While travelling from Bordeaux to Rioja last year, we made our first visit to Sauternes, a region synonymous with some of the best dessert wine in the world. It’s most famous resident, Château d’Yquem, is the only wine in the region classified as a Premier Cru Classé Supérieur. We spent a wonderful day at their next-door neighbor Château Suduiraut, a fine quality dessert wine in its own right. What we discovered was a winery with an uncompromising approach to winemaking that is producing excellent wine.
With a history that dates back more than 500 years, the grounds are impressive culminating with its elegant castle and surrounding garden. The original Château was destroyed in the mid-16th century during the civil wars in France, but rebuilt in the 17th century by the Suduiraut family. At that time, they also commissioned none other than Le Nôtre, the same architect that designed the Palace of Versailles, to design the garden. In 1885, Suduiraut was classified a 1er Cru Classé, and in 1992, it was purchased by AXA Millésimes (a subsidiary of the French insurance group AXA) which also owns Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron as part of its portfolio of wineries worldwide.
Arriving at the estate, we are warmly greeted by Emilion de Lambert who had only been with the Chateau for a short time. His excitement and pride at working at this particular winery were palpable and we were quickly charmed by his enthusiasm. He starts with an explanation of “Noble Rot”. Anything described as “rot” sounds the furthest thing from noble, but in the case of quality dessert wines, it is absolutely necessary. Noble Rot is fungus that goes by the name of Botrytis Cinerea. Emilion explains that once Botrytis infects the grapes, it causes the berries to shrivel and their juice to become super concentrated and very high in sugars. Noble Rot only does well in certain climatic conditions and is very risky—if it’s not monitored closely it can easily turn into grey rot. Working with Botrytis requires the kind of meticulousness that Suduiraut employs: multiple pass throughs of the vineyards with grape-by-grape hand harvesting.
Suduiraut has 92 acres under vine planted to 80% Semillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc at 7000 vines per hectare. The vines average 30 years old and this combination of high density planting along with older vines, are further components to producing high quality wine. Emilion points down drawing our attention to the sandy, stony soil at our feet. The stones help retain the heat from the sun which enhances the ripening process.
“Once the grapes are harvested, the pressing is long and delicate to extract the rich, golden juices.” Emilion explains. Once extracted the juice goes into barrel that are about one third new oak to age anywhere from 18 to 24 months.
After our vineyard and winery tour, Emilion took us outside to see the majestic Château itself and gardens. While not ornate or as grand in stature as Pichon Baron, it is impressive nonetheless particularly with its water features and meticulously trimmed hedges and garden surrounding it. Even on an overcast day, it was stunning to behold.
Our tour ended in the tasting room with a sampling of the 1999, 2006 and 2013 vintages. As our tasting notes below will attest, these wines have a reputation for a reason, and were excellent across the board. Of particular note was how well these wines age over time. As we sipped Suduiraut’s golden nectar, we looked outside and could see its acclaimed neighbor, Château d’Yquem in the distance. It was clear from our visit that Château Suduiraut stands on its own as a producer of top quality dessert wine.
2013 Château Suduiraut
The utterly delicious 2010 Suduiraut comes from the estate’s 30 year old vines that are planted 90% to Semillon and 10% to Sauvignon Blanc. The first thing you Are struck by when enjoying a glass of Suduiraut is the incredible richness of what is in your glass. Flavours of apricot and tropical fruits covered in wild honey are as close as we can come to describing this magic elixir. Deep gold in colour, this wine is viscous and coats your mouth with flavours and sensations that last over a minute, easily.
2006 Château Suduiraut
Similar in profile to the 2010, but for us, in 2006 the dials were turned up even more. The unctuous texture carries an incredible array of stone fruit and tropical characters. The sweet honey elements evoke elements of peach melba. These wines definitely reward ageing and in the top vintages these wines can develop for 50 years. The maturity of this wine was revealed in its deep gold colour and the complexity that the hints of spice and roasted nuts gave to it. Extraordinary
33210 Preignac France
: +33 (0) 5 56 63 61 92
*Tastings by appointment only (Monday-Saturday)