Monday, 15 August 2016

Sauternes and Chateau Myrat

 Sauternes used to be thought of as purely a dessert wine, though in practice it is more versatile.  It can be paired well with local savoury products such as foie gras.

The region lies about 40km south of Bordeaux around the confluence of the Ciron and The Garonne.

It was explained to us that the Ciron maintains a lower temperature than the larger river. In summer the mixing of the two waters produces an evening mist the sun does not burn away until the middle of the next day.

The mist is conducive to the formation of Botrytis cinerea or noble rot, a type of fungal infection. The sun-drying in the afternoons however prevents decay. The result is a wizened or raisin-like grape which has far less moisture than normal but far higher sugar content.

All of this means the Sauternes harvest tends to be late, somewhat variable in quality, more vulnerable than normal to weather volatility and expensive because volume is low relative the amount of labour required.

The wine ages well, progressively darkening in colour as it does so, from blonde through honey to copper (right). It is said the taste develops in sophistication. Unfortunately I am no longer convinced that my wine cellar holds a sufficiently constant temperature all year round, so I shan't risk it for too long.

Probably the most famous of the Sauternes estates is Chateau d'Yquem (left). Jefferson records that, after tasting its product, Washington promptly ordered thirty dozen bottles. Possibly some multi-millionaires still do. I'm not quite that rich, unfortunately.

For myself I was completely delighted with the wine of Chateau Myrat (above and top left). I believe I was heard to declare that it was so superior to anything of the same appellation I'd tasted before that none of the latter could possibly have been real Sauternes.