In writing this article I am in danger of insulting all my dear Sauternais friends – not least Christian and Pierre at Suduiraut after a headline like that! I hope that they (and you) will read the whole article so that I can explain myself.
I have written before about how Sauternes prices have fallen behind those of red Bordeaux wines since the 2000 vintage. In this article I try to explain the practical implications of this and to really highlight the great value that exists today in Sauternes.
Live-Ex, the London based wine trading exchange, have just released their 2011 reworking of the 1855 Classification. Tellingly they only bother to do this for red Bordeaux wines, so I thought it would be interesting to apply their criteria to Sauternes and Barsac.
The 1855 Classification was decided by merchants looking at historical prices in the Bordeaux market and to a certain extent taking quality and reputation into account. The Liv-Ex reworking looks at average prices achieved for the last five vintages and then uses a banding system to decide on the revised classification.
The changes for both Sauternes and Barsac and red wines from the Medoc are itemised in the lists below:
1855 Classification of the Medoc and Sauternes/Barsac
First Great Growths: d’Yquem (Sauternes)
First Growths: Climens, Clos Haut-Peyraguey, Coutet, Guiraud, Lafaurie-Peyraguey, Rabaud-Promis, de Rayne-Vigneau, Rieussec, Sigalas-Rabaud, Suduiraut, La Tour Blanche (all Sauternes and Barsac), Haut-Brion, Lafite Rothschild, Latour, Margaux (all Medoc)
Second Growths: d’Arche, Broustet, Caillou, Doisy Daene, Doisy-Dubroca, Doisy-Vedrines, Filhot, Lamothe Despujols, Lamothe Guignard, de Malle, de Myrat, Nairac, Romer, Romer du Hayot, Suau (all Sauternes or Barsac), Brane Cantenac, Cos d’Estournel, Ducru-Beaucaillou, Dufort Vivens, Gruaud Larose, Lascombes, Leoville-Barton, Leoville-Lascases, Leoville-Poyferre, Montrose, Mouton Rothschild, Pichon-Baron, Pichon-Lalande, Rauzan Gassies, Rauzan Segla (all Medoc)
Third Growths: Boyd Cantenac, Calon Segur, Cantenac Brown, d’Issan, Ferriere, Giscours, Kirwan, La Lagune, Lagrange, Langoa Barton, Palmer, Malescot St Exupery (all Medoc)
Fourth Growths: Beychevelle, Branaire Ducru, Duhart Milon, Lafon Rochet, Marquis de Terme, Pouget, Prieure-Lichine, St Pierre, Talbot (all Medoc)
Fifth Growths: d’Armailhac, Batailley, Clerc-Milon, Dauzac, Grand Puy Ducasse, Grand Puy Lacoste, Haut Bages Liberal, Haut Batailley, Lynch Bages, Pontet Canet, du Terte (all Medoc)
2011 Liv-Ex Classification of the Medoc and Sauternes/Barsac
First Great Growths: None
First Growths: d’Yquem (Sauternes), Haut-Brion, Lafite Rothschild, Latour, Margaux, La Mission Haut-Brion, Mouton Rothschild (all Medoc)
Second Growths: Climens, L’Extravagant de Doisy Daene, de Fargues (all Sauternes or Barsac), Beychevelle, Cos d’Estournel, Ducru-Beaucaillou, Duhart Milon, Leoville-Lascases, Lynch Bages, Montrose, Palmer, Pape Clement, Pichon-Baron, Pichon-Lalande, Pontet Canet (all Medoc)
Third Growths: Nairac (Barsac), Calon Segur, Clerc-Milon, Grand Puy Lacoste, Haut Bailly, Lascombes, Leoville-Barton, Leoville-Poyferre, Malescot St Exupery, Smith Haut Lafitte, Rauzan Segla (all Medoc)
Fourth Growths: Clos Haut-Peyraguey, Coutet, Guiraud, Raymond Lafon, Rieussec, Suduiraut, La Tour Blanche (all Sauternes or Barsac), d’Armailhac, Boyd Cantenac, Brane Cantenac, Branaire Ducru, Cantenac Brown, Domaine de Chevalier, d’Issan, Giscours, Gruaud Larose, Kirwan, Lagrange, La Lagune, Langoa Barton, St Pierre, Talbot (all Medoc)
Fifth Growths: Doisy Daene, Doisy-Vedrines, Lafaurie-Peyraguey, de Malle, Rabaud-Promis, de Rayne-Vigneau, Sigalas-Rabaud (all Sauternes or Barsac), Batailley, Dauzac, Dufort Vivens, Ferriere, Grand Puy Ducasse, Haut Bages Liberal, Haut Batailley, Haut Marbuzet, Lafon Rochet, Malartic Lagraviere, Marquis de Terme, Pouget, Prieure-Lichine, Rauzan Gassies, Sociando-Mallet, du Terte (all Medoc)
Is Dauzac as good as Doisy Daene? Can d’Armailhac compare to Suduiraut? No, is the short answer and this is backed up by critic’s scores over the same time period. In Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate Dauzac manages to average 88.2 against Doisy Daene’s 93.8 and d’Armailhac 89.9 against Suduiraut’s impressive 94.5 – Bravo Christian and Pierre!
But points don’t currently relate to prices in this instance. Driven by China and associated speculation red wine prices have increased dramatically while Sauternes prices have remained reasonable (until now) and currently represent fantastic value in comparison. For example, for 2010 En Primeur you can buy nearly 3 cases of Ch Coutet or Ch Suduiraut for the same money as a single case of Ch Pontet Canet, Ch Montrose or Ch Pichon Baron – Crazy! Now that it is legal to import Sauternes into China this situation will not last for much longer.
My only advice is to buy as much Sauternes and Barsac as you can while this imbalance remains. Old vintages or new there has never been such a glut of good Sauternes at reasonable prices.
Bill Blatch is an expert on the wines of Bordeaux, famous for his annual Vintage Report. He has worked as a negociant in Bordeaux for nearly 30 years.His blog is at Bordeaux Gold where you can download his vintage report and wine enthusiasts can buy Sauternes from the Bordeaux Gold Shop. This article, Should Chateau Suduiraut be a 4th Growth? has free reprint rights.