Rieussec is undoubtedly one of the great names in Sauternes and their 2010 doesn’t disappoint. Under the stewardship of Charles Chevalier (he who runs Chateau Lafite) great strides have been made in quality with the estate now justly considered one of the finest in the appellation. To many it is second only to Yquem. A blend of 85% Semillon, 12% Sauvignon Blanc and 3% Muscadelle, the 2010 is characteristically rich and opulent with an intensely spiced, deep botrytis nose, waves of apricot, honey and pineapple, leading to spiced caramel, acacia honey and droplets of grapefruit. The beautiful seam of acidity running through it serves to elevate and refine the whole package.
Chateau Lafite’s Sauternes property is producing wonderful wine. It is often one of the best wines when tasted en primeur, but the way the wine is distributed is not helping the brand’s profile.
Three grape varieties are planted: Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle. Sémillon is the principal grape, because it is especially susceptible to noble rot, Sauvignon is used for its naturally high acidity, whilst tiny proportions of the capricious Muscadelle are used for aromatic qualities. Sweet wine has been made here at least since the late 18th century. Its position is unique, close to two rivers, the broad Garonne and its small tributary, the Ciron. In autumn, the cool Ciron waters flow into the warmer tidal Garonne, evening mists develop that envelop the vineyards until late morning the following day, after the sun has burnt the mist away all that is left is moisture on trhe grapes that encourages noble rot or Botrytis cinerea. This fungus attacks grapes, causing them to shrivel, concentrating flavour sugars and acids. The wines were classified in 1855, the most prominent of which is Château Yquem, whose yields even in a vintage where noble rot is prominent, reach no more than 10 hl/ha.