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Neal Martin - Sauternes / Barsac

Neal Martin - Sauternes / Barsac

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Sweet Wines

Château Doisy Daene L’Extravagant

The 2016 L’Extravagant from Doisy Daene has a crisp and detailed bouquet that is remarkable for a wine imbued with such concentration and richness. The palate is unctuous on the entry, and yet that is barely noticeable thanks to the killer line of acidity (exactly like the 2014 I tasted beforehand). The is a vivid, extraordinary Sauternes that is difficult to fault.

Drink Date 2022 - 2055

96 - 98 Points

Château Climens

The 2016 Climens was tasted from the 12 different lots that will go into the Grand Vin, with some selected from the Deuxième Vin, Cyprès de Climens. As usual, I had to assemble them in my mind and relate commonalities, though at a négoçiant a week later I re-tasted four preprepared micro-blends. I found much elegance this year. It is not a powerful Climens in the making and even with the higher alcohol lots that reached 14.9%, you could not feel any warmth and the wines maintained the tension. Some lots displayed saline finishes, perhaps a little more than usual. Perhaps the most important factor was just how “Barsac” they all tasted. Sometimes some lots can taste more Sauternes-like in style, but not this year.

Drink Date 2021 - 2055

95 - 97 Points

Château d’Yquem

The 2016 Château d’Yquem was picked over four tries through the vineyard, commencing on 27 September and finishing on 4 November. The crucial pass through the vines took place between 18-22 October when over half the crop was picked. In fact, 75% of the crop was picked during the final two weeks of the harvest. It has 14.2% alcohol and a residual sugar level of 135 grams per liter, a pH of 3.80. A classic blend of 75% Sémillon and 25% Sauvignon Blanc, it has a comparatively nuanced bouquet compared to Yquems that I have encountered at this stage. It opens gradually with light honeyed aromas, white flowers, apple blossom and just a touch of honeysuckle, although it does not possess the bravura personality of the astounding 2015. The palate is medium-bodied with a viscous opening, a subtle spice note leaving the mouth tingling. This is a fresh Yquem, tensile with moderate weight and delivering, perhaps belatedly, fine attack on the finish lined with subtle lemongrass notes. It will be interesting to plot the progress of this Yquem throughout its barrel maturation. This is an excellent Yquem no doubt, though I was missing that nerve, the labyrinthine complexity that can mark a top-tier Yquem even at this premature stage. I suspect that this will drink earlier than others, but age in a style only it knows.

Drink Date 2026 - 2070

95 - 97 Points

Château de Fargues

The 2016 Chateau de Fargues was showing a lot of SO2 on the nose, although underneath there is plenty of botrytised fruit waiting to be unveiled. The palate is well balanced with a superb line of acidity that cuts through the rich and pure botrytised fruit, segueing into a tensile finish that leaves the mouth tingling with glee. One can feel the weight of those marmalade and quince notes, perhaps with greater presence than any other Sauternes this year. As usual, it will need several years in bottle, but it is destined to be a great Château de Fargues.

Drink Date 2023 - 2055

95 - 97 Points

Château La Tour Blanche

The 2016 La Tour Blanche has a typically rich bouquet with clear honey, orange blossom and a touch of dried mango. The palate is very well balanced with crisp acidity, fine tension, great detail on the finish that lingers long in the mouth. This is a superb La Tour Blanche with style and elegance.

Drink Date 2023 - 2055

94 - 96 Points

Château De Suduiraut

The 2016 De Suduiraut has a complex bouquet with rich and honeyed fruit, superb mineral tension and wonderful detail. The palate is well balanced with crisp acidity, great tension and a lovely touch of spice towards the very persistent finish. What a great Suduiraut in the making here, so full of character and complexity, and yet you still feel as if it has something up its sleeve.

Drink Date 2022 - 2060

94 - 96 Points

Château Guiraud

The 2016 Château Guiraud, which had been already released onto the market by proprietor Xavier Planty when I visited, has a very refined bouquet this year: nicely poised with pure botrytised fruit, quite minerally and developing subtle white flower scents with time. The palate is fresh and vibrant with crisp acidity, orange rind and tangerine coming forth with a tang of stem ginger towards the long finish. It will require three or four years in bottle just to meld together, but there is great potential here.

Drink Date 2021 - 2050

93 - 95 Points

Château Rayne-Vigneau

The 2016 Rayne-Vigneau comes from a Sauternes property that I feel is consistently overlooked in the market. Please don't. This has a very elegant bouquet with superb delineation: pure botrytised fruit that has a floral tincture that blossoms with time. The palate is very well balanced with crisp acidity, very fine tension, and quite taut and almost reserved towards the finish, as if biding its time for later when the wine is in bottle. This has great potential. Perhaps not quite there with the outstanding 2015 Rayne-Vigneau, but only a whisker away.

Drink Date 2021 - 2050

93 - 95 Points


Dry Wine

Château Doisy Daene

The 2016 Doisy Daene has a generous bouquet with lovely scents of yellow flower and peach infusing the honeyed aromas. The palate is fresh on the entry with tangy orange peel and peachy notes, very harmonious and viscous in texture, leading to a detailed and persistent finish that is one of the most delicious I can remember from this Barsac estate. This wine will always be tinged with sadness, since it coincides with the passing of Denis Dubourdieu. But his legacy will live on in his wines, including this one, which is magnificent.

Drink Date 2021 - 2060

95 - 97 Points