Bordeaux 2014 in barrel: successful Sauternes

By Panos Kakaviatos for Wine-Chronicles.Com

25 May 2015


Faves? I loved Suduiraut most as an upper level Sauternes that is fairly expensive, among some other well-known brands. Yquem as superb, but that was expected. The good news for sticky lovers: some lesser known wines did very well in 2014, based on barrel samples that I tried at two trade tastings. 

Alas! I actually… lost some notes, which explains the absence of Guiraud and others. I mean, I recall liking Guiraud, but I lost the specific notes. Sorry!

The plan is to taste Sauternes again at Vinexpo next month and add notes.

For the notes I did not lose, it can be said that although high acidities sometimes made me feel like Sauternes barrel samples I tried were more like Loire Valley late harvest wines, the appellation was – by and large – uniformly successful.

Steve Webb of Bordeaux Gold almost every year says that a given vintage is the best ever. You’ve got to hand it to him! But there was “a bit of emotion” tasting these wines, he said. “At the top level, it was sublime, as the vintage had such a cool summer, which is great for white wine grapes, bringing that bright, fresh acidity.”


Steve Webb, left, and Bill Blatch of Bordeaux Gold

What finally balanced the acidities was isolated rainfall in September and October: bursts of rain that set off botrytis, according to Bordeaux Gold partner Bill Blatch. “The final rain burst, in mid October, was outstanding, as the heat went up to 27 degrees at the end of October,” he said.

For me the best are the usually large-scaled and richer-in-style stickies, above all Châteaux Suduiraut, but also Rieussec, de Fargues and La Tour Blanche. For bargain hunters, seek out Château d’Arche, which was particularly savoury in 2014. Lovers of Barsac will find particular pleasure from the sheer elegance in Châteaux Doisy Daene and Coutet – to take two examples. I did not get a chance to try the various barrel samples of Château Climens, but that will be done in June.

It was not a year of maximum residual sugars, Blatch stressed, averaging between 130-140 grams, hence a “beautifully balanced vintage,” he said. By contrast, the 2009 vintage had an average closer to 150.


Yquem – photo by Laure-Marie Ducloy

Wines in bold I liked particularly, when red and bold even more and when underlined, too, wine nirvana.

  • 2014 Château d’Yquem – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
    The high acidity lent particular freshness to the 2014 barrel sample of this most legendary wine. So much so that it reminded more of a Barsac. It was marvelous of course, with distinct white pear and citrus notes, and subtle botrytis spice in the form of ginger, white pepper and touches of black tea. But the high acidity made it more linear and “high toned”. For director Pierre Lurton, it was the highest acidity he has ever seen at 4.9 grams per litre, to match the nearly 135 grams of residual sugar. Certainly barrel aging will “fill out” the body, to bring more opulence, but I do wonder if Yquem’s hallmark expression of delectable botrytisized fruit concentration and opulence was just a bit in second gear in 2014. 93-96+
  • 2014 Château Suduiraut – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
    This estate always makes full throttle and opulently styled Sauternes so I tend to like it more in cooler vintages – and 2014 is no exception. There is an enveloping feel to the palate, rich as expected and then – pow! – a reassuring brightness that brings lift to the long finish. Spicy and fruity throughout, this is a top flight Sauternes in 2014. I would easily buy this. 92-95+
  • 2014 Château de Fargues – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
    De Fargues’s 15 hectare vineyard is located just about two miles southeast of d’Yquem and is planted with 80% Sémillon, and 15% Sauvignon Blanc. It tends to be less precocious than its prestigious neighbor and that suited the vintage’s later pickings perfectly, leading to a very opulent style of Sauternes with even more botrytis spice than Suduiraut, but also a touch cooler in aspect. Another top flight sticky to seek! 92-95
  • 2014 Château Doisy-Daëne – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
    I did not get a chance to taste through the barrel samples at Climens. The blend is never complete there during en primeur week so I look forward to assessing it later in 2015. Perhaps my overall favorite Barsac is Château Doisy Daene, which exhibits particularly bright ripe fruit (white peach, pear) along with hints of citrus from kiwi to lime. The brisk nature of the barrel sample makes me think that it will be particularly easy to drink but there is underlying structure and power as well. 92-94
  • 2014 Château de Cérons – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Cérons
    Tasted blind at Cercle de Bordeaux. Not bad at all as this displays freshness and verve, but lacks that extra rich oomph one would expect from Sauternes, a sign of the vintage… 88-90
  • 2014 Château de Myrat – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
    Tasted blind at Cercle de Bordeaux. Reductive aspects – matchstick – and yet there is beautiful concentration combined with the acidity of the vintage. A lovely wine! 89-92
  • 2014 Château Haut-Bergeron – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
    Tasted blind at Cercle de Bordeaux. Very serious juice. Rich and vivid notions of peach and apricot! Pretty gorgeous here and a proverbial “Sauternes sleeper” of 2014. 90-93
  • 2014 Château Cantegril Sauternes – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
    Tasted blind at Cercle de Bordeaux. Pineapple. Fresh. Verve if a bit of cloying fruit, but thank goodness the acidity balances this wine. I would not call it superlative but the components seem to be lining up nicely – and there is excellent mid palate richness. 88-90

