Sauternes producers split on plan to boost image of dry whites

  • Thursday 2 January 2014

A call to list dry white wines from the Sauternes appellation as AOC Graves rather than simply AOC Bordeaux Blanc has divided opinion among chateau owners, some of whom fear for the future of the reigon's signature sweet wines.

Bordeaux 2012 Sauternes Clos des lunes

Dry whites by Clos des Lunes

Several producers in Sauternes have supported a proposal to include the area’s dry white wines in the AOC Graves appellation.

Under current rules, the producers can bottle sweet wines made from botrytis grapes as AOC Sauternes, while dry whites must be labelled AOC Bordeaux Blanc.

However, some are concerned that a rule change might lead to more producers switching to dry whites from the traditional sweet wine.

Sauternes was last year described as a ‘perennial underperformer’ by fine wine stock exchange Liv-ex, due to persistent low prices linked to weak overall demand.

‘The worry is that with the economic difficulties facing so many Sauternes producers, many would switch to bottling dry whites, and the sweet wines would become a minority product,’ Caroline Perromat, of Chateau de Cérons in AOC Cérons, told decanter.com.

‘It is what has happened with AOC Cérons, where we are already able to bottle as dry Graves whites. It has had a devastating effect on the renown of the sweet wines, as they are now such a tiny production.’

But, Olivier Bernard, owner of dry white wine producing estate Clos des Lunes in Sauternes as well as Domaine du Chevalier in Pessac Léognan, told decanter.com, ‘We have to be honest and recognise that many small Sauternes properties find it tough to sell their wine.

‘If we open the door to this in a more general way through the Graves appellation, it should help increase the value of the sweet wines that remain.’

Xavier Planty, co-owner of Chateau Guiraud and president of ODG Sauternes, said there is a logic to the AOC Graves argument. ‘Sauternes is the only appellation that is not included within a larger generic region,’ he said.

‘But, we are at the beginning of a very long process that could take years.'

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