Sauternes remains perhaps the fine wine region capable of delivering the most ridiculously brilliant quality to price ratio anywhere in the world.
Consider this, here we have a wine from a five hundred year old estate, a first growth in Bordeaux’s 1855 classification (equal to Lafite, Latour, Mouton, Margaux and Haut Brion), from one of the most magnificent vintages in the history of Bordeaux, a wine that scores 95 from Wine Advocate, 96 from James Suckling, 94 from Wine Enthusiast, and 95 from Wine Spectator. A château with a world class pedigree, and a wine that is almost unbelievably difficult, labor intensive, and expensive to produce. It drinks perfectly now, but will continue to evolve and last for a generation if you want it to.
The price? $47.99. For the record, about 20% cheaper than anywhere else listed in the country. Even before that chunky discount, this would be an outrageous bargain. At $47.99, you need to back up the truck and fill it with as much of this stuff as you can. This is genuinely as good as wine gets, and it’s not often you can say that about a sub $50 wine.
More on why everyone needs more Sauternes in their lives below, but it’s important for me to quickly address two common concerns.
1) People seem determined to wait for Foie Gras, but there are all kind of things you can eat with these. There are more beyond but to start with...roast chicken, lobster, sushi, oysters (and in fact all sorts of seafood), pork, many cheeses, and my personal favourite- really great ham.
2) You can keep an open bottle of this in the fridge for weeks and it will stay delicious. You don’t need to finish a bottle in one night!
Château Coutet 2009
The 2009 Coutet has a very intense nose of apricot, papaya, honeysuckle and orange cordial that is very well defined. Interestingly I write the same comment as my appraisal out of barrel in that I would prefer just a little more vigor. However that is a minor quibble. The palate is very well- balanced with a rounded, caressing entry. There is certainly tremendous weight in the mouth and abundant botrytis, especially upon the unctuous finish. This has great potential – a fantastic wine from one of the finest Barsac estates. Drink now-2035+. 95 pts., Neal Martin, Wine Advocate
More about the wine:
I’ve written and spoken about Sauternes quite a few times as I am in love with the stuff. Criminally under-appreciated and frankly under purchased, I am nonetheless personally determined to do everything I can to bring it to people’s attention. I generally don’t need to convince people of how great these wines are, but more so how flexible they are. Dessert wines? That’s not how I see it. In fact, while I own cases and cases of Sauternes, I can’t actually ever remember serving it with anything sweet. Sometimes as a sort of dessert of its own yes, but more often as a fascinating match for all sorts of savoury stuff. If you haven’t been experimenting with this, trust me, you have been missing out.
I described Coutet in the intro as five hundred years old, but that’s just how long that we know they’ve been making Sauternes. The château itself goes back to at least the 13th century, and probably further. Originally built as a fort, it was used as a barracks in the Hundred Years’ War between England and France, ending in 1453. As a proud Englishman, their wine is so good that I am prepared to forgive them…
The owners since have included the legendary Lur-Saluces family of d’Yquem fame, but since 1977 has been in the hands of the Baly family. The current custodian is the young and brilliant Aline Baly, who not only is a magnificent ambassador for her family’s wines, but also is bizarrely in many ways a Boston native having moved here as an eight year old, living here through to leaving for college and returning afterwards, only moving to Bordeaux and joining the family firm in 2008.
Aline is one of the most impressive people anywhere in Bordeaux today, and she is of course blessed with a magnificent estate. Barsac in general is said to produce the freshest and crispest of Sauternes, and Coutet is among the best examples that it’s possible to get hold of. Thomas Jefferson was a fan, and described Sauternes as the best of all the wines of Barsac. The details are that there’s 38.5 hectares averaging 35 years old, with 75% Semillon, 23% Sauvignon Blanc, and 2% Muscadelle. Details are details though, and what I would focus on here is the sheer brilliance of the wine, and the remarkably attractive price. Whether you are a regular drinker or a buyer of Sauternes, there is no reason not to buy this.