I think I would be correct in saying that almost anyone that drinks wine in Britain knows about red Bordeaux. Bordeaux is a huge wine production area pumping out approximately 900 million bottles every year. In this short series of articles I want to bring your attention to the white wines of Bordeaux because they deserve just as much of your attention as the red. In this article it is the sweet white wines formed through the action of noble rot that take centre stage.
Classification: Historically sweet white Bordeaux was included in the 1855 classification and was divided into Deuxième Crus, Premier Crus, and the lone Premier Cru Supérieur: Château d’Yquem. This classification specifically covered the wines of Sauternes and Barsac, although there are other appellations that can present good value.Today this classification still provides a rough guide, although is less important than the classification for reds.
What to do with sweet white Bordeaux? Classic pairing are Tarte Tatin, Blue Cheese and, if you really want to push the boat out, Foie Gras. Sweet white wines are known as dessert wines for a reason but try and make sure the wine remains sweeter than dish it accompanies.
The question of value? What we find with sweet white Bordeaux is that the prices are compressed relative to their red counterparts. They cannot be found as cheaply due to the costs of production, but the price of the very best remains slightly more in touch than the reds. A little of something sweet goes a long way, so a half format bottle is normally enough for 4- 6 people.
What to buy? Sauternes and Barsac are the key appellations and supermarkets in the UK often stock second wines from top estates. Bargains may also be found in the neighbouring appellations: Cadillac, Cérons, Loupiac or Sainte-Croix-du-Mont. There are also examples of sweet Bordeaux Supérieur, or Graves, although I have no experience of these. Be wary of underspending on this style of wine- its all too easy to be lacking acidity and taste flabby.
Château Caillou, Deuxième Cru, Sauternes, 2005
Mid gold in the glass with a rich sweetness, spice and citrus peel on the nose. Medium sweetness on the palate, but not close to the richest of Sauternes. This is a warming drink and brings nostalgia through the flavours of Christmas. There is a slight bitterness from the peel fleshed out by boiled sweets and roasted nuts. The balance is reasonable but the acidity is just a touch low to make this really sing.
Conclusion: This is not as complex as some wine at 11 years but it is tasty and a solid example of Sauternes. I am in no real rush to drink this up and hopefully it should gain a bit more complexity. This is a good introduction to the style and at a pretty fair price!
Score: 90/100 (DT)