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2002: A tough vintage for red wines in most of Bordeaux, 2002 was surprisingly good for Sauternes. A bit more residual than the 1997, and touch more alcohol at 14%. The softer style of the vintage makes this perhaps the most “ready” of the line up, but make no mistake it will age gracefully for many more years. Classic notes of caramelized apples, mandarin oranges, hazelnuts, citrus blossoms, and honeycomb.
The 700-year-old fortress that is Château de Fargues has been synonymous with Sauternes since the region and its wines rocketed to worldwide fame during the second half of the 18th century. Obviously there’s a ton of history to unpack here, but let’s get right to the wine. Today’s discovery is a first for SommSelect: Three vintages of some of the most celebrated late-harvest wine in the world. With its delectable combination of decadent texture and impossibly bright acidity, Sauternes has been a treasure of wine lovers for centuries. There are precious few wines that can offer as much hedonistic pleasure and profound complexity in the same bottle, and they age gracefully for many decades. Today you can find out for yourself how awe-inspiring Sauternes is with these library releases, in five year intervals, packaged in convenient 375ml bottles. We recommend grabbing two of each, so you can compare them now and have some in the cellar for a special occasion (and qualify for free shipping to boot!). These bottles are very rare, so don’t wait to pounce!
Sauternes, made from botrytized Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes grown in the vineyards around Barsac in the Graves region of Bordeaux, has a somewhat mysterious origin. Wine has been made here for hundreds of years. But no one is sure when the now-world-famous method of allowing the grapes to hang on the vine until botrytis, aka noble rot, sets in became the official “gold” standard. Likely this practice was kept secret for a long time, but at some point in the late 18th or early 19th century, it became widely known and accepted. It may have been a lucky accident, but whatever the true story is, the fact that the Lur-Saluces family has been at the heart of this region’s historic ascendance is undisputed!
Though they have owned the Château de Fargues since the 1400s, the story really heats up in 1785, when Louis Amédée de Lur-Saluces marries Françoise-Joséphine de Sauvage d’Yquem. Those names are impressive on their own, but of course it is d’Yquem that jumps out to wine lovers. For the next two centuries, the line of Lur-Saluces farmed, owned and operated both estates, side-by-side, helping to solidify them at the apogee of Sauternes and white wine throughout the world. Astute readers notice I don’t call them “dessert” wines, that’s because for much of their history they have been table wines, for the most lavish tables. It was only in the 20th century, when tastes began to shift to drier wines, that this idea of Sauternes as strictly a wine for foie gras or an after-dinner “sticky” took hold.
Philippe de Lur-Saluces, the 16th generation to take the helm, is seeking to change that perception. His father, Alexandre, oversaw a decades-long expansion and overhaul of the properties, vineyards and cellar. In the late 1990’s he sold d’Yquem to LVMH and turned his full attention to de Fargues. Sadly, Alexandre passed away just a few days ago, but there’s no doubt he led a long, and awe-inspiring life! Now, for Philippe, the estate is in excellent condition and his job is that of caretaker to the long traditions of his family. That includes organic farming (these vines have never seen chemicals) and overseeing the laborious harvest when each bunch of grapes is hand sorted to separate the berries with noble rot from those infected by gray rot. This intensive, meticulous process is necessary to produce a world class wine that has precious few competitors in its category.
That said, Philippe is on a mission to show younger wine drinkers that these wines are dynamic and make for fantastic pairings with a whole range of dishes, not just blue cheese or apple tarts. He suggests pairing them with oysters, grilled sausages, and even tuna tartare. I think it would be tremendous with the old-school classic of chicken with 40 cloves of garlic. Whatever you choose, serve them cool, around 50 degrees, in an all-purpose stem or a Sauternes glass, if you have them. Be prepared to sip slowly and to be wowed by the cornucopia of aromas and flavors. These are profound, world-class wines, grab some before these vintages are gone.
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