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2002 Sauternes: 11 wines assessed   

I confess: I’m a bit of a sweet wine nut. Port is fantastic, and botrytised sweet whites – made with the help of infection of already ripe grapes by the fungus Botrytis cinerea – are often stunning. For any lover of these sweet white wines, Sauternes has to be near the top of the pile, as do the great trockenbeerenausleses from Germany’s Mosel.

What do you look for in a good Sauternes (or Barsac, the neighbouring village - the two most often being considered together)? Balance and complexity are the two keys to success. Balance between the sweetness (a sensation enhanced by the fat, rich textures of some of these wines) and the acidity. Complexity from the botrytis, enhanced in many cases by careful use of new oak. The lesser wines often have less botrytis and simply show sweet honeyed fruit, rather than that delicious, rich, apricotty, citrus peel and spice that characterizes the better wines.

Here I report on a tasting of Sauternes and Barsac from 2002. Now this was not a great vintage for Sauternes, and it shows in the wines. Some very good ones indeed, but not great. One of the wines here was a ringer from the 2001 vintage – generally much more successful in the region – and it showed.

Château Bastor Lamontagne 2002
Rich caramel and butterscotch edge to the nose. The palate is midweight with a savoury, herbal twist to the peachy fruit. Nice spicy finish. Very good+ 89/100

Château Climens 2002
Very refined, crisp nose with lovely taut complexity to the fragrant lemony, spicy fruit. The palate is concentrated and intense tight, very well balanced fruit. A refined wine with lots of potential. Very good/excellent 94/100

Château de Fargues 2002 (not bottled yet)
Deep coloured. Fresh, lemony and tangy with rich peach and apricot fruit. A little closed on the nose. Nice weight. Very good/excellent 90/100

Château de Rayne Vigneau 2002
Fine lemony, slightly herby nose. Full and quite intense with a savoury edge. The palate is bright and fresh with good acid underlying the herby, lemony, midweight fruit. Decent stuff; nice texture. Very good/excellent 90/100

Château Doisy Daëne 2002
This is a wine I like a lot. Very intense, expressive peach and apricot fruit on the nose, displaying great purity. There’s a fantastic concentration of sweet, vivid, intense pure fruit on the palate, balanced well by good acidity and kept interesting by spicy complexity. Very good/excellent 94/100

Château Doisy-Védrines 2002
Vivid, quite intense nose with a spicy savoury twist to the sweet expressive fruit. The sweet palate has a nice intensity, with butterscotch and caramel alongside the apricotty botrytis notes. Quite plump and lush. Very good/excellent 92/100

Château Guiraud 2002
Waxy crystalline fruits on the nose with some hints of spice. The palate is sweet and viscous with nice purity of fruit, showing a marmaladey, lemony tang. Good length and quite expressive. Very good/excellent 90/100

Château La Tour Blanche 2002
Slightly reserved nose, but showing a nice limey freshness to the pure fruit. Restrained but alluring. The palate is sweet, rich and full. A little simple and perhaps a bit syrupy, but with good concentration and a nice texture. Very good+ 89/100

Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey 2002
Full, slightly herby, waxy nose is quite intense. The palate is complex and a bit herbal with good density. It’s a little more savoury and herby than some of the others. Well balanced – and interesting wine. Very good/excellent 91/100

Château Nairac 2001
A ringer. Intense, complex nose showing aromatic spicy, peachy fruit. Lovely concentration on the palate: rich and intense with a lovely thick texture and a nice spiciness. Lots of botrytis here, a really super wine. Very good/excellent 94/100

Château Suduiraut 2002
Tight marmalade and apricot nose which is complex but a touch closed. Great concentration on the palate which is rich with a fat texture: lovely plump apricot and lemon fruit. Very sweet but the overall impression is one of balance. Very good/excellent 92/100  

see also: tasting notes of Bordeaux wines, Spotlight on 1998 Sauternes

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