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- 02 May 2017 -

Sauternes Study Trip: Part I - Barsac

Sauternes has a very special place in my heart. I remembered tasting it for the first time in Sommelier school, it was love at first sip. The only challenge is it was my turn to describe the tasting note to the class and I was rather lost for words not because I struggled to come up with words….quite to the contrary, there were way too much going on…the aromas and flavours kept changing in the glass! I got saffron (I said with a puzzled face, looking for reassurance from Allen Murray MS who was my tutor). “Yes Bernice, you get saffron in high quality sweet wine made from high quality noble grapes…” How strange, I thought to myself…an Indian and Chinese herb in a French wine which was supposed to be sweet? Since that day, I was fascinated with all sweet wines, but Sauternes remained special.

This fate struck again when I was awarded with a study trip to visit ten chateaus in the Sauternes region in May. The prize was awarded to the winning team in the annual Hong Kong International Top Tasters (HITT) blind tasting competition in October 2016. My heart skipped a beat when I learnt about the prize and I had been waiting patiently for my visit since.

I knew everyone would be anxious given frost struck the week before, the worst Bordelais had seen since 1991. That said, I was so relieved and touched that everyone was so gracious to welcome me despite they were somewhat preoccupied with the weather.    

Chateau Myrat was my first stop, Slanie de Pontac Ricard (the de Pontac family were founders of Chateau Haut Brion) jointly manages the estate with her sister Elizabeth and their uncle. It is truly a beautiful estate (see cover photo of this post), aside from the vineyards, the gardens seem to go on forever and there was an eclectic collection of birds (turkeys and peacocks…yes and there were quite a few!). I learnt that the vines were pulled and replanted in 1976 by the then owner Max de Pontac, they waited patiently for the first vintage in 1991 only to have their patience tested as Bordeaux suffered from bad weather that year and the few subsequent years after that as well.        

Chateau Coutet was my next stop, now owned by the Baly family who bought it from its previous owner the Rolland family. The wine cellar is the longest in the appellation as it used to be the horse stable of Chateau Y’quem! 

Sebastian Pierre from Chateau Caillou scores 10 out of 10 on enthusiasm in showing me the grounds of his family chateau, sharing the family history and his vision of organic farming for the estate in the near future.

I had a delightful visit in Chateau Brustet hosted by the winemaker Jean Hubert who joined the chateau only a few years ago, he was previously a red winemaker in the other properties owned by the Taillan group. The chateau used to possess the largest Muscadelle plantings in the appellation, they now possess 4%.

Next
; Sauternes Study Trip: Part II - Shining light on Chateau Climens