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Château La Tour Blanche, Sauternes 2015

White Wine from France - Bordeaux
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A full, rich and almost heady wine with a nose of peaches and cream. Opulent and ripe, with marmalade notes on the palate. A Sauternes with a promising future.
is no longer available
Code: BW5631

Wine characteristics

  • White Wine
  • 8 - Very sweet
  • Semillon
  • 75cl
  • Now to 2031
  • 13.5% Alcohol
  • no oak influence
  • Cork, natural

Sauternes & Sweet Bordeaux

Certainly the most famous sweet wine of France and probably the World, the luscious, complex wines of Sauternes owe their existence to a mould. The fungus in question is called botrytis cinerea, known to the French by the more attractive name of pourriture noble and to many others as noble rot.

25 miles south of the city of Bordeaux the confluence of the Garonne and its tributary the Ciron, in conjunction with the hilly geography of the area and sunny autumn weather, creates a misty early morning microclimate that is perfect for botrytis to begin and flourish. As the day warms up and the mist clears the botrytis is stabilised and remains in its benign form. Should damp, humid or rainy weather strike the vineyards all will be lost as botrytis transforms itself into the more pernicious grey rot, in which case no sauternes can be made. These unfortunate circumstances happen about twice a decade and add the already challenging economic environment for all but the wealthiest producers....
Certainly the most famous sweet wine of France and probably the World, the luscious, complex wines of Sauternes owe their existence to a mould. The fungus in question is called botrytis cinerea, known to the French by the more attractive name of pourriture noble and to many others as noble rot.

25 miles south of the city of Bordeaux the confluence of the Garonne and its tributary the Ciron, in conjunction with the hilly geography of the area and sunny autumn weather, creates a misty early morning microclimate that is perfect for botrytis to begin and flourish. As the day warms up and the mist clears the botrytis is stabilised and remains in its benign form. Should damp, humid or rainy weather strike the vineyards all will be lost as botrytis transforms itself into the more pernicious grey rot, in which case no sauternes can be made. These unfortunate circumstances happen about twice a decade and add the already challenging economic environment for all but the wealthiest producers. Great pine forests to the west offer some protection from bad weather but making sauternes is a labour of love, perhaps even a labour of passion.

Semillon is the principal grape, useful because its thin skin is pierced easily by the botrytis to allow it to feed on the moisture inside, concentrating the grape sugars and glycerol, and heightening the acidity. The second grape is sauvignon blanc which makes up about 25% of plantings, while the fragrant muscadelle brings up the rear. Vines are carefully pruned and tended in order to encourage development of the fungus. Once the botrytis appears it affects bunches unevenly, both in terms of the individual grapes within the bunch and across the vineyard. It is necessary for pickers to make several passes, up to ten on the best properties, to pick even single grapes as they are affected, and each vine yields only enough juice for a single glass of wine. Sometimes the harvest can take two months to complete. Is it any wonder that the best Sauternes is relatively expensive?

Fermentation takes place in oak barrels and can be slow because the yeasts occasionally find the sticky, sugary juice almost overwhelming, with an ever present danger of the fermentation stopping before the desired outcome is achieved. The finished wine spends some time in barrel, during which time some evaporation is allowed, before bottling.

The best terroirs are considered to be on the higher ground furthest from the Garonne and above the Ciron, where the legendary Château d’Yquem sits. Soils in the appellation are a mixture of gravel, clay and limestone, and limestone, over the communes of Sauternes, Barsac, Bommes, Fargues and Preignac. Where the soils do not offer excellent drainage systems for it have been put in place.

Sauternes, and by extension Barsac, were the only wines outside of the Médoc and Château Haut-Brion to be included in the famous 1855 Classification, with Château d’Yquem preminent.

PREMIER CRU SUPÉRIEUR
Château d’YQUEM - Sauternes

PREMIERS CRUS
Château LA TOUR BLANCHE - Sauternes. Château LAFAURIE-PEYRAGUEY - Sauternes. Clos HAUT-PEYRAGUEY – Sauternes. Château de RAYNE VIGNEAU - Sauternes. Château SUDUIRAUT – Sauternes. Château COUTET - Barsac. Château CLIMENS – Barsac. Château GUIRAUD - Sauternes. Château RIEUSSEC - Sauternes. Château RABAUD-PROMIS - Sauternes. Château SIGALAS RABAUD - Sauternes

SECONDS CRUS
Château de MYRAT - Barsac. Château DOISY DAËNE - Barsac. Château DOISY-DUBROCA - Barsac. Château DOISY-VÉDRINES - Barsac. Château d’ARCHE - Sauternes. Château FILHOT - Sauternes. Château BROUSTET - Barsac. Château NAIRAC - Barsac. Château CAILLOU – Barsac. Château SUAU - Barsac. Château de MALLE – Sauternes. Château ROMER du HAYOT - Sauternes. Château ROMER – Sauternes. Château LAMOTHE - Sauternes. Château LAMOTHE-GUIGNARD - Sauternes

Less exalted sweet wines are made across Bordeaux. Much of it is produced, unlike wines affected by botrytis, by stopping fermentation through the use of sulphur dioxide, chilling the fermenting must and sterile filtration. These wines are often labelled moelleux and they can be very mediocre. Such wines can be labelled as Bordeaux Supérieur, Graves Supérieur, Côtes de Bordeaux-Saint-Macaire, Côtes de Bordeaux-Sainte-Foy and Premier Côtes de Bordeaux. Some appellations where botrytis wines are made and which can rival good sauternes are Sainte-Croix-du-Mont, Cadillac, Cérons and Loupiac. For this latter group, depressed prices in comparison with the wines of Sauternes and Barsac, have led some producers to abandon the expensive botrytis method and to make sweet wines more cheaply by following the methods of the less exalted practitioners mentioned above. Those prepared to invest the time, effort and money into making use of their terroir and the conditions it offers can make characterful, botrytis affected wines.
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Château La Tour Blanche

This property was founded in the 18th century, and is unusual for two reasons. Firstly, a previous owner, Daniel ‘Osiris’ Iffla, left it to the state on the condition that it should become an agricultural college, a condition that was met in 1911. Its second departure from the norm is it has a higher percentage of both sauvignon blanc and muscadelle than other first growth Sauternes. These grapes give its wine a particularly fragrant bouquet.

The 38.5 hectares of vines lie in the heart of the Sauternes appellation, overlooking the Ciron river, a tributary of the Garonne and the cause of the microclimate needed for noble rot. The harvest is so rigorous, with five or six successive pickings, that it lasts almost two months in total.

It is an estate capable of making wines of great finesse – the 1921 vintage is legendary –but quality slipped in the 1960s and 1970s. However, since the late decades of the last century it has been making excellent, rich, elegant wines.

These are typically a blend of 83% semillon, 12% sauvignon and 5% muscadelle, which age for 16 to 18 months in oak, 100% of it new. The wine can be enjoyed for between four and 30 years.

Bordeaux 2015 Sauternes/Barsac

2015 was an excellent vintage for Sauternes and Barsac, with picking starting right at the beginning of September and almost perfect conditions throughout that month and much of October. Favourably timed rain showers punctuated the harvest, ensuring ideal conditions for the development of noble rot, though the wines display admirable balancing freshness.

2015 vintage reviews

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