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Sauternes producers to open wine co-operative

Members of the Sauternes and Barsac union have voted to create a co-operative wine cellar, as part of efforts to re-vitalise sales of Bordeaux's signature sweet wines.

Sauternes vines at the end of March 2015.

Sauternes union president Xavier Planty, also co-owner of Chateau Guiraud, confirmed at the general assembly this month that ‘the statues should be officially signed on June 15’.

Moves to create a cooperative cellar in Sauternes follow much discussion about how the region can re-connect with more drinkers following years of muted demand, particularly outside of the classified estates’ wines.

‘The idea is not to unload unwanted grapes,’ Planty said, ‘but to pool resources and ideas to create a powerful body that draws interest due to its volumes and the quality of its production.’

Planty confirmed that the creation of a cooperative cellar – the first in Sauternes – has come after requests from Bordeaux négociants, who are looking to create brands and have more of a control over the marketing of Sauternes wines.

Allan Sichel, the president of the négociants’ union, is a member of the association that will be launching the co-operative cellar.

Currently, around half of the volume of Sauternes is sold in bulk each year, and the hope is that this co-op will allow the creation of commercially interesting brands. Between 20 and 30 winemakers are ready to become members, with an expectation of the first wines becoming available for the 2016 vintage.

There is currently no dedicated building, and vinification will take place across the cellars of members until a permanent base in found. It is also expected that the co-operative will produce dry white wine and the base for sparkling crémant alongside the sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac. Initial contracts with winemakers will last five years and chateaux will be able to continue also bottling under their own names.

‘We would welcome having access to well-made and cared-for generic Sauternes at competitive prices,’ said Bill Blatch, the semi-retired, veteran Sauternes negociant. ‘There is currently too much sub-standard bulk Sauternes produced by small growers, to provide just subsistence for themselves and cheap own-label wine for the big négociants,’ he told Decanter.com.

Philippe Dejean president of the Union des Grands Vins Liquroreux de Bordeaux and owner of Chateau Rabaud-Promis will be giving a ‘symbolic’ plot to support the launch of the cooperative, as will Guiraud, Decanter.com understands.

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Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux

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