When high residual sugars were balanced by zingy acidity, these 2011 and 2013 Sauternes and Barsac showed us why they are so highly regarded. Here are the 15 outstanding and highly recommended wines from this Decanter panel tasting.

There was no question that our tasters were upbeat about the quality and value of Sauternes and Barsac 2011 & 2013 vintages, noting that they were certainly superior to their dry red equivalents in Bordeaux.

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‘Overall, I thought this was a pretty strong tasting, with few poor wines and plenty of good ones,’ said Xavier Rousset MS. So too did Stephen Brook and Sebastian Payne MW, who concurred that these are two very good years book-ending the lacklustre 2012 vintage.

2013 ‘more up and down’

Comparing the two, Brook noted that the 2013s had ‘a sort of solidity’, whereas the 2011s had ‘more raciness and flair’.

‘If the growers did have a problem in 2011, it was because the fruit had too much botrytis,’ Brook said. According to Payne, ‘2013 was more up and down because, while there was noble rot, there was also grey rot. The key to success was often the healthiness or otherwise of the raw material.’

Rising sweetness levels

All three tasters picked up on an ongoing trend in Sauternes regarding rising sweetness levels. In particular, Brook drew attention to the fact that in both vintages sugar levels were sometimes up to 180 grams per litre– almost double what they were 25 years ago. However, that didn’t concern him unduly, providing the wines were balanced.

The panel did debate what was behind this. Brook argued that higher sugar and lower alcohol levels might make the wines more accessible when younger. ‘I do think that the initial sugar kick makes most of these wines attractive when young. This never used to be the case.’

‘Best wines will keep for 40 years’

But will they age as well as their forebears? Again, it came back to balance. ‘The best wines will keep for 40 years unless they lack acidity in the first place. They might be a problem to sell, but there’s no problem at all in ageing them,’ said Payne.

‘For me’, said Payne, ‘Sauternes is and always will be one of the great wine styles of the world because the wines are so glorious to drink and keep for such a long time. And they are such ridiculously good value for money.’

The best Sauternes and Barsac 2011 & 2013 wines: