One man’s meat is another man’s poison. If botrytis was the enemy across most of Bordeaux in 2013, it was certainly most welcome in Sauternes and Barsac. The warm and humid conditions favourable for the development of ‘noble’ rot from mid-September onwards, allied to drying winds, proved the classic mix for a very good sweet wine harvest in 2013. The region has produced many beautiful wines with the vintage’s trademark acidity. It gives extra freshness and vibrancy. Some are comparing the quality to 2007 and 1997. Château d’Yquem has produced something tremendous, but there are also very impressive efforts from Château Coutet, Château Doisy-Daëne, Château de Fargues, Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey, Château de Rayne Vigneau, Château Rieussec, Château Sigalas Rabaud, Château Suduiraut and Château La Tour Blanche.
2013 wasn’t plain sailing by any means in Sauternes and Barsac [when is it ever?] though it ended far more favourably than the 2012 vintage! The cold and wet weather during the flowering period was disruptive but the region profited [as elsewhere] from the sunny and hot weather in July and August. Cooler temperatures in the early part of September were conducive to retaining aromatic freshness and acidity in the grapes. The rain that followed this period allowed for the development of noble rot. Hot conditions between September 22–26 led to the further concentration of the grape sugars. The first passes occurred at many estates in this period, with Château de Rayne Vigneau commencing 24 September and Château d’Yquem making its first pass on September 26, among others.
Picking stopped following rainfall between 3-5 October, conditions which allowed for the further spread of botrytis. Five days of clear, dry weather then followed and allowed properties to begin second passes. Hot, dry weather began on 12 October which lasted to the 23 October which allowed for a third and fourth pass. The vintage was completed by the end of the month at some properties.
The quality is very high and pretty homogeneous. The wines are characterised by purity and elegance with plenty of vibrant acidity and botrytis characters. At Château d’Yquem they are making comparisons with 2007 and 1997, Château de Rayne Vigneau with 2007. Doisy-Daëne the think the vintage, while not superior 2009 or 2010 is better than 2008 and 2007. For me the wines feel like 2007 with perhaps a bit of extra weight and acidity, but I remain a [devoted] student of Sauternes, so I’d be delighted to hear from others on the subject…
Château d’Yquem is head and shoulders the best wine – and undoubtedly the wine of the vintage red or white. At the time of writing the property has not yet released the wine for sale. Wonderfully attractive and racy wines have also been made at a great number of other estates. I was really struck by the weight and richness of de Fargues [as usual], the complexity and mouth feel of Doisy-Daëne, the elegance and power of de Rayne Vigneau, the butterscotch and wax of Rieussec, the race of Suduiraut, the complexity of La Tour Blanche and the purity of Coutet.
Fractionally behind but still impressive are wines from Doisy-Védrines, Lafaurie-Peyraguey, Sigalas Rabaud and Guiraud. There are also very good wines indeed from d’Arche, Bastor Lamontagne, de Malle, de Myrat and Nairac. I’d also expect these to be good value. I didn’t get to taste Climens.
As yet there’s isn’t much of an investment market for Sauternes [see this Liv-Ex blog piece here] but this might change in the long run if sweet wine becomes popular in the emerging markets. In that respect it may well be a good time to stock up while prices are [comparatively] cheap. It is also an excellent opportunity to order halves [a useful size for Sauternes] as well as to secure what will undoubtedly prove and excellent sweet wine vintage down the line.
That said, with a lot of Sauternes still on the market from 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011, if you want something to open tout de suite, then go for these. Many are still available at reasonable prices that are probably not up much [if at all] from their first release prices.
The following Sauternes were tasted during primeurs week in Bordeaux between 31/3/14 and 4/4/14. They are listed in qualitative order, though scoring young sweet wine I find tricky, so do pay [even more] attention to the notes rather than the numbers….
Château d’Yquem, Premier Cru Classé Superieur, Sauternes
Golden; very lush and rich on the nose; wax and botrytis tones in spades; full and attractive; orange peel, spice and passion fruit notes – fabulous; creamy palate with honey tones; great poise and composure; real depth and many layers here; very good length indeed. Fresh finish. Comparison here with 2007 and 1997. Tremendous effort. [70% Semillon, 30% Sauvignon Blanc]Tasted 2/4/14 at Cheval Blanc. Drink 2020-2040. 96-98+
Château Doisy-Daëne, Deuxième Cru Classé, Barsac
Pale gold with green hints; very attractive aromatics; lovely creamy botrytis tones with some grapefruit notes; full, zippy and attractive wine on the palate; lots of flavour and real race and style; very good mouthfeel; creamy. Excellent. Real star [as usual]. [90% Semillon, 10% Sauvignon Blanc]. Tasted 1/4/14 at UGCB. Drink 2017-2030. 92-94+
Château de Fargues, Sauternes
Pale straw/gold; rich and thick; unctuous with botrytis notes; pretty fat but with acidity to keep the belt tight; quite weighty but with refreshing acidity. Impressive weight. [80% Semillon, 20% Sauvignon Blanc]. Tasted UGCB 1/4/14. Drink 2018-2028. 92-94+
Château de Rayne Vigneau, Premier Grand Cru Classé, Bommes
Pale straw; full and rich with some attractive fragrant tones; apricot and wax notes on the palate; full and attractive palate with lots of length. Very attractive and impressive effort. [80% Semillon, 20% Sauvignon Blanc]. Tasted 1/4/14 UGCB & 31/3/14 at Ch Meyney. Drink 2018-2028. 92-94+
Château Rieussec, Premier Grand Cru Classé, Fargues
Pale green gold; creamy butterscotch notes; some ginger and spice; very full of botrytis tones; attractive; full palate; very creamy mouthfeel; nice zip at the end. Complete and well done. [45.5% Sauvignon Blanc, 55.5% Semillon]. Tasted UGCB. 1/4/14. Drink 2018-2030. 92-94+
Château Suduiraut, Premier Grand Cru Classé, Preignac
Pale straw; waxy with some citrus and grapefruit notes; full palate with sweetness and complexity; lots going on; quite fat and richly styled; refreshing finish. [92% Semillon, 8% Sauvignon Blanc]. Tasted UGCB 1/4/14. Drink 2017-2028. 92-94+
Château La Tour Blanche, Premier Grand Cru Classé, Bommes
Gold; some honey; creamy waxy tones; attractive; brioche and toast alongside the wax and peach notes on the palate; full and zappy with a very attractive creamy mouthfeel. [80% Semillon, 10% Sauvignon Blanc, 10% Muscadelle]. Tasted UGCB 1/4/14. Drink 2018-2030. 92-94+
Château Coutet, Premier Grand Cru Classé, Barsac
Pale gold; some fresh grapefruit tones; little reticent aromatically; full palate with attractive waxy tones; round on the finish. Attractive effort if a little subdued on the day. Expect this to uncoil. Tasted UGCB 1/4/14. Drink 2018-2030. 91-93
Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey, Premier Grand Cru Classé, Bommes
Pale gold; full botrytis notes; cream; peaches and melon tones; attractive palate really full but with nice tension; elegant finish with some zap and style. Very good effort. [92% Semillon, 6% Sauvignon Blanc, 1% Muscadelle]. Tasted 1/4/14 UGCB. Drink from 2018-2030. 91-93+
Château Sigalas Rabaud, Premier Grand Cru Classé, Bommes
Pale green/gold; full; some butterscotch and wax; quite bold; layers; entry sweet with some spice and zap along with full flavours; very attractive indeed. Tasted UGCB 1/4/14. Drink 2017-2025. 91-93+
Château Guiraud, Premier Grand Cru Classé, Sauternes
Deepish gold [deepest of the lot]; peaches and creamy tones with crème brulee highlights; broad and full on the palate; nice attack and creamy mouthfeel with zip and freshness; creamy finish. Very good in a fuller and more upfront style. [65% Semillon, 35% Sauvignon Blanc]. Tasted 1/4/14. Drink 2017-2028. 90-92+
