2015 Sauternes: Ian D’Agata’s first impression – Bordeaux en primeur

Many Sauternes and Barsac estates have produced 'outstanding' sweet wines from the Bordeaux 2015 vintage, although greater richness may mean the final wines are less food friendly than 2014 or 2011, says Ian D'Agata after his en primeur tasting.

There is a ‘remarkable’ freshness and acidity to what is essentially a very rich 2015 Sauternes vintage, said Ian D’Agata after tasting the wines ahead of Bordeaux 2015 en primeur week.

‘It’s an outstanding vintage, with many fleshy, rich wines but with good acidity levels so as to avoid coming off as heavy or cloying,’ he said.

  • Coming soon: Ian D’Agata’s full 2015 ratings for Sauternes and Barsac

Producers told Decanter.com this week that a spate of August rain and subsequent cool nights ‘saved the vintage’  and brought balance to the crop, following several weeks of drought in the early summer.

Harvest in Sauternes was notably early at several estates, including Climens, which started picking on the 8 September and was all done by 5 October.

‘I normally don’t like to say too much as this stage, but I think 2015 will be one of the great Sauternes and Barsac vintages,’ said Berenice Lurton, of Climens.

Noble rot

‘It’s a good year for noble rot,’ said D’Agata, who said the vintage reminded him of 2009 ‘but with less opulence’.

He added, ‘For sure, there was much less bortytus than in 2001 and 2007, but there was some noble rot presence in all the wines I tasted and its presence probably contributed in no small measure to the surprising acidity of the wines thanks to noble rot’s addition of gluconic acid to the grapes.

‘Clearly though, the 2015 Sauternes are dominated by a sweet viscous mouthfeel and rich, ripe aromas like those of 1976 and 1990, rather than the botrytis pure aromas of 2001 or 2014.’

Terroir

D’Agata said it was a year when there were ‘textbook differences’ between Sauternes and Barsac; ‘Barsacs generally lighter and more refined, Sauternes much bigger and fleshy and creamy.’

When it came to soil type, ‘areas with a little clay down deep did better thanks to their water retentive capacity’.

Sauternes 2015 with food

It’s a vintage that is ‘easy to love’ with a ‘fleshy, rich charm’, but the wines may not suit the dinner table, according to D’Agata.

‘This year, I have a harder time seeing them as matches with many types of food, unlike the 2014s, for example, that could easily have been matched with many different types of dishes.’

Pitfalls: Look out for bitterness

‘The key fact is that poorly made Sauternes 2015 wines all exhibit an inherent bitterness, especially on the finish,’ said D’Agata. ‘This is most likely due to the thicker than usual skins that were not fully digested by the botrytis.’

See all Decanter.com’s Bordeaux 2015 en primeur coverage