We love the quintessential sweet wines of Bordeaux and not just because our restaurants are called Noble Rot! The result of unique natural conditions and meticulous vineyard work, these wines are made at the mercy of the weather gods.
Triggered by morning mists alternating with hot afternoons, a result of the confluence of the cold River Ciron meeting the warmer Garonne, noble rot (a.k.a. Botrytis cinerea) shrivels Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes on the vine, intensifying their sugar and acidity.
Skilled pickers must then pass through the vineyard multiple times to ensure that only bunches affected by Botrytis are harvested. Whereas one vine will produce approximately a bottle of top red Bordeaux, in Sauternes and Barsac it takes one vine to produce just one glass.
Richly layered with spiced apricot and orange marmalade flavours balanced by vibrant, refreshing acidity, these long-lasting wines pair remarkably with a wide range of dishes – most famously with salty blue cheese but also Chinese pork and wasabi-spiked sushi.
Regarded for centuries as the world’s most prized bottles, sweet white Bordeaux has suffered something of an image problem recently, seen as something you might drink with your auntie at Christmas.
In truth these complex wines are far more exciting than that, and this parcel of perfectly stored half bottles from a string of stellar vintages represents some of the greatest value wines you'll find anywhere.
Suduiraut Sauternes 1999 (£36) Sold out
Dating back to the 15th century, First Growth Château Suduiraut’s vineyards border those of Yquem. From the underrated 1999 vintage, its broad and spicy mandarin character is lifted by vibrant acidity and complex petrol details.
La Tour Blanche Sauternes 1990 (£56) Sold out
This First Growth property, owned by the French Ministry of Agriculture since 1911, produces some of the richest and most long-lived wines in Sauternes. Sumptuous and creamy, the 1990 is loaded with caramelised orchard fruit and toasted nuts.
Coutet Barsac 2001 (£36) Sold out
Coutet is the oldest First Growth in Barsac – an appellation found within Sauternes itself. Offering both power and finesse, 2001 is arguably the greatest vintage for sweet Bordeaux in modern times, according to Jancis Robinson. Here, tropical fruit meets buttered popcorn.
Doisy-Daëne Barsac 1989 (£44) Sold out
A ‘Super Second’ estate restored to its former glory by the late Denis Dubourdieu – the legendary figure who spearheaded the revival of Bordeaux’s dry white wines. Floral and expressive, with hints of black tea, saffron, and praline. 95 points, Neal Martin.
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