Château Doisy-Védrines, Deuxième Cru Classé, Barsac
Pale silver with green hints; some wax and citrus tones; nicely fruit driven; candy; waxy, full palate with some creamy botrytis notes; very attractive overall; some sweetness on the finish. Tasted UGCB 1/1/14. Drink 2017-2025. 90-92
Château de Malle, Deuxième Cru Classé, Preignac
Pale green/gold; enticing; pure nose; with botrytis notes; quite elegant; with citrus and grapefruit; quite full but with good tension; nice finish and vibrant acidity. Elegant and refreshing. [Harvest 26/9-17/10, 68% Semillon, 32% Sauvignon Blanc]. Tasted UGCB 1/4/14. Drink 2017-2028. 90-92+
Château Bastor Lamontagne, Sauternes
Pale silver/gold; pungent aromatics; spicey; some honey alongside lime and lemon; some creamy notes; nice weight in the mouth; creamy and attractive with very nice balance and acidity. [99% Semillon, 1% Muscadelle]. Tasted UGCB 1/4/14. Drink 2018-2025. 90-91+
Château Nairac, Deuxième Cru Classé, Barsac
Pale green/gold; full; waxy; butterscotch notes; some white flower highlights and honey; quite zappy palate with nice acidity; not heavy or overly sweet [at least in balance with the acidity] but attractive and refreshing. Tasted UGCB 1/4/14. Drink 2017-2025. 90-91+
Château d’Arche, Deuxième Cru Classé, Sauternes
Pale gold; fine aromatics; tight and elegant; melon and nice botrytis; elegance and creamy tones; elegant palate; feels very fine; not a blockbuster but very nice balance; fresh and attractive. [90% Semillon, 10% Sauvignon Blanc]. Tasted UGCB 1/4/14. Drink 2017-2025. 88-90+
Château de Myrat, Deuxième Cru Classé, Barsac
Pale golden green; fine, clean some honey; sweetness on entry; attractive; lacks a bit of zip maybe and less enchanting than Doisy-Daene tasted immediately before but good. [86% Semillon, 8% Sauvignon Blanc, 8% Muscadelle]. Tasted UGCB 1/4/14. Drink 2017-2023. 86-88+
Château Lamothe Guignard, Deuxième Cru Classé, Sauternes
Pale gold; less complex; some honey and spice; little citrus; more elegant; sweeter palate and less well-balanced. Lacks a bit of zip. (90% Semillon, 5% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Muscadelle]. Tasted UGCB 1/1/14. Drink 2016-2020. 85-87
Château Romer, Deuxième Cru Classé, Fargues
Pale gold; some spice and grapefruit notes; not the depth aromatically of the best; little eggy note; needs to settle; spice and sweetness; lacks bit of zip. Should clean up. Tasted UGCB 1/4/14. Drink 2016-2013. 85-87
Château Broustet, Deuxième Cru Classé, Barsac
Palest green/gold; smokey; apple notes; spices and apple tones on the palate with some caramel hints; some oil. Needs to knit together a bit more. [65% Semillon, 25% Sauvignon Blanc, 10% Muscadelle]. Tasted UGCB 1/4/14. Drink 2017-2022. 85-86
Château Filhot, Deuxième Cru Classé, Sauternes
Vivid gold; wet wool; some fruit and honey; palate little dumb. Needs to emerge. [60% Semillon, 36% Sauvignon Blanc, 4% Muscadelle]. Tasted UGCB 1/4/14. Drink 2017-2022. 85-86.
Tags: Barsac, Bordeaux, Bordeaux 2013, botrytis, Chateau Broustet, Chateau Coutet, Chateau d'Yquem, Chateau d’Arche, Chateau de Fargues, Chateau de Malle, Chateau de Myrat, Chateau de Rayne Vigneau, Chateau Doisy-Daene, Chateau Doisy-Vedrines, Chateau Filhot, Chateau Guiraud, Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey, Chateau Lamothe Guignard, Chateau Nairac, Chateau Rieussec, Chateau Romer, Chateau Sigalas Rabaud, Chateau Suduiraut, Sauternes, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon