Sauternes best enjoyed with salty cheese, spicy food, foie gras

February 18, 2013

Before I take off on an expensive group of wines, here are a few real values: Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot under $10; Peter Lehmann Clancy’s 2009, $14; King Estate Signature Collection Pinot Gris, 2011, $16, is an extra-special bargain, 92 points; Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel 2011, $20; Layer Cake Cali Cab 2010, $17; Logan Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Cali Chard, $16; and Louis Jadot Macon Villages Chard for $13 - all wonderful price-to-value buys.

Please keep in mind the values I place are usually available in Delaware, but maybe you can do better at your own store when buying cases or split cases.

If you enjoy Sauternes Chateau Guiraud 2009, a 350 ml for $30 or 750 ml for $60 is a bargain, 95-point lovely. No. 5 on WS top 100 and 18/20 by Jancis Robinson, who is a tough critic. I’m guessing if you enjoy these, purchasing a case will get you a decent discount; 11,000 cases were produced. Best Guiraud since 1981, although some prefer the 2001. The 1981s are selling in the $120 neighborhood. I think it went out at $21.

The lack of demand in this market, with the exception of D’Yquem - the 2009 sells for roughly $800/bottle - has depressed opening prices recently.

Since all things are cyclical and these wines shelve 30 years or more, this is an excellent future for cellarers. The Suiderat has the same ratings and is selling for roughly twice the price of Guiraud. These are unique wines  best served slightly chilled to 60 degrees. Contrary to the popular misconception, where many consider sauternes dessert wines, they do not pair well with many types of dessert because the wine should be sweeter than the food for best impact. Rather, sauternes are best enjoyed with salty cheese, spicy food and of course the best pairing of all, foie gras.

A truly regal combination is filet Rossini and sauterne. You can find the Rossini recipe I enjoy here: In the modern vernacular, ”It’s disgusting” means better than excellent. For those who don’t keep veal glacé about, no problem. To be honest, at home, I add every bone I can find into my stock, constantly reworking it. Mine is a mix of pork, chicken, turkey, beef, veal and duck. None have ever complained.

The Guiraud is a Premier Grand Cru showing a lovely, light-golden color. Slightly closed nose, a bit of a swirl opens into a bouquet of coconut, almond, apricot and honeysuckle. Refined, balanced palate reveals papaya, honey and cleansing acidity. The finish shows more apricot, some peaches, a hint of spice and almonds. Some reviewed the very long finish as being unctuous. I’m sorry, but that word is a bad descriptor to me, with negative connotations of oily, greasy or soapy from the Latin root meaning to smear or anoint. I prefer rich, silky, textured and honeyed to describe the botrytis-driven quality in sauterne. In this case the acid balance negates an unctuous effect.  I read an interesting thought concerning the 2009 sauterne by Jane Anson in New Bordeaux and wished to pass an edited version along. “My take on the 2009 sauternes will be slightly different from the majority. I completely agree these wines are rich, unctuous and luscious.

I would be slightly more hesitant to unreservedly applaud them for that. The 2007 and easily the 2001 remain better wines, in that they offer more acidity, more delicacy and more ‘drinkability.’ What 2009 undoubtedly gives is the perfect sauternes experience for sauternes-lovers. These are not sauternes for beginners These are full and rich and will not convince many younger consumers  this is the year to rediscover the joy of sweet wines. There are undoubtedly some wonderful wines among them.” Anson is always a good read.

Here is a short listing of other 2009s worth looking into that are favorably priced. Suideraut is bright yellow-gold. Great balance.  Clean, pure, very long wine with hints of cantaloupe, passion fruit and fig.  Bastor-Lamontagne. Pure, fresh, lemony and floral, this elegant wine is a perfect aperitif. Doisy-Védrines. Deep yellow.  Rich, deep nose, with botrytis-suffused aromas and flavors of sweet banana, peach, citrus and mango. Coutet. Delicate, smoky nuance of vanilla, ripe citrus and brown sugar aromas and flavors.  Lafaurie-Peyraguey. Bright orange, tangerine, peach and honey aromas with floral undertones.  Very polished and I think it will greatly improve with time. All are definitely worth a look.

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