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Local reputation and wonderful old vintages prove this to be one of the great Sauternes vineyards. After a number of lighter years, this 2009, with 28% sauvignon, is wonderfully rich yet fresh with great length and class.
Product Code: BW3711
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Legend has it that this property’s soils contain gemstones which account for its golden hue. It was founded and owned by the Vigneau family for several generations, beginning in the early 17th century, and then purchased by Madame de Rayne in 1834. It was her great-nephew Albert de Pontac, of the renowned winemaking Pontac family, that renamed the estate after her in 1867. In 2004, the estate was acquired by CA Grands Crus, a subsidiary of the Groupe Crédit Agricole. Located in the commune of Bommes on a magnificent gravelly rise overlooking Sauternes, this property is the third highest point in the region, and potentially capable of producing one of the very finest Sauternes. Although it has not usually achieved this, the style here has always been to make a wine of elegance and drinkability, not overly liquourous, and one that is fairly priced. There are 84 hectares of vines, located in a single block on Garonne gravel over clay, and with an average age of 30 years. After all of the grapes have been harvested by hand they undergo a strict sorting process, before being barrel fermented, which is the custom in Sauternes. Typically, the wine is a blend of 80% semillon and 20% sauvignon, which ages for 12 to 18 months in oak, 40% of it new. Though lighter than some of its neighbours, its wines age well, and can be enjoyed for four to 30 years.
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 SUPÉRIEURChâteau d’YQUEM - SauternesPREMIERS CRUSChâteau 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 - SauternesSECONDS CRUSChâteau 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 - SauternesLess 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.
The onset of pourriture noble, which is the key to greatness in Barsac and Sauternes, was rapid and abundant and some great sweet wines have been made from a good crop. Heat and humidity came at the right time and the harvest was generally a quick one, always an indicator of an even and fulsome spread of botrytis after the slight rainfall of the 19th and 20th September.
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Decanter 26th Nov 2014
"Hearty Languedoc wine
for a cold night with a dry, herbal nose, blackcurrant and dark cherry fruit,
and a hint of black pepper. For this price it doesn’t get any better. - Top 50 Wines of 2014"
Decanter 4th Dec 2013
Exotically honeyed fruit, fully rich and smooth on the palate, wonderful citrus
and spice elements add to the vigour and presence on the palate, exotic yet
classic.- Steven Spurrier"
Ripe lemon fruit on the nose and palate that is elegant and stylish and
beautifully balanced. - Sebastian Payne MW"
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