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Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews
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Independent reviews of some local and imported wines available in New Zealand, including earlier vintages.

SOME 2001 SAUTERNES,  BARSACS & RELATED SWEET WINES


Much has been said about the excellence of the 2001 vintage in Sauternes and Barsac.  For example:

Jancis Robinson MW,  2002:  If I have two words of advice about Bordeaux 2001,  they are:  buy Sauternes.

David Peppercorn MW,  2002:  The outstanding feature of 2001 Sauternes is the combination of richness and elegance.  It was a year when there was a speedy spread of botrytis on grapes that had already reached an ideal level of ripeness … the answer to every sauternes producer's prayer.  The 2001s seem to have an extra touch of elegance and finesse than 1990 … it is rare to find so many outstanding wines … No other region of Bordeaux has been so favoured in 2001 as Sauternes.

Robert Parker 2002:  Clearly,  2001 is the finest year for this region [Sauternes & Barsac] since the outstanding trio of 1988, 89, 90 … there is no question 2001 is a vintage of great complexity,  ripeness,  richness,  freshness and delineation.  Residual sugars range from 84 to a whopping 156 g/L. Their balance is stunning !  For those who love them,  this is a vintage to purchase.

The top wines have accordingly become less common in the market place.  But since sweet wines are not subjected to the intense hunting pressure of the classed red growths,  there are still many middle-rank 2001 Sauternes district wines available.  The Wine Importer in Auckland has recently landed and offered a useful cross-section.  The following is a tasting of 11 of them,  plus the Trophy sweet wine from the recent Easter Show,  included for fun (and education).  The latter is not a 2001,  but is one of the first sauternes styles in New Zealand to not contain a slight grassy / green hint.  Subsequently,  a commercial Australian sticky (from the excellent South Australian 2002 vintage) was opened,  to see how it compared.

It is worth noting as we contemplate another en primeur season,  that because of the upward movement of the NZ$ since the 2001s were offered en primeur,  the landed price of these wines 5 years later closely matches the original EP price.  In the sense they reflect the dollar at its maximum at the beginning of the year,  they are therefore good value.  Original EP landed price noted,  for some wines.

The only disappointment about the wines was the relatively advanced condition of a number of them.  Since they were imported in temperature-controlled containers,  that is not the issue.  More I am thinking that the colour development we now see in young sauternes is a function of the flowback of technology from the new world to the old,  in the last 15 years notably.  When I cast my mind back to what young sauternes looked like in the 60s and 70s,  free and total sulphurs were much higher then they are today.  And techniques such as barrel fermentation were scarcely thought of.  It is reasonable to expect today’s sweet wines will not stay youthful in cellar for as long as those of yesteryear.  Some of these already look and taste like 20-year-old wines.  How they will cellar remains to be seen.

The wines were presented blind to 20 tasters.  The write-up however is my assessment alone,  though the views offered benefit from discussion with other experienced tasters.  The notes include the background material provided to participants.  Cepage and elevage details mostly from Parker.

Parker R. P.  2003:   Bordeaux.   Fourth Edition,  Simon & Schuster,  1244 p.

SAUTERNES & RELATED STYLES

2001  Ch  Bastor-Lamontagne
2001  Ch Broustet
2001  Ch Filhot
2002  Gramp’s Botrytis Noble Late Harvest
2001  Ch  Gravas
2001  Ch Guiraud
2001  Ch Lamothe-Guignard
  2001  Ch Latrezotte
2001  Ch Loupiac-Gaudiet
2001  Ch de Myrat
2001  Ch Rabaud-Promis
2001  Ch Rayne-Vigneau
2004  Saints Noble Semillon Gisborne Vineyard Selection

2001  Ch Rabaud-Promis   18 ½  ()
Bommes,  Sauternes AOC,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $83   [ cork;  price / 750 ml,  original landed EP price $77;  Se 80%,  SB 18,  Mu 2;  BF and 12 – 14 months in barrel 30% new;  greatly improved since 1986,  introduction of second wine,  new oak etc;  Parker –  making better and better wines;  Wine Spectator 2004:  strong tropical fruits and honey.  Full-bodied with apricots,  botrytis and spice  … 95;  Parker 146 (in 2003):  a big, sweet, honeyed Sauternes with loads of fruit, but not a great deal of complexity. Light gold-colored and full-bodied, with plenty of pineapple, honeysuckle, and marmalade notes as well as a hint of caramel, there is a lot going on in this young but promising 2001. To 2020.  90 – 92 ]
Light gold,  about half way in colour depth and development.  Initially opened,  the oak is a bit disorganised on this wine,  making the VA seem a little prominent.  A few vigorous swirls of the glass,  however,  and it settles to classic golden peach,  grapefruit marmalade,  raisins and botrytis sauternes,  with aromatic oak and some VA making the marmalade deliciously piquant.  Palate shows good concentration,  complex quite strong flavours as for bouquet,  and excellent fresh acid,  balancing the sweetness superbly.  Flavoursome wine for cellaring 10 – 20 years.  GK 04/06

2001  Ch Broustet   18 +  ()
Sauternes AOC,  Bordeaux,  France:  14%;  $55   [ cork;  price / 750 ml, EP $50;  Se 63%,  SB 25,  Mu 12;  s/s fermentation,  aged in oak 12 months 20% new;  recent improvements including introduction of second wine.  Parker regards as somewhat dull,  ages well,  rarely exciting.  Wine Spectator 2004:  Intense caramel,  toffee and spice … full bodied,  medium sweet,  very spicy, long finish dried pineapple and almond.  Wild !  Very concentrated.  94;  Parker 140 (in 2002):  88 – 90 ]
Full gold,  the deepest of the wines.  This one smells very rich and sweet,  but more one-dimensional than the Rabaud-Promis,  more the golden peaches,  a hint of golden syrup,  sultana  fruitcake,  faint lanolin,  good botrytis.  Palate is oily rich,  as rich as some Australian semillon stickies,  with raisiny and oaky complexities,  and almost a best glacé figs depth of flavour,  perhaps slightly toffee'd.  Finish is very long,  dried apricots,  rich,  lingering attractively to the aftertaste.  Being so forward,  this will probably be at its best in the first 5 – 10 years,  but will hold longer.  GK 04/06

2001  Ch de Myrat   18 +  ()
Barsac,  Sauternes AOC,  Bordeaux,  France:  14%;  $70   [ cork;  price / 750 ml, EP $62;  Se 86%,  SB 10,  Mu 4;  24 months in barrel 30% new;   Wine Spectator 2004:  very ripe,  sweet and sour limes,  lemon and maple syrup.  Full-bodied,  sweet and tangy,  very well done.  93;  Parker 140 (in 2002):  84 – 86 ]
Full gold,  one of the deepest three.  Bouquet is immediately raisiny ripe,  slightly over-evaporated marmalade,  oaky,  creme brulee and VA,  all blending into a classic rich ripe sauternes bolder than the top two.  Palate has a great flavour,  lots of dried apricots and botrytis,  and really aromatic on the new oak.  In some ways this is the loveliest flavour of the set,  but in the aftertaste the VA is higher than most of the others,  roughing up the back of the throat a little.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 04/06

2001  Ch Filhot   17 ½ +  ()
Sauternes AOC,  Bordeaux,  France:  14%;  $55   [ cork;  price / 750 ml,  EP $54;  Se 60,  SB 36,  Mu 4;  s/s fermentation,  all the wine is rotated through barrels (33% new) and tanks for 24 – 36 months,  so actual exposure to oak uncertain;  Parker regards as a lighter style,  well made;  more aromatic due to the high % of SB.  Parker 153 (in 2004):  a light, fruity style emphasizing finesse and elegance … sweet pineapple,  sealing wax-like … pure, clean flavors.  Slightly sweet,  it does not possess the body or power of the vintage’s bigger examples, but it is a refreshing, vibrant Sauternes to enjoy over the next 12-15 years.  90 ]
Glowing lemonstraw,  one of the three palest,  lovely.  This wine presents a major contrast to the golden wines,  reminiscent of how many better sauternes were presented 30 years ago.  Bouquet includes understated stonefruits and botrytis veiled by slightest clean sulphur,  which quickly clears – just decant the wine for the first few years.  Palate is rich,  fine,  long pale stonefruits,  a hint of toasted almonds and oak,  all very subtle,  but not at all weak.  No VA roughness on this one.  Cellar 10 – 30 years.  GK 04/06

2001  Ch Guiraud   17 ½ +  ()
Sauternes AOC,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $59   [ cork;  price / 375 ml,  EP $54;  Se 65%,  SB 35;  since 1981,  Yquem-like practices,  multiple pickings;  100% BF in virtually all new oak.  In Parker’s estimation one of the top 6;  Parker 153 (in 2004):  notes of caramelized oranges, citrus, honeysuckle, creme brulee, and smoke. Full-bodied and opulent, with tremendous intensity, good acidity, and a persistent finish that lasts nearly a minute, this large-scaled, thick, heady Guiraud is one of the finest examples from this estate that I have ever tasted.  Anticipated maturity: 2007-2025.   94 ]
Full gold,  among the deepest.  Bouquet is distinctive amongst these wines,  the first impression being oak so strongly fragrant it is reminiscent of dried balsam (fir) leaves.  Below this is golden queen peachy fruit which is nearly biscuitty,  plus some VA.  Palate might not be quite rich enough for the unusual oak,  but it must be said the oak is soft and fragrant rather than aggressive and splintery.  It will marry up into an almost cedary wine,  distinctive,  and perhaps scoring much higher in 10 years than it does today (if the fruit holds up,  and the wine remains fresh – there has to be a caveat on the colour).  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 04/06

2001  Ch Lamothe-Guignard   17 ½ +  ()
Sauternes AOC,  Bordeaux,  France:  14%;  $34   [ cork;  price / 375 ml;  Se 90%,  SB 5,  Mu 5;  new owners since 1981 and great improvements,  including introduction of second wine;  s/s fermentation,  12 – 15 months barrel age 20 – 25% new;  Parker considers up-and-coming estate;  Parker 146  (in 2003):  Dense, full-bodied, plenty of honeysuckle, candied citrus, and orange marmalade notes, this 2001 looks to be outstanding. To 2015.  89 – 91 ]
Full gold,  the second deepest.  This wine is close to the Broustet in style,  golden stonefruits,  sultana fruitcake,  but more oaky and volatile.  Palate shows forward flavours,  good balance and richness in a golden queen peach tart or fruitcake style,  but like the Myrat the VA and oak level roughs up the back of the throat somewhat.  Aftertaste is long and drying on the oak,  a bit biscuitty and short on the fruit.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 04/06

2001  Ch Rayne-Vigneau   17 ½ +  ()
Bommes,  Sauternes AOC,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $85   [ cork;  price / 750 ml, EP $81;  Se 74,  SB 24,  Mu 2;  some BF,  18 – 24 months in up to 50% new oak;  in Parker’s view a chateau where potential exceeds achievement;  Parker 153  (in 2004):  this heavy-duty, full-bodied Sauternes is cloyingly sweet as well as monolithic. Hopefully, more complexity and finesse will emerge. Nevertheless, it is big, chewy, and honeyed, but not yet singing. To 2020.  89 ]
Lemonstraw and a flush of gold,  right in the middle for colour development.  Bouquet on this smells high semillon,  much more like a good South Australian noble semillon,  with subtle oak and sweet stone fruits,  all quite reserved with a hint of high solids.  Palate is richer and more complex than the bouquet promises,  great texture,  flavours of baked pears or pear tart,  long,  lingering on the aromatic complexity of the sauvignon blanc.  This will cellar well,  10 – 20 years.  GK 04/06

2004  Saints Noble Semillon Gisborne Vineyard Selection   17 ½  ()
Gisborne 87%,  Hawkes Bay 13,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $19   [ screwcap;  price / 375 ml,  not yet generally released;  all BF,  43% new;  157 g/L RS;  Trophy,  NZ Easter Show 2006;  2004 not on website yet;  www.pernod-ricard-nz.com ]
Lemonstraw to straw.  Bouquet is light,  pure and sweet,  nearly floral semillon showing suggestions of holygrass / sweetest hay,  botrytis,  lanolin and pale stonefruits,  plus light clean oak.  Palate is very neat,  a little more oak noticeable now and fairly new,  lowish VA,  grape acid higher than the others giving lovely fresh flavours,  but all lacking a little fruit weight and concentration in this company.  Nonetheless,  the wine was well rated by many tasters,  and as a lighter elegant wine,  it is one well suited to light cool desserts.  It is much fresher and more flavoursome than the Gramp Noble.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 04/06

2001  Ch  Bastor-Lamontagne   17 ½  ()
Sauternes AOC,  Bordeaux,  France:  14%;  $60   [ cork;  price / 750 ml, EP $56;  Se 80,  SB 20;  80% BF,  13 – 18 months in barrel,  15% new;  located near Ch Suduiraut.  A second wine has been introduced.  Parker regards as very reliable,  affordable,  not oaky.  Wine Spectator 2004:   aromas of limes … cream … pineapple … full-bodied palate,  lively acidity,  fresh finish  91;  Parker 153 ( in 2004):  Possibly the finest effort I have ever tasted from this estate … apricot, lychee, honeysuckle, and other tropical fruit with little evidence of oak. Excellent acidity, which provides tremendous definition  … To 2020   91 ]
Rich lemon.  A simple pure bouquet combining some pale stone fruits with soaked sultana richness,  some complexity,  not much oak.  Palate has lovely fruit initially,  some botrytis complexity,  but is lightish in this company,  more like the Saints wine.  Compared with that,  however,  there is less VA and new oak,  and more grape flavour and mouthfeel.  This should develop attractively in cellar for 5 – 15 years,  and be versatile with light cool desserts.  GK 04/06

2001  Ch Latrezotte   17 ½  ()
Barsac,  Sauternes AOC,  Bordeaux,  France:  14%;  $40   [ cork;  price / 750 ml;  Se 80%,  Mu 20;  33% new oak;  same owner as Pape Clement. ]
Lemonstraw,  a lovely classical sauternes colour,  well below midway in depth.  Bouquet is light,  pure and understated,  with botrytis showing on slightly lanolin semillon,  some almond and high solids character,   elegant.  Palate is nectary,  low oak,  trace VA becoming apparent,  very neat,  a little short.  Clean attractive wine,  for the mid-term 5 – 15 years.  GK 04/06

2001  Ch Loupiac-Gaudiet   17 +  ()
Loupiac AOC,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $26   [ cork;  price / 750 ml;  Se 80%,  SB 20;  hand-harvested and selected;  no details on elevage – not all the region’s sweet wines see oak.  Loupiac is immediately across the Garonne River from Barsac,  on the right bank.  One of top nine in AOCs Loupiac and Ste-Croix-du-Mont;  website hard to locate;  www.chateau-loupiacgaudiet.com ]
Lemonstraw,  showing slightly more sheen than the Saints.  Initially opened,  there is a slight seashore /  fresh seaweed (+ve) piquancy to this.  Breathes out to a high semillon wine,  pure and nectary,  little or no oak,  pale nectarine / stonefruits dominant,  just a little reminder of muscat Beaumes de Venise.  Palate is richer than the Saints,  clear botrytis complexity on good fragrant fruit richness,  the flavour like bottled nectarines and honey,  but finishing a little short.  Perhaps there is no oak influence in this wine,  complexing the flavour and finish.  A good sighter wine for the more complex / expensive sauternes and barsacs.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 04/06

2001  Ch  Gravas   16 ½  ()
Barsac,  Sauternes AOC,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $22.50   [ cork;  price / 375 ml;  Se 80%, SB 10,  Mu 10;  some ageing in barrel;  second wine recently introduced.  Parker regards as short-term.  Wine Spectator 2004:  minerals,  apples and hints of apricot  … medium to full-bodied with fresh acidity and a tangy lemon-tart aftertaste.  89 ]
Lemonstraw.  Initially opened,  there is a light veil of clean sulphur,  on simple fruit.  Palate shows good botrytised fruit,  but with a hard component and a narrow flavour,  as if made from botrytised chenin blanc,  plus a faint muscatty hint.  There is little or no oak.  In style,  but relatively plain in this company.  Cellar 5 – 15 years,  not necessarily to improve much.  GK 04/06

2002  Gramp’s Botrytis Noble Late Harvest   16  ()
South Australia,  Australia:  11.5%;  $21   [ cork;  price / 375 ml,  website not yet functional;  www.orlandowyndhamgroup.com ]
Lemonstraw,  paler than the Saints.  Bouquet is quite rich,  but seems plain in this company,  with (initially opened) a petrochemical whiff to it,  plus an unappealing undertone,  faintly rancid and browning cut apple.  Palate shows good fruit,  noticeable oak,  and more body and lower acid than the New Zealand wine,  but there is much less freshness of flavour,  and hence appeal.  On that note,  I do wonder if there is a little muscat ‘colouring’ this wine ?  It does not compare with the 2001 of this label,  and tastes relatively dull even when compared with a ‘simpler’ sauternes such as the Loupiac-Gaudiet.  As a sound commercial label from the country which commercialised (in the sense of made affordable) botrytised wines,  this bottle makes an interesting comparison with the others.  It highlights just how good the 2001 Sauternes are.  Cellar 10 – 15 years.  GK 04/06