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Dessert Wine

Wine Week, Part Two

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After a morning spent with New Zealand wines, I hustled off in the afternoon to a Sauternes-Barsac tasting. Sauternes and Barsac, locate in the southwestern corner of Bordeaux, are known for producing sweet wines made with the Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and (sometimes) Muscadelle grape varieties. These wines develop their sweetness due to botrytis, or "noble rot," a fungus that pierces the skin of the grapes, letting some water out and as a result concentrating all the good sugar inside. The best of these wines have a terrific honeyed quality, but also brightness and acidity so as not to be cloying.

At this particular tasting, the producers were pouring one recent vintage wine and one older one and, remarkably, in some cases the older vintages had more freshness than the more recently released ones.

The two I tasted from Château Doisy Daëne were strikingly different. The 2005 (find this wine) was upfront with fresh grapefruit and grapefruit zest aromas. The flavors tended more to bitter citrus than sweet. The 1991 bottling, however, oozed with honey and butter and orange marmalade flavors alongside a lovely citrus acidity.

Both wines from Château Guiraud were standout, too. The 2005 vintage (find this wine) was lighter and more mellow, with orange blossom flavor and a long finish, whereas the 2002 was lively and crisp with orange notes.

The contrast between the two wines from Château Suduiraut was just as stark. The 2003 vintage (find this wine), which was a very hot year, was big and brawny with rich ripe fruit that suggested nectarines and tangelos. The 1999, on the other hand, was a bit more restrained with a perfumed nose and citrus peel notes.

Overall, it was an interesting investigation into wines that I don't normally have access to, and by the end of the tasting, my palate was surprisingly not overwhelmed, thanks to the accompanying acidity-a great thing, because I was headed back to the office to taste yet more wines, this time from Tuscany. More on that on Monday.

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