Sipping on Sauternes

 

[Note: If you’re just jumping in, click here to read about why I was in Bordeaux for En Primeurs week with Millesima and Bernard Magrez[1].]

So, you may recall that day three started out with a lot of wine, continued with a lot of wine, and just when we thought we were done[2], we went on another journey, to drink more wine. Having so much wine to drink in one day is an awesome problem to have[3], and though there was a bit of grumbling about sore gums, black teeth and palate fatigue, we all powered through and had a freaking blast at Château Sigalas-Rabaud[4], a beautifully quaint family-run operation in the heart of Sauternes, France[5].

Château Sigalas Rabaud is the smallest first classified growth in Bordeaux

We arrived and found the tasting set up in several rooms in the historic château. Each place was set with a tasting mat with room for six glasses at a time, a personal spittoon, a bottle of sparkling water, and a bowl of crusty bread to share with your neighbor. DSC_0392Though it was raining, I loved that they allowed the natural light to sweep in through the floor to ceiling windows; the ancient fireplace mantles in each room were adorned with family photos and (empty) bottles from historic vintages. This was a quiet tasting, meaning we weren’t just going from table to table, dodging people at the common spittoon and chatting about what we tasted; we were sitting and tasting silently. As we would finish each group of six, the servers would magically appear, ready to fill us up with the next round. At first, this quiet concept seemed as though it would be rather a tough challenge for our chatty group, but the peace and quiet was a nice change of pace.

We sat down and I was actually dumbfounded when I realized our tasting consisted of 26 Sauternes. 26 more wines to taste. This was going to be an adventure. I laughed (quietly) out loud, grabbed my handy pad and paper and started stream of conscious blogging.

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Good old fashioned pen and paper never lets you down

Here’s what I got:

1st 2:    Delicious; sweet and fruity
3:         More mineral and citrus (I can’t remember if I spit or not on this one)
4:         Lovely
5:         Lovely

Side note: Good thing I learned how to do that gurgling, swishing thing.

Break time: I can’t really fathom how much incredible wine is being thrown away right now, at all the tastings. I know that’s how it goes at wine tastings, but I feel like it’s such a crime. I mean, there’s thirsty people in the world somewhere! It’s also funny how we’ve been drinking wine since 10:30 a.m. and I don’t even have a buzz. All this spitting really does work. I’d like to note that it is much easier to taste the whites than the reds. There’s no harsh tannins to speak of. I actually can’t believe these Sauternes aren’t ready to drink. I’d drink them all day erry day. This morning’s tasting[6] was loud, busy and crowded. My mouth was overpowered after the first taste, but the whites (Sauternes included) are truly enjoyable. This peaceful, quiet[7] tasting is actually a very nice change of pace.

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Lots of concentration required © Millésima SA 2016

6:         🙂

There’s a similar color palate on all the Sauternes; varying shades of light golden straw to bright gold.

7:         May have tasted this one twice (can’t remember, but it tastes the same as the last one)
8:         Sweet, but in such a good way

I just came up with the bright idea to pour out the wine after I taste it in order to keep track. I think I’ve doubled up on a few already because they all look the same.

File May 15, 5 17 27 PM9:         Touch of minerality, hint of citrus. Not as thick or syrupy as some of the others
10:       Really nice

Writing Break: I don’t know how fast we’re supposed to be going. I’m next to two real journalists on laptops typing feverishly away. They seem to have a whole lot to say about all these wines. Neither of them have cracked their sparkling water bottles.[8] My personal spittoon is getting a bit heavy. I found that it’s much cleaner to lift it to my mouth to spit after each taste, otherwise I’d be dripping spittle all over the place[9]. I think I’m on track in terms of timing, though Jeremy is next to me and plowing through these babies like nobody’s business.

Side note: Where’s the overpowering mustard I’ve come to associate with Sauternes? It’s completely absent in these wines. Instead, scintillating notes of fresh honey are rampant. Sauternes is seriously my new favorite thing. Ok, back to tasting, I’ve still got a ways to go.

11:       Great
12:       Bright; not too heavy or thick
13:       A bit cloudier but still bright gold. Maybe a hint of grapefruit. A bit more complex. Really lovely.

Had to take another breather and eat some bread. My hands are a bit sticky and the journalist next to me may have just burped a little[10]. I’m not sure if there’s an art to spitting. I’m gonna need to look into this[11].

File May 15, 5 18 28 PM14:       Smells very nice. Tastes very nice. Almost a hint of classy cotton candy.
15:       Also very nice.

Eleven more to go?!

Oh, the beautiful hearty crusty bread. A girl could get used to this. I’m taking another break. A nap would be nice. Somebody’s son is helping to pour the wine and he can’t be more than 16 years old. He’s a bit nervous and he may have just poured Jeremy a second set of the same wines. But it’s France, and it’s wine, so who really cares?

16:       Tastes like Anguilla. Really fruity, almost like a rum. Delicious!
17:       A touch of alcohol on this one, though my mouth may be getting tired.
18:       Really lovely; sweet and rich
19:       Lighter but delicious
20:       Peach, sweet, medium body A+

People are serious about this gurgling thing. Yikes.

21:       Served a bit colder than the rest; I get herbs; ehhh

How long should you hold it in your mouth?[12]

22:       Really nice
23:       Lemon on the nose; almost bubble gum; light bodied
24:       Lovely
25:       Really nice. (Did this one 2x. Oops)
26:       Nice. But I can’t taste anymore.
26:       Tasted this again after another little break. Green grass, bubble gum, green apple. Really beautiful.

I made it to the end! I wasn’t the first or the last one done; the real journalists had come and gone, so we took some time to just sit, maybe close our eyes for a few seconds, and waited for Fred, our guide/photographer from Millesima. Fred was far behind the rest of the group because he would taste a wine, then get up and take some pictures, taste another wine, then take some more pictures. We soon noticed that the next round of tasters were ready to come in, so we waited for Fred in the entrance vestibule.

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We were a bit peaked

We got to chatting with Laure de Lambert Compeyrot, the current owner who had taken over management of the chateau from her father. She told us to head to the cellar where he was giving a small tour. We made a mad dash through the rain and landed in another beautiful cellar room[13] where we found Gerard chatting happily away in French.

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Gerard is the spitting image of his ancestor, Henri de Sigalas. I was trying to point that out to him like he didn’t already know. #languagebarrier © Millésima SA 2016

He motioned for us to come over, not really caring that we couldn’t understand him. He recruited Madelyn to translate…and I think we pretty much got the gist. His daughter Laure is the sixth generation to manage the chateau and it was so heartwarming to feel the happiness in his voice when he told us about his wines.

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© Millésima SA 2016

We took some photos, said our goodbyes, and then it was finally time to go and make our way to the next leg of the day, the welcome dinner at Château de Fieuzal.

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A 2009 Château Le Bon Pasteur

The dinner is held at the start of En Primeur each year; the purpose is to get the wine makers, chateau owners and journalists together in one room for an evening of food, merriment, and most importantly, wine. The wine makers are invited to each bring several bottles, and, not wanting to be outdone by their fellow wine makers, they bring the good stuff. We’re talking bottles from ’99, ‘02, ‘03, ‘05, ‘09, and they were flowing like water. We were seated at long tables, 15 people on each side, alternating wine maker, blogger, wine maker, blogger. We were each given four glasses so that we could taste all the wines throughout the evening.[14] File May 15, 5 14 46 PMOne at a time, the wine makers would get up and proudly pour a taste for each person at the table, it was such a beautiful thing.

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© Millésima SA 2016
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Some of the empties …

The evening was magical, the wine incredible, the people poetically beautiful. Much like everything else up to that point, we were welcomed with open arms and treated like royalty. By time we got back in the car, we were well sated, a bit tipsy and blissfully happy. It was a late night, and in just a few hours we’d be off on our next adventure.

Until the next glass! Cheers!

Lawyer Footnotes

[1] #FancyInFrancey
[2] Or at least could have a few hours break before dinner…
[3] I could totally deal with that being the stressful part of my job…#lawyerlife
[4] Website in English coming soon…
[5] Sauternes, like Champagne, is actually a region. Only wines produced in that area can bear the name Sauternes.
[6] At the Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux.
[7] Except for everyone’s gurgling, swishing and spitting.
[8] I later pocketed theirs since I clearly finished mine.

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Stolen red bottle cap can be seen poking through on the left. The gorgeous vineyards of Château Sigalas Rabaud are behind.

[9] #thestruggleisreal
[10] Mike wasn’t the only one with a case of the Windy Pops!
[11] Obviously, there is an art. I think the best thing you can do in practice, and just like with anything in life, it’s really all about confidence. Thanks to my fairytale trip to France, I’ve now spit enough where, even though it may not look pretty, and I may get the occasional left over spittle, I feel comfortable enough where I’m just gonna go for it. So maybe watch a few videos, read a few tips and pointers, but you gotta just get out there and spit!
[12] After doing some research, the whole tasting process should last only a few seconds. I was recently told to try to keep the length the same for each wine in order to give them the same baseline. Five to six seconds should do the trick.
[13] Beautiful barrel rooms were going to be a trend this week.File May 15, 5 17 52 PM
[14] Note that there was no spittoon bucket here, and Wine Esquire may have been a touch tipsy after all the booze excitement.

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