Sauternes 2014 Offer

Welcome to our 2014 Sauternes offer. 2014 was a excellent vintage in Sauternes and pleasantly, prices have not increased. 2014 produced wines of the best combination in my mind: high residual sugar and botrytized berries, combined with high acidities. The resulting wines are fresh, exotic and refreshingly savoury. I have included the vintage reports from Neal Martin and Ian D’Agata below.

These wines are all available at a 20% discount for pre-arrival orders. The wines will be shipped shortly and will arrive around mid-year. SEBASTIAN

2014 continues a succession of seasons that have rewarded the sweet-toothed wine-lover (a species I occasionally fear is on the cusp of extinction). The season commenced early like the rest of Bordeaux, and an early harvest might have been in the cards. Of course, there is the fear of a spring frost, but this year only isolated, low-lying parts of Sauternes were affected. The subsequent hot April and damp squib of a May exerted mildew and oïdium pressure not relieved until the end of the season. Francis Mayeur at Yquem also told me that there was a problem of Sémillon bunches aborting their berries (filage en vrille), which reduced quantity, just as it did in 2008. July and August were disquietingly cloudy and damp, however, the loss of Sémillon berries turned advantageous, since it allowed more air circulation and inhibited the spread of rot.
Then the clement conditions arrived in late August, the high-pressure system refused to budge. Hooray? Note the question mark. For the Sauternais, this Indian summer was a mixed blessing, because they needed rainfall to set off pourriture noble…

Finally, the heavens opened on October 9 and it was the Sauternais’ turn to dance that jig. BOOM! That is the best word to describe the onset of botrytis, and the pickers exploited the chance to harvest the botrytized berries under temperatures of around 27C. But the key to the vintage was the diurnal variation, the nights tumbling down to 4C or 5C that locked in acidity. Most of the crops were picked by October 26, with cooler plots such as Fargues dragging on until early November. It was not plain sailing. Bérénice Lurton told me how, when conducting a blanket harvest, they had to inspect each and every bunch to check that grey rot was not hidden inside bunches. The only way to avoid a nasty surprise is to break them open, look and especially smell them. Apparently a few pickers ended up with black noses.

The resulting wines are pure Sauternes, relatively rich in botrytis, mellifluous in texture and noticeable in terms of acidity levels. Examining data from the châteaux, residual sugar levels dial in at around 135 to 145 grams per liter for the top names, the highest possibly Château Coutet with 162 grams per liter. Total acidity levels come in between 3.9 grams per liter and 4.3 grams per liter with pH levels hovering around 3.55 to 3.6. You would expect the Barsac estates on limestone soils to contain slightly more acidity, but there does not appear to be a huge degree of difference in that respect.

In terms of quality, 2014 Sauternes is one of the best vintages in recent years. It’s as banal as that. I was taken with their sense of harmony and completeness at this stage, Sauternes that are unfinished but, nevertheless, happy in their own skins. They do not match the ethereal heights of the 2009s, a benchmark for the region, and Olivier Castéja seemed skeptical that they match even the 2011s. I beg to disagree – they are certainly equal to that vintage. Then you have to factor in improvements in estates that have ameliorated quality at addresses such as Lafaurie-Peyraguey and Rayne-Vigneau, raising the bar in a short space of time. NEAL MARTIN, 2015

‘It’s a very good vintage with very high acidity,’ said Ian D’Agata, whose scores for the 2014 Sauternes and Barsac wines will be published on Decanter.com in April.

He believes the profile of the wines could make 2014 a ‘watershed vintage’ by broadening their appeal to more wine drinkers, particularly in restaurants – yet the support of sommeliers would still be crucial in re-invigorating a Bordeaux wine style that has been out of fashion for some time.

‘What we have is Sauternes and Barsacs that are extremely vibrant and so acidic that, while they have their usual 120g per litre of residual sugar, they come across as very dry,’ said D’Agata ‘It’s really a unique Sauternes and Barsac vintage, quite unlike any vintage of the past 30 years, because these remarkably opulent, rich wines really come across as almost dry.’

‘In some respects, they remind you of older white Burgundies, which have a creamy ample sort of nature, but which are dry.’

He said there was a ‘tonne of noble rot’ in the 2014 wines and that it is a very lemony noble rot. ‘It can be a little bit like 2007 or 2001.’

‘But, the wines are less heavy. Also, the wines are more homogenous in quality than in 2001. Across the board, wines are much better in 2014.’

High acidity enhanced stylistic differences between Sauternes and Barsac, accentuating the classic divide between the two. ‘The Barsacs are more graceful, more refined, more mineral, while the Sauternes are a little bit richer and thicker, as you would expect,’ D’Agata said. DECANTER 2015