Finding Values in Sauternes – 1855 Classification Updated

Finding Values in Sauternes – 1855 Classification Updated

When you hear terms like First Growth or Fifth Growth in Bordeaux, these labels date back to the 1855 Classification that was produced for the Paris Universal Exhibition of 1855.

If you think this classification was based on rigorous tastings, blind scoring, or other quality-control criteria – it wasn’t. In fact, the only requirement for a wine to have been listed as a top growth was price. In other words, the only reason Chateaux Lafite, Latour, Margaux and Haut Brion were listed as First Growths was because they were more expensive than the other Bordeaux wines produced at the time.

A lot has changed since 1855 but the original Bordeaux classification still remains. While some people argue that this system is outdated, UK-based Liv-Ex has actually taken the time to update the system (unofficially, of course). Take a look at their 2011 Classification, which illustrates how the classification might look if it had been created in 2011.

Taking this a step further, Bill Blatch of Bordeaux Gold recently added the Sauternes and Barsac regions to the list. According to his research, Bordeaux sweet wines haven’t seen the dramatic price increases over the last decade like the red wines have – and he claims you can still find great values there.

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Roger Bohmrich on Sauternes 2010

Our Managing Director and Master of Wine, Roger Bohmrich, recently offered his thoughts for 2010 Sauternes.

[quote]This year, Sauternes and Barsac are marked by a high degree of ripeness but not necessarily a high degree of botrytis. The wines have a marked level of sweetness and aromas of candied lemon, peach, and an accent of apricot. – Roger Bohmrich, Managing Director of Millesima USA[/quote]

His top Sauternes picks include Chateaux Rieussec, Suduiraut, and Coutet. Here are his tasting notes:

  • Chateau Rieussec – “Nearly entirely Semillon (90%) with small additions of Sauvignon Blanc (7%) and Muscadelle (3%), the 2010 Rieussec has a pronounced yellow gold color and a profound nose of controlled richness with an undertone of yellow peach and mango. Ultra-rich, indeed opulent, the wine coats the mouth and has a dramatic, stunningly long finish marked by yellow fruits and spice. The flavors seem to go on and on… This is a Rieussec of outstanding potential.”
  • Chateau Suduiraut – “Yellow gold to the eye, Suduiraut’s 2010 is flashy and high toned as soon as you put your nose to the glass, with a sensation of peach liqueur highlighted by ripe lemon peel. The palate is opulent from the first taste, and the impression of intense sweetness remains through a persistent aftertaste, hiding a very fine edge of acidity. This is a Suduiraut of immense richness and opulence.”
  • Chateau Coutet – “The 2010 Coutet delivers stunning promise from barrel. The aromatics are fantastic, focused and ultra-pure and reveal superb botrytis notes while keeping bright yellow fruits and lemony accents. Sweet and unctuous from the start, the wine increases in intensity across the palate and possesses an incredibly long finish. Coutet’s 2010 is uncommonly rich and lasting. It is a wine of outstanding potential.”
Join the discussion: What are your thoughts on the Bordeaux sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac? Let us know in the comments.
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