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Discover France through Alsace.
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·Riesling, The Great White Hope
·An Alsatian at the Table
·Alsace, The pedigree of Pinot Gris
·Is Alsace in dilemma?
· Alsatian Pinot Gris: How Sweet It Is!
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·Another French Paradox: Alsace Riesling
·Rieslings from Alsace are drier
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Colmar. Nice city.


Colmar. Nice city.

Colmar. Capital of alsacian vineyards.


Colmar. Capital of alsacian vineyards.


Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) and Grand Cru d'Alsace.Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) and Grand Cru d'Alsace.
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Follow the Froggies: Alsace gastronomy. Follow the Froggies: Alsace gastronomy.
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Great Sauternes May Be Great Bargain of Bordeaux

Great Sauternes May Be Great Bargain of Bordeaux
Inside Bordeaux Most wine lovers can't name a single Sauternes other than the famous Chateau d'Yquem. Some may be familiar with First Growth labels like Chateau Suduiraut, La Tour Blanche and Rieussec, but Yquem's status -- and price -- has long eclipsed all others among these sweet Bordeaux dessert wines.

Yquem, which once belonged to Eleanor of Aquitaine and for more than 200 years was under the control of the Lur-Saluces family (before it was sold in 1999 to LVMH), has always commanded the highest prices, $200 to $300 or more for the newest vintage.

All of these dessert wines -- which the British call ``pudding wines'' -- undergo the tricky process of achieving their elegant sweetness by being attacked by a fungus called Botrytis cinerea that literally rots the grapes, devouring five- sixths of their acids and one-third of the sugar. But this so- called ``noble rot'' also concentrates the remaining water and sugar into a pulp that results, after fermentation, in a luscious, balanced wine of 13 percent to 26 percent alcohol.

Yield is always very low. Many grapes become too rotten and are left to wither away. The time-consuming, selective picking of the grapes means only a portion will actually go to the winery, and the best Sauternes producers make only 60 to 90 cases per acre a year, while the average winery in Medoc makes 220 or more. There also are years when the entire crop might be lost to rot.

Battle for Second

All of which should make Sauternes very, very expensive. Yet while no one denies the supremacy of Yquem, at least half a dozen other Sauternes estates battle it out for second honors. Even so, sales have been flagging for years, making Sauternes among the best bargains in French wine. The 2001 Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey -- a First Growth -- sells for about $75 a bottle; the 2000 Suduiraut is only $43, and the 1999 La Tour Blanche is about $45.

I recently tasted several Sauternes in the market and found them richly rewarding, to be enjoyed entirely on their own as dessert rather than as an accompaniment to dessert, which might in fact distract from their virtues. On the other hand, a glass of Sauternes with foie gras is a match-up that has become ubiquitous in fine dining rooms, and serving Sauternes with Roquefort cheese is considered a classic marriage.

The distinction between Sauternes and many other dessert wines, including ``late harvest'' wines attacked by botrytis, is that the predominant semillon grape used in Sauternes achieves a complexity and depth of acid-sugar balance that's hard to attain elsewhere.

Revamped La Tour Blanche

The 1999 La Tour Blanche showed the admirable comeback of this chateau, which was owned by the state after World War II and through the 1980s and tasted homogenized year after year. Now, with more semillon in the blend and sensible use of new oak, the wine shows a great deal of bright fruitiness and layers of botrytis flavors.

Chateau Caillou 2001 ($36), from Barsac, is a Second Growth with a lighter, delicate style that will go well with a simple white or yellow dessert cake or butter cookies.

Chateau Doisy-Daene 2001 ($40) is a beauty, with lots of floral and aromatic notes in the bouquet, then a pretty burst of citrus mixed with sweet orange flavors. It's a sheer delight.

First Growth Chateau Climens 2002 ($65) is well worth its price -- one-quarter of Yquem's. It's a Barsac that sleeps for two years in oak, acquiring strata of toasty flavors along with finely tuned acids and creamy sweetness. It can be enjoyed for many years to come.

Suduiraut, Coutet

Chateau Suduiraut and Chateau Coutet, both often mentioned in the same league as Yquem, are actually quite different from each other. The 2000 Suduiraut ($43) had luscious but never cloying intensity underpinned by a backbone of acid and oak, ideal as a dessert by itself. The Coutet 2001 ($47) has more spiciness up front and on the finish, making it well suited for fruit tarts or blue cheeses.

All Sauternes are sipped in small quantities, and a half- bottle is usually sufficient for four people. But if Yquem's reputation and rarity keeps it among the world's most expensive wines, only for special occasions, then the availability and modest price of so many other great Sauternes allows anyone to enjoy them throughout the year.

May 19, 2006 ;John Mariani
Posted on Tuesday, November 21 @ 18:16:50 MST by pierre
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Colmar. Capital of alsacian vineyards.
Colmar. Capital of alsacian vineyards.

Colmar. Nice city.
Colmar. Nice city.


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