Liquid gold: Château Suduiraut

NOTE: there is a chance to win a case of wines from Château Suduiraut worth over £160 in our free competition. Enter by end May 2021.

This was a tasting with Pierre Montégut, winemaker and Technical Director of the famous Sauternes estate of Château Suduiraut since 2004. In recent years Pierre has added new wines to this portfolio, and joining their superb and very highly-regarded Premier Cru Classé Sauternes Grand Vin, and the dry white Bordeaux known as ‘S de Suduiraut Vieilles Vignes’, has been a small range of dry and sweet wines. This tasting would mark the release of one of the newest wines, the 2020 edition of the Blanc de Suduiraut, as well as a recap on the 2019 of the same wine and two of the sweet wines: the Grand Vin from 2010 and Castelnau de Suduiraut 2013.

Having graduated in oenology in Bordeaux, Pierre’s first work experience was making red wine, first at Château Potensac in the Médoc, and then Château Léoville Las Cases in Saint-Julien. After this, he relocated to Vouvray in the Loire Valley as as Technical Director at Clos Baudoin, then Domaine Lafourcade where he vinified the sweet, Botrytis-affected wines of Quarts de Chaume and Bonnezeaux.

Château Suduiraut

The soils of Suduiraut are mostly sandy gravel, planted to 94% Semillon, the rest Sauvignon Blanc, the vines with an average age of 35 years. It was in 2004 that Pierre and AXA Millésimes boss, Christian Seely, decided to segment their vineyards into logical parcels, both to ensure quality of the Grand Vin, and also to allow them the possibility of making different cuvées. For example, the most recent wine in the line up, the Blanc Sec, always comes from the same parcels of younger vines, identified specifically for this cuvée. Pierre is also introducing bigger barrels of 400-litres for maturing the dry wines, so that the oak does not mark the wine too aggressively, but feels the sweet wines benefit from the smaller, classic 225-litre barriques.

Around 50,000 bottles of the Blanc Sec are produced annually, and Pierre willingly admits that the cashflow of having a dry white wine, that does not require 18 months or two years of ageing before release, is an advantage. Another wine tasted here is the Castelnau. Pierre say it was originally conceived as a classic Bordeaux ‘second wine’ (normally from younger vines), but after the vineyard segmentation exercise, plots were identified that are specifically suited to Castelnau: “It is now another, separate cuvée rather than a second wine of the Grand Vin,” he says. Harvested at the same levels as the grand vin, with similar residual sugar and proportions of grapes (always at least 90% Semillon), Pierre says the very best parcels are still preserved for the Grand Vin where production is always limited by selection, so that the wine is always about quality, rather than volume of production. For him, the first difference between the two cuvées is always the extra texture and richness he finds in the Grand Vin, “but with elegance.”

The wines

(2021) This vintage blends 54% Semillon with 46% Sauvignon Blanc, co-fermented, 25% of the blend aged in barrels for six months, 30% of the oak was new. Pierre says he was worried about this vintage after a very hot start to the summer and the potential for acidity to be lower, but in the end the vintage came good. The nose has delicate floral and lightly herbaceous fruit, but there seems to be real lusciouness here too, a tropical edge to the fruit. The vineyards lie on both the clay soils closest to the boundary with Chateau d'Yquem, and on the deeper gravels closer to Chateau Suduiraut. There is great sweetness and ripeness as it strikes the palate, but that very racy lemon, tangerine and salts acidity pushes through. A slightly more vibrant wine than the 2020, with punchier fruit but equal acidity. Pierre says it drinks well for several years, the 2017 still tasting very fresh. This wine will be shipped in early summer 2021.
(2021) Like the other wines of Suduiraut, the Blanc Sec comes from all estate fruit, predominently Semillon at 52%, with 48% Sauvignon Blanc, like the 2020, 25% was aged in barrels, 23% new. Very pale green/straw in colour, it's an elegant and composed wine, taut with lemon and minerals to the fore, a little leafiness and almost Chablis-like river stones. In the mouth a little more of the Sauvignon vivaciousness comes through, a burst of more nectarine like fruit, but always restrained by classic acidity, the finish long and bone-dry. Perhaps slightly less vivacious than the 2020, but makes up for that in sheerness and intensity. Around £17.50 by the case.
(2021) From a vintage that was poor for Bordeaux's red wines, but very good for Sauternes. This was a vintage where the first trie was not promising, with more grey rot than Botrytis, but luckly the weather changed in October and successive tries produced very good Botrytis and fruit. The blend is 90% Semillon with Sauvignon Blanc, 15% made in new barrels, 85% in older barrels for 18 moths. 148g/l of residual sugar. Lots of orange blossom, honey and a little leaf tea and bergamot, the palate luscious and very creamy, with masses of sweetness of apricot and golden sultana, but the acidity dazzling and fresh. Very long and concentrated, it finishes on the dry Botrytis flavours that make these wines so appealing. Half bottle price given.
(2021) Pierre says the development of Botrytis was excellent in 2010, comparing it to 1990, and that the proportion of 10% Sauvignon is unusually high, because the Sauvignon was so good in this year. It spent 20 months in barrels, 50% new and 50% one year old, and has 145g/l of residual sugar. I've enjoyed several tastings of this vintage over the years, and it's a wine with real charm and elegance, but a fabulously approachable sweetness and easy-drinking appeal. There is honey and quite exotic apricot and mango on the nose, more delicate floral notes flit in and out, as well as the light earthy character of Botrytis. Beautiful fruit and texture on the palate, mouth-filling and glycerine-rich, but that orange and tangerine character of the acidity, that persistent touch of leafiness, gives this real freshness even although the concentration and Botrytis character persists in the long finish. Price for a half bottle.

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