Today we visited the region of Sauternes – I think Christina was looking forward to this day of our trip more than any other. My wife used to like to share an occasional glass of port with me, until she discovered Sauternes. While Christina still does like a nice port, she absolutely loves Sauternes, hence we don’t have as much port as we used to!
Our first stop was at the venerable Chateau Suduiraut. The estate was named Chateau Suduiraut in 1580 with the marriage of Nicole d’Allard to Leonard de Suduiraut. The Chateau was looted and burned down in the Fronde insurrection of the 1640’s and then rebuilt in the late 17th century. Chateau Suduiraut was classified as a Premier Cru in the 1855 classification. Chateau Suduiraut was purchased in 1992 by the AXA Millesimes global investment and insurance company group. AXA Millesimes is headed up by Christian Seely and the company also owns other properties, such as Chateau Pichon Baron in Pauillac.
The wines of Sauternes and Barsac (just to the north) are made from Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, but there are a few Chateau that add a little Muscadelle to some of their wines. Chateau Suduiraut is a blend of 90% Semillon and 10% Sauvignon Blanc. The wines can age for decades and even a 100 years in the great vintages. What makes the wines of Sauternes and Barsac so special is what they call “noble rot”. Noble rot is a fungus called Botrytis Cinerea, which is present on the undeveloped fruit after flowering. If the season is damp, then the Botrytis fungus develops into grey rot, which makes the grapes unusable. If there are damp mornings followed by hot days, the Botrytis fungus develops into noble rot. The noble rot shrivels the grapes, by reducing the amount of water in them and concentrating the flesh and sugars. It is this noble rot that gives the wines of Sauternes and Barsac their great sweetness balanced by wonderful acidity.
Chateau Suduiraut is a beautiful estate of 92 hectares in the middle of the Sauternes region. Our knowledgable guide, Camille, showed us around the estate. Chateau Suduiraut uses traditional wine making practices and stainless steel vats for their wines, which are aged for 18-24 months in French oak barrels. The estate will pick through the vineyard up to 5 times during harvest, to keep pace with the development of Botrytis and ensure the optimal quality of the grapes. It is this painstaking attention to detail that makes the wines of Chateau Suduiraut so wonderful – and what makes a good sauternes a very special treat.
The wines that we tasted at the estate were:
2006 Castelnau de Suduiraut – This is the second label for Chateau Suduiraut. Sweet and spicy nose of pineapple and white fruit. In the mouth, spicy pineapple combine with sweet white peaches and good acidity. Finishes with a nice long balanced sweet fruit finish.
2006 Chateau Suduiraut – Complex subtle nose of white fruits and a hint of pineapple. Very creamy and smooth in the mouth, very delicate. This wine feels lighter in weight in the mouth than the 2nd label does, but is much more complex and very fresh tasting. The sweet white peaches and pears combine with young pineapple flavors. The wine has very good acidity and there is a noticeable spiciness from the botrytis on the very long sweet white fruit filled finish. This is an excellent Suduiraut, and one to look for.
1989 Chateau Suduiraut – Wonderful nose of peaches, ripe pineapple and orange peel. Smooth in the mouth with yellow peaches, pineapple, spicy honey and good acidity. Nice long complex spicy fruit filled finish.
Chateau Suduiraut makes some of the very best wines in Sauternes. If you are a fan of the wines from the Sauternes and Barsac region or just dessert wines in general, I would highly encourage you to try the wines of Chateau Suduiraut. These wines are wonderful drunk young after realease, but will develop so much more complexity with age if you can keep your hands off of them. (The only way I can keep my wife’s hands off of them is to bury them in the cellar!) I am very happy to have quite a bit of Suduiraut in the cellar – when she figures it out, Christina will be too.
From our at home tasting experience, I can also tell you that the 2001 Suduiraut is absolutely off the charts and will be one of the very best dessert wines that most people have ever had, definitely a wine to hunt for. 2009 is also stellar vintage for Sauternes and Barsac. If you like dessert wines, this is a vintage to buy by the case. The 2009’s have sweet fruit, great acidity and they will age a very long time (many decades), but the 2001 Suduiraut will age gracefully longer than anyone who is able to read this blog. It really is that good…
Speaking of good, we ventured next into the little town of Sauternes, which was truly, just great!