Classic Sauternes - Great French Decanter Fine Wine Encounter

The speakers: Aline Baly, Château Coutet; Bérénice Lurton, Château Climens; Laure Planty, Château Guiraud; Pierre Montegut, Château Suduiraut

The wines: Château Guiraud 2005, 2002, 1996; Château Climens 2005, 2002, 1974; Château Coutet 2005, 2002, 1989; Château Suduiraut 2005, 2002, 1970

The winemakers of Sauternes and Barsac are on a mission: to be noticed in a wine world where claret rules Bordeaux, and to educate consumers in the range of possibilities for Sauternes. ‘There’s lots of tradition around Sauternes, as an accompaniment to foie gras, or an aperitif, or something to round off a meal,’ said Aline Baly of Château Coutet, ‘but there’s so much more you can do.’ Among the matches suggested by the panel were Chinese cuisine, scallops or tart desserts, such as red fruit salad. ‘Spicy or fruit based dishes work well with young wines,’ said Pierre Montegut, ‘while older wines are delicious with lobster, or chicken and wild mushrooms.’ Rather than trust the audience to take their word for it, the panel decided to put their money where their mouth is, and toward the end of the masterclass, a phalanx of waiters fanned out across the room, serving mini portions of caramelised pork to savour with the four oldest wines.

Highlight of the day: The caramelised pork was delicious but the highlight has to be the incredible quartet of older wines that accompanied it – the youngest, 1996, and the oldest a remarkably fresh Suduiraut from the great Sauternes vintage of 1970.

Surprise of the day: The realisation that great Sauternes vintages often do not coincide with great claret vintages. A good example of this is 1997, an average vintage for claret but a legendary Sauternes year.