For Bordeaux 2013 was a difficult year. Unexpected rain and cold weather in May played havoc on the grapes especially the reds. This was followed by an early harvest with a very small yield. These complications were certainly apparent at a recent Bordeaux tasting, Union Des Grands Crus De Bordeaux in Los Angeles. It was the Sauternes that were the hit of the tasting.
Knowing the challenges of 2013 it was hard to find that remarkable wine and in this case a red Bordeaux that blows one away. Walking through this tasting of young wines it became clear that it would have behooved those pouring to decant the red wine. There were a couple of red wines that showed some promise.
From the Pessac-Léognan region two wines are worth mention, the Château Olivier, which was probably one of the softest in texture and flavors and the Château Pape Clement with its beautiful floral aromas. This later wine was more together than most from this vintage.
From the appellation of Margaux the Château Prieuré – Lichine was lighter and brighter than most at this event. It was one of the most balanced from the entire Bordeaux region.
Château Gruard Larose from the St. Julien appellation merited recognition.
In addition to the Sauternes, the white wine that stood out among all at this event was the Château Smith Haut Lafitte. This was a blend of mostly Sauvignon Blanc with a smidgeon of Sauvignon Gris and Semillon. The wine was nicely integrated and balanced.
In a year like 2013 where the late rain could potentially cause rot on the grapes, emphasizing the excellence of the Sauternes from Bordeaux makes a lot of sense, as these wines were sensational. One must first understand how Sauternes is made. Sauternes is a sweet wine that in the United States is considered a dessert wine. It can also be served as an aperitif. Sauternes can be very viscous in texture. It comes from the Sauternais region of Graves in Bordeaux. The wine consists of Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle. The grapes are infected with Botrytis, also known as noble rot. This causes the grapes to become more raisin like and also imparts a little of that raisin and nutty flavor into the wine. Most people are familiar with Château d’Yquem, which is considered the Premier Cru Supérieur estate. With golden hues, Sauternes flavors can be characterized by its sweetness that can be offset by some acidity giving some Sauternes sharpness on the finish. One finds hints of apricots, peaches, honey and nuts.
Probably the most outstanding of all the Sauternes presented was from Château La Tour Blanche. The wine exhibited a wonderful roundness and softness that exemplified the balance and typified this Sauternes’ flavors of apricot and honey.
Château Coutet’s Sauternes has a nice soft spice to its apricot flavors.
Château Suduiraut featured a more viscous softer Sauternes.
It was nice to end this Bordeaux tasting on the sweet note of Sauternes especially knowing the difficulties in the 2013 vintage. Hopefully next year’s Union Des Grands Crus De Bordeaux event will deliver a promise of an outstanding 2014 vintage.