

In the glossy category I’d put arch rivals Château Climens and Château Coutet. These are both very impressive efforts. Climens is fractionally tauter but has wonderful botrytis notes alongside the honey and cream. This will fill out further with time but is certainly glossy and polished. Château Coutet is already delicious and, along with Climens and Suduiraut, it was my pick of the tasting. It’s the tension between the acidity and the sweetness that makes this wine so fascinating on the palate, though it is also has particularly expressive aromatics.

In the sweeter styles, Château Broustet looks a promising effort from this property in its first vintage under new ownership. Château Doisy-Daëne is pretty tight but has lots of residual sugar. Clearly it needs a few years to show its best. Château Doisy-Védrines is forward and unctuous with lashings of botrytis and peachy fruit tones. If you like rich sweet wine it was one of the stars of the tasting, as it was during primeurs. Château de Fargues is a typically thick, sweet, concentrated effort that is very lush. It’s still got six months left in barrel before it gets bottled.

Château Nairac has produced impressive wine in 2011. It is very full and lush too. It maybe lacks a little acidity, at least relative to its sweetness, but it is certainly delicious. For me, Nairac is a château to seek out, along with Doisy-Védrines, as both have an especially impressive flavour/cost ratio.

So there you have it. Clearly 2011 is a successful vintage in Sauternes and Barsac. Many of the wines are already forward and attractive but they will last the distance. Quite where 2011 sits relative to 2009 and 2010 still remains to be seen. It would be interesting to line these up in a blind tasting [let me know if you are planning one!]. I think there’s a bit more elegance and acidity here in 2011, with maybe the volume turned down slightly on the previous two vintages. That said there are quite a few wines with considerable residual sugar and comparatively low acidity, so it’s a complex picture. In some respects 2011 reminds me of a fuller version of 2007. I’d be interested to hear from others on this, so Sauternes lovers post a comment!

Château Bastor-Lamontagne

Pale gold; honey and fresh citrus notes; spices and ginger tones; elegant palate with nice race and good balance. Very good effort. Drink now-2023. 90+

Château Broustet

Gold; full aroma, honey and spice; rich palate, feels reasonably sweet style; attractive. Broustet under new ownership and this first vintage looks good. Drink now-2021. 88+

Château Climens

Gold; excellent nose; botrytis; honey and cream; full and lifted; rich palate with lovely gloss; pretty sweet and full. Drink now-2026. 93+

Château Coutet

Golden; full aromatics – botrytis tones and citrus highlights; peaches and cream on the palate with a wonderful mouthfeel; very nice tension between the sweetness and the acid. Mid depth. Wonderful Barsac. Very good length. 94+

Château Doisy-Daëne

Golden; some honey and a little wax; full wax and honeyed palate; quite sweet. Nice length. Needs to open up a bit. Drink 2015-2026. 91+

Château Doisy-Védrines

Deep green/gold; peaches and cream tones; very full and forward; lots of layers of flavour on the palate; peaches, apricots; very good indeed; feels pretty sweet and has real viscosity and weight. Big. Drink now – 2026. 92+

Château de Fargues

Golden; unctuous and deep; candied fruit tones; very fat and luscious; very long but maybe lacks a bit of zip but this could simply be the residual sweetness. Still in barrel [30 months ageing]. Certainly a full and lush style. Drink 2015-2026. 92+

Château Guiraud

Steely green gold; fresher with more citrus and spicy ginger tones; beeswax too; elegance to the palate with very good length. Drink now-2026 91

Château Nairac

Green gold; apricots, peaches and cream on the nose; botrytis notes; creamy palate with apricots and ginger spice; very full, forward and attractive; has weight and sweetness; maybe lacks a little acid but nicely forward and lush. Drink now-2026. 91

Château de Rayne Vigneau

Golden; zesty citrus tones, grapefruit and guava; zesty and racy palate with verve and elegance. Nice acidity here which keeps it fleet of foot. Drink now-2026. 92

Château Suduiraut

Deep gold; vibrant looking; peaches and honey on the nose; botrytis notes; ginger spice; very attractive; creamy but acidity keeps the palate lively and has excellent length. Drink now-2026. 93+

Château La Tour Blanche

Silver/gold in the glass; ripe and lush aromatics with peaches and honey notes; full palate with good acid and nice zip on the end. Drink now-2024. 92

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