Thursday, October 25, 2012


Bottles for the tasting including Chateau d’Yquem, Climens, Guiraud, Suduiraut, and Rieussec

The wines ready for tasting

James Sichel demonstrating the ripening of the grapes

The evolution of the grapes, resulting from Botrytis cinerea or noble rot

Lovely foie gras pastries a suggested pairing with Sauternes

A plum tart another (sweet) take on pairing Sauternes 

Like fairytale flaxen haired maidens awaiting their prince, glasses of Sauternes awaited guests at a
Connoisseur Tasting at Willow Park Wines and Spirits.  The intimate tasting hosted by James Sichel of Chateau d'Angludet and owner of Maison Sichel​, was an indulgence of world class Sauternes from Bordeaux.

What is Sauternes? The sweet wine is made from SĂ©millon, Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris and Muscadelle grapes.  Under AOC regulation, only grapes from the Bordeaux area (including Barsac, Sauternes, Bommes, Fargues and Preignac) can be used in production. The grapes are harvested in the fall, when they have been affected by Botrytis cinerea (noble rot). The normally white grapes become brownish in colour.  In Bordeaux the prevailing mist and humidity is favourable to the formation of botrytis.  "The harvest is berry by berry because not all are affected by botrytis at the same time," notes Sichel, "The pickers go through the vines between three and six times." The final result are grapes that morph into raisins, and thus a concentrated sweet wine is produced. "People don't realize how labour intensive it is and how low the yields are." explains Sichel. 

So what do each of the sweet wines deliver in taste profiles?

Guiraud 2004: "This is a good vintage with good yields. They are transitioning to organic and believe that it is easier for botrytis when the environment is not tampered with.  Honey and apricot on the nose with a balance of acidity that brings out the floral."

Lafaurie Peyraguey 2003: "This was a canicular vintage with record high temperatures.  You can taste the toll of the heat on the wine.  There is more richness on the palate."

Climens 2005: "This is the sheer pleasure of drinking wine that is ready for drinking now.  Three is less botrytis and more freshness today.  This is a Sauternes ready for drinking now."

Rieussec 2006: "Aromatically sticks out - 2006 had more humidity than 2005.  Oak, honey and peaches."

Suduiraut 2007: "The balance here is so fine and elegant.  It is not as forward as the others."

Chateau d'Yquem 2001 (1855 Premier Cru Supérieur): "The most expensive and iconic wine in Sauternes. This is a fantastic vintage particularly at d'Yquem."

Sichel ended with a suggestion: ""I always say the people who buy Sauternes are generous.  This is wine bought for the following generation - these are long aging wines to share with future generations for years to come."

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