Tasting Sauternes at Vintex

  • 2014 Château d’Arche – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
    Tasted blind at Cercle de Bordeaux (and again at Vintex, photo above). Cloudier aspect. Ripe peach and even hints of pear. Seems to be in a prenatal phase. But could hold promise. A bit hot on the finish? I liked it more at Vintex. 89-92
  • 2014 Château Filhot – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
    Marked by slightly canned fruit aromatics and flavors with a somewhat bland aspect and a short finish. 84-86
  • 2014 Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
    Pineapple, apricot and touches of ginger, with a fine energy on the mid palate leading to a lifting and somewhat light medium finish. Not quite as substantial as, say, La Tour Blanche but very good. 90-93
  • 2014 Château Nairac – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Barsac
    Focused and linear, with vibrancy and richness. Notes of quince and touches of exotic fruit with black tea like botrytis notes. Fine. 90-92
Assessing Sauternes Ducloy

Sauternes to taste at Ulysse Cazabonne

  • 2014 Château Coutet – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Barsac
    Both rich and savory, with Barsac elegance and a precise aspect that is very appealing. As with other 2014s, a touch on the lighter side, with the acidity coming to the fore. Very fine and a medium plus finish. 91-93
  • 2014 Château Sigalas Rabaud – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
    Pure and precise, plenty of stone fruit and citrus like freshness plus hints of tropical fruit, such as mango that mark the lifting medium finish. Lovely! 90-93
  • 2014 Château Doisy-Védrines – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
    Once again a light-on-the-feet Barsac in 2014, with floral aspects as well as citrus. Certainly barrel aging will increase density – that’s the point – and I think it will turn into a lovely wine. Medium body and medium plus finish with lift. Very fine. 90-92+
  • 2014 Château Rieussec – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
    Very intense and complex aromatics combine stone fruit, botrytis spice and some vanilla and even espresso (very subtle) coming from the barrel aging no doubt. There is a peppery brightness that balances the energetic palate. Yet another example of an always rather rich styled Sauternes that excels in 2014 given the acidity of the vintage. Full bodied and a long finish. Bravo! 92-94+
  • 2014 Château La Tour Blanche Sauternes – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
    From the first sip, this barrel sample was marked by a lovely opulence marked by distinct spicy notes from botrytis. A full body but vibrant, marked by the acidity of the vintage leading to a long finish: excellent Sauternes. 92-94
Interviewing Pierre Lurton

Interviewing Pierre Lurton before the Yquem tasting. Photo by Laure-Marie Ducloy

So 2014 does not come off as a particularly rich style of Sauternes.

A case in point is none other than the precocious vineyard that is Château d’Yquem, which certainly has tremendous energy, but I am not sure that it falls into the league of 2001 or even 2010. I was reminded more of a Barsac style. It was marvelous of course, as the barrel sample conveyed white pear and citrus notes, and subtle botrytis spice in the form of ginger, white pepper and touches of black tea. But the high acidity made it more linear and “high toned”. For director Pierre Lurton, pictured above, it was the highest acidity he has ever seen at 4.9 grams per liter, to match the 135 grams of residual sugar.

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