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Bordeaux interview: Aline Baly of Chateau Coutet

Decanter speaks to Aline Baly, proprietor of Sauternes-Barsac Premier Grand Cru Classé property Chateau Coutet, about her upcoming seminar in Decanter's Discovery Theatre at this weekend's Great Bordeaux Fine Wine Encounter. See what Aline will be showcasing plus why she thinks 2011 has produced some fantastic sweet wines...

You’re often exhibiting Chateau Coutet at Decanter Encounters, how many have you been to now?

Yes, Château Coutet has participated many times, both at the annual Fine Wine Encounters in November and the Bordeaux Wine Encounters, since 2001.

You’ve presented two masterclasses before, but were you happy to be asked back again?

Absolutely, this is one of my favorite annual rendez-vous! It’s a great privilege to share the magic and beauty of Barsac and Sauternes with today’s wine enthusiasts and the next generation of wine lovers.

What are you most looking forward to?

The opportunity to share our expertise and our heritage once again with people who love wine. We encourage audience participation so that we are sure to talk about what everyone is really interested in. This masterclass gives us the opportunity to get a bit more detailed on the technical and historical end and, more importantly, taste a few treasures.

What wines will you be showcasing during the seminar?

We will be showcasing three different vintages from Château Coutet and Château Suduiraut from the last three decades: 2004, 1997 and 1989.

What do you hope to teach wine enthusiasts about Chateau Coutet and about Sauternes in general?

Sauternes are wonderful wines that are all about pleasure, enjoyment and happiness – it’s a wine full of positive sensations. Their complexity in aromas and textures lure the senses. They are fun and playful wines: they inspire creativity.

They also go fantastically with food. Yes, there are plenty of traditional food pairings when it comes to Sauternes but there are no rules because their delicate balance gives them lots of flexibility. I hope that sharing our personal experience with poultry, shellfish, as well as international cuisine will encourage others to order a glass of ‘gold wine’ with their aperitif and main courses.

In regards to Chateau Coutet, I want to share with others the hard work that our team puts in every day to make this golden nectar; it’s truly a gift from nature but one that would be impossible to have without the savoir-faire and experience of the individuals and families that have been devoted to Château Coutet for generations.

Unlike previous vintages where the quality of red Bordeaux has dominated, 2011 has produced some fantastic Sauternes – why do you think this is?

The quality of a Sauternes is mostly determined by the post-season. First we need the ripe fruit, then we need the Botrytis cinerea to attack our berries quickly to ensure beautiful concentration and texture as well as a complex palate of aromas. This is exactly what happened in 2011: Noble Rot settled and proliferated on ripe fruit very rapidly. It was one of the shortest harvests on record, requiring only three tries through the vineyard (on average a harvest consists of six passages through every parcel). The prompt and swift appearance of Botrytis Cinerea gave us an element of upmost purity and complexity – two important parameters in establishing excellence.

How would you sum up the 2011 vintage?

The 2011 Coutet is a wine of rare elegance, displaying a beautiful balance between a rich nectar and a vivid acidity. Lively and lush, it offers remarkable freshness and power. Its racy depth and length make the vintage a wine of great aging potential.

This is a vintage where every lot displayed a very distinct and a true expression of diversity in parcels – truly exemplifying the concept of terroir.

How would you describe Sauternes to someone who has never tried it before?

A Sauternes is a delicate balance of sugar, alcohol and acidity for the ultimate finesse and freshness. On the palate it has a sweet silky texture, often with honey suckle, apricot and peach notes, with a soft, vibrant and lengthy finish. In a one word description: delicious.

In the current economic climate, wine consumers are looking for value for money, do you think you can get that with Sauternes? If so, which wines would you recommend for excellent value?

Do you know that once opened, a bottle of Sauternes can stay in your refrigerator for up to 10 days? Here is a wine that allows you to indulge for almost two weeks with no worries – although I have yet to meet someone who didn’t succumb to a glass of Château Coutet that would result in a bottle staying open for two weeks…

Are there any wines you’ve always wanted to try but never have?

Too many wines and so little time! However, if you asked me to choose, there is one bottle of Chateau Coutet 1893 in our cellar. Unfortunately, it’s off limit…unless I can find a replacement bottle for our wine library!

Can you recommend any good wine bars or restaurants with good wine lists for people visiting London for the Encounter?

That’s a hard question: I still have so many restaurants to discover in London!

I had a very memorable lunch at The Greenhouse; the wine list is quite memorable. This is actually were my guest and I decided that Sauternes and Barsac should be referred to as ‘Gold Wines’ from now on. The food and wine were fabulous and inspired creativity. By the way, I really think that the wine category ‘gold wines’ is on its way to being established – I was at a wine bar in Bordeaux last week and came across the heading ‘Vin Blanc d’Or.’

Aline will be co-presenting Decanter’s Discovery Theatre seminar on wines from Chateau Coutet and Chateau Suduiraut at this weekend’s Great Bordeaux Fine Wine Encounter – tickets cost £10 each. For more information and to book click here.

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