Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Sauternes


mamster
 Share

Recommended Posts

Serious newbie question ahead.

Last week some eGulleteers went out for dessert in Vancouver (more on this on the Vancouver board soon) and several of us had glasses of Sauternes, 1994 Chateau d'Armajan. I've only drunk Sauternes a few times but always loved the incredible balance of acidity, sweetness, and alcohol with that weird Botrytis flavor.

So I figured I'd buy a bottle at the big BC liquor store and take it home. They didn't have d'Armajan, so I picked a first growth at random and ended up with Chateau Guiraud 1999. Laurie and I opened it last night and hoped for a great experience.

I hated this wine. All I can taste is oak. It's a complete unmitigated wood-bomb. I'm retasting it right now and it's just bitter, astringent, and brutal.

Where did I go wrong? Is a 1999 Sauternes way too young to drink? Are the first growths oakier in general? Is Guiraud known for using more oak than most (they mention the casks on the bottle, never a good sign in my oakphobic experience). At the restaurant I was babbling about how Sauternes is one of the most incredible achievements of humankind. How can I drink a Sauternes like that at home?

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Check out the wines from the French region of Saussignac too. Very similar to the Sauternes, but a little different. They use the same semillon and muscadelle varietals as Sauternes and are generally speaking better values as dessert wines.

http://froogle.google.com/froogle?q=saussignac

There are some interesting Semillons from Washington state too.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No Sauternes expert me, but I have had a few bottles of Giraud (have an '88 in my "cellar" I just noticed the other day) and have never had the oak bomb problem you described. My guess is that you are correct, it was too young and that the better wines usually get more oaking. When I'm getting a sauternes for immediate drinking, I usally tend towards the less expensive chateaux, and as much age as I can afford. In addition, I have found (by accident) that some of them definitely taste lighter and more refreshing, less oaky even, the second day, so you might consider a very long breathing next time.

Also, some of the better Muscats de Beaumes du Venice (sp?) are quite sauternes-like, and a fraction of the cost and little risk of wood chips in the glass.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Check out the wines from the French region of Saussignac too. Very similar to the Sauternes, but a little different. They use the same semillon and muscadelle varietals as Sauternes and are generally speaking better values as dessert wines.

Along this line, check out some Monbazillac. It's also made with the same varietals (semillon, sauvignon and muscadelle) but it's what the locals drink with their foie gras, since they're exporting most of the chateau level wines to make money. Think of it as second growth Sauternes or a lesser known non-cru village wine in terms of price-value ratio.

I also love the Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, but I'd argue it's a lot lighter weight and way more floral and honeyed in the bouquet than Sauternes and Monbazillac. Less noble rot and more honeysuckle. At least IMHO. Definitely NOT "woody" though. I absolutely loathe it when whatever is in the bottle tastes more like a barrel than it does like juice - no matter what the wine.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

Link to comment
Share on other sites

mamster -- Chateau Guiraud is a very well-regarded Sauternes, but one that is quite peculiar. It is less sweet than most other Sauternes and has the oak that you note (which should blend with the wine in time -- it is way too early to be drinking 1999 Sauternes). I think of Guiraud as a wine to have with savory foods, say ham or certain tarts, and not as a dessert wine.

Best regards,

Claude Kolm

The Fine Wine Review

Link to comment
Share on other sites

All the evidence points to 1999 being a very good year for Sauternes, with excellent botrytis. That being said, I personally have never had a bottle of Guiraud that I particularly liked. I've had it on maybe four or five occasions and, even in the older specimens, just didn't enjoy the style.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

mamster... what great timing for your question, because I've had Sauternes on my mind this week, too, since drinking a couple of glasses while up in Vancouver BC last week. Both glasses of Sauternes were paired with Fois Gras preparations, first at West Restaurant and then at Lumiere as well (they did the pairings). They went beautifully with the fois gras. I still need to post on those meals on the Vancouver board, too. Hope you had a great trip and look forward to reading about it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise, I believe, and from the Rhone. Generally, but not necessarily better than the ones from further south between Montpellier and Spain. There's a Muscat de Mirval Domaine de la Capelle that can be very nice. Mirval is a small town just north of Frontignan. Both are on the Mediterranean coast. Frontignan is a town well known for production of sweet muscat wine, but much of it is rather cheap and sold in screw cap bottles. The French like to drink it as an aperitif. Saint-Jean-de-Minervois and Rivesaltes, are muscat appellations further south and there's Lunel by Montpellier. Although the better ones, are perectly good and far more affordable than Sauternes, I don't think any of them have the balance of a good Sauternes. The Muscats are all what are known as "vin doux naturel" in France. That's some sort of marketing speak for fortified wine as they are, as far as I know, all fortified to stop the fermentation to keep them sweet. None of this is meant as a put down. I'm a fan of these wines and drink them often for their value.

I've also had good Muscats (Moscatel) from Spain, most notably Casta Diva Cosecha Miel from Alicante province and from Ochoa, Chivite, Camilo Castilla (Goya/Montecristo) in Navarra.

More interesting, and priced that way, are the sweet wines from the Loire -- Coteaux du Layon, Bonnezeaux, Quarts-du-Chaume, etc. They, like Sauternes and unlike Muscats, are botrytised. This is not to say that a good Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise is not a find way to end a dinner. They were a godsend to discover when I couldn't afford my favorite Barsac. Jason notes Saussignac. I've also had good values from Monbazillac. They are neighboring wines of the Bergerac area.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If one is looking for wonderful, well balanced dessert wines and cares to look outside of Europe, I would suggest some of the non-vintage Australians such as Rutherglen's Tokays or Ontario Ice Wines (vintage). My personal favorite OIW is Thirty Bench Reisling. that unfortunately can be hard to come by in the States.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Savory Sauternes? You learn something new everyday.

Well, of course, blue cheese and foie gras are two classic matches for Sauternes and the Sauternais like to make the case for Sauternes with all sorts of savories. In Richard Olney's Yquem, he prints several menus for Yquem all the way through a meal, and in some of his other writings he recommends Sauternes with raw oysters.

But what is unique about Guiraud is that it really is, IMO, a Sauternes almost exclusively for savories and not for desserts.

Best regards,

Claude Kolm

The Fine Wine Review

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mamster:

Try the wines from Cadillac. On the other side of the river Garonne. They make a sweet wine similar in style to Sauternes and much cheaper.

slowfood/slowwine

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mamster - Sauternes are great wines, the particular wine that you drank was from well respected producer and from an good year, I would guess that the style and the age of the wine was against you. As mentioned before, some sautrenes go well with savoury dishes, this is especially true when they have some age. I like to drink some styles with lightly smoked salmon for instance.

In regards to their age, well I prefer them as older wines as I think that they are much more interesting. At the moment I am cellaring wines from 1988, 1989 & 1990. I'm not planning on opening any bottles for some time yet and I won't open any halves for a few more years. Infact, I'm not planning to open any full bottles until my 40th birthday (2012). These vintages are great (especially '89 and '90) and it is still possible to buy them, often at prices only slightly more expensive then current releases, so look out for them.

Several producers that I would suggest, if you are looking for more desert type wines would be.

Ch. Coutet - lighter bodied.

Ch. Climens - my favorite.

Ch. Rieussec - a rich style.

They are expensive wines and there are cheaper desert wines about, but for all that they are still great wines, enjoy.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Let me throw my .02 in here. They make so much Sauterne that I have found that they don't increase in value very much. Aside from stellar vintages of d'Yquem. And even d'Yquem takes a long time to increase in value. But the silver lining here is that you can find older vintages of wines like Suiduraut, Climens etc. at auction for very reasonable prices. I bought a few mixed cases worth of sauternes from the 50's and 60's to have around for birthdays and most of the bottles cost between $125-$200. I assure you that 1955 Climens, which I believe I bought for $150, is a different animal then the 1999 Guirard. And since I pretty much use sauternes as special occassion wine, the cost is well justified.

If you want current release sweet wine that is inexpensive and drinkable out of the box, try Pelligrini Finale. It's the only Long Island wine that I like. It's something like $30 for a 500ml bottle. It's quite good.

Edited by Steve Plotnicki (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Steve - What is your general impression of sauternes from the 1960's- (early)1980's? From what I have read some people have suggested that quality really decreased in this period and only really got back on track in the mid-late '80s. My only experience Sauternes from this period are several bottles of 1975 and 1976 Ch. Climens, that I picked up cheaply at auction. IMO they were fantastic, but what do I know.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Adam -- I'm not Steve, but I've had my share of Sauternes from the 1960s and am qualified to talk. It was a period when the wines were very difficult to sell, and there were several wretched vintages, as well. But there are many great Sauternes from that period. 1962 Suduiraut and 1971 Climens are about as great a Sauternes as you will ever come across. The properties that I am familiar with that made outstanding wine during the period are Yquem, Climens, Coutet, Suduiraut (much better than the present-day Suduiraut), Fargues, and Rieussec (also much better than the current wines). I have little familiarity with the wines of Lafaurie-Peyraguey, Sigalas-Rabaud, and the three Doisys from this period, but I would expect their wines to be excellent. Some of the other properties are likely to be dicier from that era.

And yes, 1975 and 1976 Climens are great wines, but then it is a great property and one that shows amazing regularity.

Best regards,

Claude Kolm

The Fine Wine Review

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you so much for the recommendations, everyone. It's going to be a lot of fun drinking my way through them. Incidentally, I brought back some Ontario icewine from the Canada trip also.

The remainder of this bottle of Guiraud is going into a custard. Maybe some cream will calm the oak.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Incidentally, I brought back some Ontario icewine from the Canada trip also.

Which Ice wines did you bring back? Have you tried any yet? What are your thoughts?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I got what was available in the little bottles: Vidal and Pillitteri. The BC icewine was more than I was prepared to spend after springing for the Sauternes and some other stuff. I have had BC icewine in the past and it's pretty incredible stuff, although sometimes more heavy and intellectual than I'm after.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Adam -- I'm not Steve, but I've had my share of Sauternes from the 1960s and am qualified to talk.  It was a period when the wines were very difficult to sell, and there were several wretched vintages, as well.  But there are many great Sauternes from that period.  1962 Suduiraut and 1971 Climens are about as great a Sauternes as you will ever come across.  The properties that I am familiar with that made outstanding wine during the period are Yquem, Climens, Coutet, Suduiraut (much better than the present-day Suduiraut), Fargues, and Rieussec (also much better than the current wines).  I have little familiarity with the wines of Lafaurie-Peyraguey, Sigalas-Rabaud, and the three Doisys from this period, but I would expect their wines to be excellent.  Some of the other properties are likely to be dicier from that era.

And yes, 1975 and 1976 Climens are great wines, but then it is a great property and one that shows amazing regularity.

Best regards,

Claude Kolm

The Fine Wine Review

Claude - thank you for the information. An ex-boss of mind told me of the large amount of cheap Yquem he bought in the early 1970's, I had thought that it was prehaps not very good, but from what you have said, maybe it was because it was hard to sell sauternes in this period.

The full bottles of '75 and '76 Climens cost me ~US$35 each in Australia, while several full bottles of 1990 Rieussec and Coutet were US$50 each. Bargin wines.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Steve - What is your general impression of sauternes from the 1960's- (early)1980's? From what I have read some people have suggested  that quality really decreased in this period and only really got back on track in the mid-late '80s. My only experience Sauternes from this period are several bottles of 1975 and 1976 Ch. Climens, that I picked up cheaply at auction. IMO they were fantastic, but what do I know.

The Sauternes that I hold in very high regard is the 83 Climens. Generally 83 is considered a fantastic vintage but becareful there are some dogs out there (eg Coutet 83)

I was lucky enough to have a 1929 Raymond Lafon in about 1993, which was absolutely fantastic and came from one of the greatest years ever. The person that I was drinking it with had a friend who had 2 cases of every classed growth from 1929 but didn't like Sauternes!!!

the only bottles from the 70s that I have had recently was a 1973 Yquem, which was nice but not exceptional and considering that it came from a duff year was fantastic and a 1971 Coutet, which again was nice but not a property that I really like.

There are some other appellations worth looking at - one of the best bottles I ever had came from Bergerac. Also have has some lovely sweeties from St. Croix du Mont and Cerons

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Claude - thank you for the information. An ex-boss of mind told me of the large amount of cheap  Yquem he bought in the early 1970's, I had thought that it was prehaps not very good, but from what you have said, maybe it was because it was hard to sell sauternes in this period.

The full bottles of '75 and '76 Climens cost me ~US$35 each in Australia, while several full bottles of 1990 Rieussec and Coutet were US$50 each. Bargin wines.

Adam -- The situation in Sauternes was so bad in the late 1960s and 1970s that it was thought that the wine would not survive -- the producers could not charge enough to cover their costs. One classified chateau, Myrat, actually did pull up its vines (they have since been replanted -- in the last year possible before the property would have lost its classified status). So, yes, those may well have been Yquems from the great years that your friend bought on the cheap. (Additionally, Yquem was not that expensive relative to other wines until the late 1980s/early 1990s.)

Best reagards,

Claude Kolm

The Fine Wine Review

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hey, look--not one but two articles about Montbazillac in the NYT this week.  First, a general overview by Fabricant

Mamster:

Thanks for the link to these articles. Hot damn - I feel really smart! I guess I really did remember some of the stuff my old boss used to tell me... :cool:

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...