Château Suduiraut is one of the historic estates in Sauternes, that in 1855 was awarded as a Premier Cru Classé during the official wine classification programme in the Gironde winegrowing area.
The estate took the name Suduiraut in 1580, following the marriage of Nicole d’Allard and Léonard Suduiraut. In the 18th century, the magnificent French gardens designed by Le Nôtre, the famous gardener of King Louis XIV, were added to the estate. In 1992, AXA Millésimes took over the estate, with the aim of preserving and passing on the viticultural and winemaking tradition and culture, to ensure that these great wines with a glorious past could fully express their potential in the future.
The estate stretches for about 200 hectares, of which 91 are dedicated to vineyards where, on gravelly, sandy and clay soil, Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon are grown. The combination of texture and structure of the soil, high planting density (7,000 plants/hectares), old vines (35 years old) and therefore, low yields, are factors that define the quality and concentration of the fruit, allowing the grapes to reach the level of ripeness for the desired style of wine produced.
The estate is certified High Environmental Value Level 3, the highest level of this certification, that corresponds to a more general scheme of environmental certification for farms. It is a French certification, supervised by the Code of Agriculture and the Code of Maritime Fishing, to promote environmentally friendly agricultural practices that conserve biodiversity and natural resources.
Château Suduiraut produces both dry and sweet white wines, but my focus today is on one of their sweet botrytised wines, Castelnau de Suduiraut.
In autumn, the proximity of the Ciron River and Garonne River guarantees a microclimate characterised by misty mornings, followed by warm and sunny afternoons; ideal conditions for Botrytis Cinerea (Noble Rot) to develop.
The fungus is already in the vineyard after flowering and appears on the grapes as soon as they start to ripen. Under ideal conditions, the fungus develops as Noble Rot; it punctures the skin of the berries, allowing evaporation of water during the warm and sunny afternoons, favouring the concentration of sugar and acidity, and at the same time donating specific and unique aromas to the grapes that will enhance the aromatic complexity of the resulting wine. Instead, if the humidity is too high, the fungus develops into Grey Rot, making the grapes unsuitable for wine production.
Botrytis does not affect all vines at the same time; therefore, it requires that grapes must be picked exclusively by hand, paying attention to select just the affected berries, reducing drastically yields. This requires that the harvest is typically split into four or five passes through the vineyard from September to mid-November.
The development of Botrytis Cinerea (Noble Rot) is unpredictable, therefore, it affects yields and results in a wide vintage variation, but on the other hand, makes each vintage unique and exceptional.
Here is a summary of the characteristics of the grapes used for making the wine tasted:
Sauvignon Blanc: this is a white grape variety, with late budding and relatively early ripening, making it well suited to be grown in cool climates and regions with a threat of early autumn rains. It grows vigorously; therefore, it gives its best on poor soils. The canopy must be carefully managed to avoid shading and under-ripening, which can result in an overly green fruit flavour. In dry white Bordeaux blends, they have pronounced intensity aromas of grass, bell pepper and asparagus, with gooseberry, grapefruit, and wet stone flavours, typically showing medium body and alcohol, rather than high acidity.
Sémillon: this is a traditional variety of the region; it is a mid-ripening variety, susceptible to botrytis bunch rot and to noble rot in the right conditions. In dry white Bordeaux blends, it provides low to medium intensity aromas (apple and lemon), body and acidity to soften Sauvignon Blanc’s more intense flavours and high acidity. This variety is suited to French oak fermentation and/or maturation as it can develop and amplify vanilla and spicy notes taken from that.
Castelnau de Suduiraut – 2013 – Sauternes A.O.C.
Sémillon 96%, Sauvignon Blanc 4%
The long and intricate pressing process extracts the richest juice before it is vinified and slowly matured in oak barrels, where the wine spends 18 months in oak, of which 15 % are new.
- Look: medium gold.
- Smell: pronounced aroma intensity of blossom, apple, lime, peach, apricot, nectarine, vanilla, dried apricot, marmalade, raisin, cinnamon, honey and saffron.
- Taste: sweet, high acidity, medium alcohol, full body, pronounced flavour intensity, long finish with a luscious texture.
- Pairing: crème brûlée.
A complex wine of very good quality; its sweetness is very well balanced by a high and refreshing acidity that makes every sip supple. All the flavours are well detectable, defined and are integrated between expressive fruit aromas, such as apricot, lime and blossom, hints of sweet spices, and dried and candied fruit such as apricot, rather than acacia honey. The finish is long with all the flavours lasting for a considerable amount of time, where the fruit ones lead the charge, and on the middle-palate, the oak derived, and developed aromas take over. With bottle ageing, some primary fruit aromas will evolve, enhancing furthermore the complexity of the wine.
Producer: Château Suduiraut