See Decanter's vintage guide for Sauternes and Barsac 2008.
Sauternes and Barsac 2008
The best wines – from the top terroirs – are fresh and elegant but ultimately lack concentration and depth. Exceptionally small harvest. Nudging three stars…
2008 was particularly challenging in Sauternes where the hard frost of 6-7 April combined with mildew-inducing rain, hail and constantly changing weather for much of the season reduced yields dramatically. Average for the crus classés was just 6.5hl/ha, though there were big variations: some vineyards were devastated, others lost nothing.
As elsewhere, the Indian summer brought salvation. The unbroken sunshine and humid conditions were good for botrytis and vineyards were full of noble rot by late September. Warm Atlantic breezes helped concentrate juice and flavour further.
Though the botrytis of late September/early October was never really improved upon, harvesting nonetheless continued well into a sunny November as producers strived to pick bunches in optimum condition. Château Rieussec finished 19 November, the latest in memory.
The exceptionally low yield – 35% down on the average – was not good news for the growers. In Sauternes and Barsac higher yields allow the winemakers to sort grapes rigorously – selecting those best affected by botrytis – and for that reason terroir really mattered.
With few exceptions, the premiers crus classés, with their more assured quality, outshine the others. At Château d’Yquem, for example, botrytis cinerea developed magnificently, and the wine has a delicious tropical fruit quality and good complexity.
On the whole, the wines are fresh and elegant with lovely acidity and fruitiness, yet there’s no great depth or concentration. They lack distinction. They’re refreshing and youthful – ideal for aperitif drinking – while the high acidity means they will hold together.