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    Sauternes and Barsac

    Noble rot

    Much like Bordeaux’ famous châteaux classification, Sauternes and Barsac have their own ranking, which was also presented at the 1855 World expo in Paris. Just like the Médoc, the Sauternes region is subjected to the same highly variable maritime climate, and so vintages are all-important. Perhaps even more important than in the Médoc, as the area is famous for the presence of noble rot – a fungus (Botrytis cinerea) that awakens under specific weather and geographical conditions. Primarily this is when the different water temperatures of the two rivers (the Garonne and its tributary the ciron) mix, giving rise to morning mists. additionally, on warm, sunny days grapes can dry and concentrate without being ravaged by grey rot or other diseases. If and when all this occurs, noble rot can then attack the grapes, contributing greater concentration, acidity and complexity to the wines. It also adds recognisable aromas and flavours, ranging from hints of varnish to nail polish, intense tropical fruit notes and smoke, that may not be to every wine lovers liking. therefore, knowing a little about each vintage is important in picking wines that will prove most suited to your palate.

    Sauternes and Barsac: the facts

    Grape varieites: Semillion, Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris and Muscadelle

    Area under vine: 2,000ha

    Cases produced: 480,000 a year

    Estate size: Fewer than 20 estates own more than 20hs; 160 estates own less than 5ha

    Classed growths (1855 Classification): Premier Cru Superieur (1-Chateau d’Yquem); Premier Cru (11); Deuxieme Cru (15)

    Sauternes and Barsac: know your vintages

    2014 Outstanding year of pure wines marked by lemony botrytis and high acidity.

    2013 Very good year but uneven quality; for the most part, top names did well.

    2012 Difficult year in which many estates did not make their grand vin. Barsac wines fared best.

    2011 Opulent, very precise wines, with a light-on-their-feet quality.

    2010 Discreet and ageworthy wines with high acidity, but very well balanced. More delicate than 2009 and 2011.

    2009 Rich, decadent and opulent. Some blowsy and over the top, others among the best Sauternes ever made.





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