We are perhaps at odds with the general perception of 2015 Sauternes. Most if not all critics and merchants have hailed this a ‘fabulous’ vintage for sweet wines. We may well have to eat humble pie however as, in truth, our early impression of the vintage as a whole is characterised by sweetness and richness, but not necessarily complexity and balance. That said, our outlook is not all gloom; there are a handful of excellent wines which we are really confident in, packed as they are with unctuous botrytis notes and a fine vein of acidity.
Yquem is clearly the cat’s whiskers, receiving 98-100 points from Neal Martin. Unfortunately, those who want to add this to their cellars will have to wait – we don’t expect this to be released en primeur. The other outstanding wines include: Doisy Vedrines, Doisy Daëne, Coutet, Rieussec, Suduiraut and of course, Chateau Climens.
Bérénice Lurton’s exquisite Barsac estate is often one of the finest and most complex wines from the region. Time pressures didn’t afford us the luxury of tasting through dozens of barrel samples of seductive Semillon, but we are sure this will be sensational. Neal Martin says it is ‘destined to be a great Climens’ and gives it 96-98 points.
Also boasting the same impressive score is Suduiraut. Neal describes this as ‘one of the most intense Sauternes you will find this year’. Bravo to Christian Seely and his team! Mouton Rothschild’s Sauternes estate, Chateau Coutet and Denis Dubourdieu’s Doisy Daëne both boast scores in the high 90s. These are large-scale wines, full of honeyed botrytis and will reward long-term cellaring.
But, as ever, Olivier Castéja’s Doisy Vedrines is more than a match for anything we tasted. It possesses a tension and balance that is so vital in Sauternes. Without acidity, sweet wines lack energy and become cloying. Olivier always seems to produce one of if not the most vital and engaging wines from the region and his price is always more than fair. It is worth remembering that the 2011 was the star at Southwold and this has been backed up with tremendous wines in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Chapeau Olivier!
Château Climens, 1er Cru Classé, Barsac, 2015
‘The 2015 Climens was tasted from different lots (after naughty Bérénice Lurton had successfully duped me with her April Fool's joke by saying that she had done a final blend). The fruit was picked from 8 September until 4 October at 21 hl/ha. The residual sugar is 130 grams per liter this year. Aromas that spring from samples included acacia honey, orange blossom, grapefruit and a little frangipane, all beautifully defined and gaining intensity in the glass. The palate is medium-bodied with a viscous opening, a dash of spice on the entry, lively in the mouth with ginger and a dash of pepper tincturing the honeyed fruit, long and sustained as it fans out with vigor. This is a fabulous Climens from Bérénice Lurton and her team, and as usual, those with wise heads will opt to lay bottles down for 15 years to get the most from this special Barsac. It is destined to be a great Climens - and that's no April Fool's joke. Drink 2025-2060. 96-98/100’. - Neal Martin, The Wine Advocate
Château Suduiraut, 1er Cru Classé, Sauternes, 2015
‘The 2015 Suduiraut comes with 123 grams per liter of residual sugar, more modest than some of its Sauternes peers and 4.56 grams per liter of acidity. It has a sense of completeness on the nose already: immense clarity with wild honey and quince aromas that gain intensity in the glass. The palate is medium-bodied with very pure botrytised fruit, very focused and one of the most intense Sauternes you will find this year. It feels long and sophisticated in the mouth yet never overpowers, never really has to put its foot right down on the accelerator. This is a wonderful Suduiraut, not quite up to the level of the ethereal 2009...although not too far off. Drink 2020-2060. 95-97/100’ - Neal Martin, The Wine Advocate
Château Coutet, 1er Cru Classé, Barsac, 2015
The 2015 Coutet comes with 153 grams per liter of residual sugar at 13.8% alcohol. It has a fragrant bouquet with acacia honey, citrus scents and a touch of melted butter, all very well defined. The palate is medium-bodied with impressive purity, those limestone soils imparting the acidity that defined this Barsac, and lending great precision and tension on the live-wire finish. This is a wonderful Coutet that feels energetic - a compressed spring coil that will drink earlier than the likes of Climens or de Fargues, but has the DNA to age gracefully over 25-30 years. Drink 2019-2050. 94-96/100’. - Neal Martin, The Wine Advocate
Château Doisy Daëne, 2ème Cru Classé, Barsac, 2015
‘The 2015 Doisy-Daëne has a detailed bouquet, very correct, nothing showy or flamboyant as is typical of Denis Dubourdieu's Barsac. The palate is extremely well balanced and very pure: citrus fruit infusing the honeyed botrytis, veins of white peach and quince, leading to a very precise and sustained finish that leaves you with a smile on your face...and the wine ain't even finished yet! Just a wonderful wine - full of class and nascent joie-de-vivre. Chapeau Denis! Drink 2019-2050. 95-97/100’. - Neal Martin, The Wine Advocate
Château Doisy Vedrines, 2ème Cru Classé, Barsac, 2015
The 2015 Doisy-Vedrines has quite an intense nose, perhaps less fat and honeyed than recent vintages, more finesse if not quite capturing the same level of details as the Doisy-Daëne this year. The palate is very promising with layers of honeyed fruit tinged with white chocolate and almond, a lovely swagger about this Doisy-Vedrines that reminds me of great vintages such as 1989. Always well priced, you won't harm your cellar with a case of Olivier Castèja's sumptuous Barsac. Drink 2019-2040. 93-95/100’. - Neal Martin, The Wine Advocate