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Published: April 26th 2011
If you are not into wine, you will find this entry of very limited interest...if you love wine, stop for an amazing experience we had the chance to live few days ago.
Sauternes is less than 2% of the total Bordeaux production, with a maximum yield of 3333 bottles per hectare (I simplify the terms to make it easy here). As they have a maximum of 2200 hectares, make the maths, each year, the maximum amount of bottles that could be released is less than 7.5 millions bottles. It is actually way less than this as the calculation is based on a maximum yield production, and this never happen and is not even advisable.
We arrived to Sauternes driving on a Sunday night from Bordeaux just in time to settle in one of the few rooms of the Chateau d'Arche. This is actually the only seriously romantic place around the little village of Sauternes, with only 9 rooms. If you love Sauternes, we slep just 400 meters from the village of Sauternes itself.
Early breakfast and we were ready for a packed day. What is a packed day in Sauternes? Well, we had the time for a fast
lunch and to visit just four wineries, all this between 9am and 6pm!
Sauternes is spread on 5 small villages, the two best knowns being Sauternes itself and Barsac. For this morning, we started with Chateau d'Arche, Grand Cru Classe, followed by Chateau d'Yquem, 1er Grand Cru Classe...."light" lunch followed by the visit of Chateau Coutet in Barsac, 1er Grand Cru Classe, and back in Sauternes to finish an impressive day with Chateau Guiraud, 1er Grand Cru Classe.
After a nice breakfast we were ready to visit the winery and chais of our host for the night, Chateau d'Arche. We had the chance to have the winemaker orchestring for us a visit of the full property, just with the two of us. As she said at one point "I speak too much, but it's my passion"...me too reply..."we are two to speak too much"! What a great time! We went softly on the tasting, as we had already done it the evening before, plus a full bottle of Arche 2004!
Next stop, the mecca of Sauternes, I call Chateau d'Yquem. I stroll the ground at the age of 13, but nothing further. My Dad still has few
bottles that he won't open (I will....don't worry!), so Yquem is a little part of my wine "history".
After spending 90 minutes touring Arche, we spent nearly 3 hours around Yquem! Wow, that was something, another very exclusive experience. The chais are amazing, the Chateau itself even better, and then, you've got the tasting. I shouldn't call it a tasting, let say it was way more than that. We had the chance to discover the last release, the Yquem 2007. Out of respect to many, I don't even want to quote you the price of such a bottle...but better, and a first for me (and for Mari), we had the chance to sample the Yquem primeur 2010. If you don't know what "primeur" means, let say that this wine is in barrels since around october last year, and it will be fully blended and put in bottles only around march 2013. So what we tasted is not a finished product, it is a wine in the making...and wow....even in the making, what an experience!
Back in 2008, the winemaker did consider that only 20% of the production was "up to the level" of being considered Yquem...80% was simply
declassified as "sauternes". Back in 1992, no Yquem was released that year, not good enough for the winemaker! A normal year see easily 40% of the wine production being declassified as such! If you know your Sauternes, you can understand that our day was starting pretty well....sunny warm day, with the best of the best in term of wines!
And to make it clear, you don't actually taste an Yquem, you drink it! Same thing actually goes for Coutet too!
We couldn't find a proper restaurant open in Sauternes on a Monday lunch time, still not really the tourist season, and not really enough time to run the 7km to Langon...so we made it with fois gras and some little sauterne on the main square of the village, enjoying the terrace of the local bar-tabac...not fancy, but very enjoyable!
Next, drive to Budos Castle for a little break, before heading to Barsac and Chateau Coutet. I still remember this place pretty well from back to my teenager years...and my Dad cellar still hold a pretty special Cuvee Madame 1981...But beside this, I have stopped to count over the year the amount of bottles of Chateau Coutet I
have brought back with me to Asia. This wine has someway a more "reachable price bracket" than Yquem, and still, it is an amazing wine.
We spent two more hours at Chateau Coutet, touring the property with those same people that are mastering the art of delivering to us such a wonderful wine. Another amazing moment, followed by another amazing tasting, this time it was the 2009 and primeur 2010. The 2009 is not a primeur, but it hasn't been bottled yet, so yes, another exceptional moment.
Don't forget, Mari has grown up not far away from Tokaji , so she knows one or two things about the botritis!
We made it...late...as usual the last few days...to Chateau Giraud back next to the little village of Sauternes for our last visit of the day. Guiraud is something special, as from 2011, it will be the first 1er grand cru classe with the label of organic wine in the region. I have to thank Ann to have organised for us this last minute visit. Beside the organic aspect, what was interesting was this is the first Sauternes we try with only 65% of Semillion, and around 33% of
Sauvignon. Usually, it's more around 80% of Semillion. The result is a much more mineral wine, really different from anything we had tasted today.
This was it for the day, the little frigo box we have is full....and we had an amazing time. It was already time to drive to our next stop, and for one more great stay, this time in St Emilion.
And yes, you can say it, we are enjoying life. I'm writting this already back in Bangkok, ready for our next little trip, and ready for some more vineyards...this summer...oh yes, if you are missing the diving pics, don't worry, they are coming next week...
A day in Sauternes, more than a dream, and a full album and nose of souvenirs...plus few bottles to enjoy over the coming months...
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