Sweet wine is an interesting topic.
How does one get such ripeness & sweetness in the wines?
One answer is to simply leave the grapes on the vine longer or until they start to raisin. This is a very tricky line to walk. As the sugar rises, the acidity lowers. If you are therefore not careful, you could end up with a cloying or flabby wine. A simpler way is to stop the fermentation early, so the finished wine has residual sugar. Another way, would be to dry your grapes, such as they do in Italy, on straw mats. Yet, another way, is to encourage botrytis cinerea to infect your grapes. This beneficial mould will essentially get rid of water & thereby concentrate the extract & acids in the grapes. Or, one could do a combination of the above. The point being, there is more than one way.
These 3 wines feature very different & interesting approaches & it is a reminder why the resulting wines are so VERY different, especially with age.
Furthermore, I personally don’t talk about sweet wines too much, mainly because the wines are really about super ripeness & sometimes botrytis, especially in their youth & the terroir therefore often gets masked. It is true, however, after considerable age & the sweetness & the ripe fruitiness has a chance to resolve, the terroir can make an appearance again. Such is the case with this trio of wines.
Chateau de Fargues has been owned by the Lur Saluces family since 1472. They are the same family which also owned Chateau d”Yquem, which they sold off in 1999. This estate has 15 hectares of vines planted on a clay-gravel plateau, roughly 4 kilometers southeast of d”Yquem. Typically their blend is at least 80% Semillon with Sauvignon Blanc AND the yields are often lower than d’Yquem’s. The grapes are harvested through many vineyard passes (sometimes as many as 12) & are aged for at least 3 years in once used barrels from d’Yquem. This 1983 had lots of dried fruit nuances, honey, beeswax, stoniness, apricot, earthiness & a real waxy feel to it. One could see that this wine also had started making the transition from sweetness to a more tactile quality on the palate, which is also part of the resolvement. I felt, however, with the drying of the fruit, the alcohol & a bitterness poked out in the finish, which makes me better understand why many love to pair these kinds of wines with richer, fattier foods such as bleu cheese, pates & even foie gras. Thank you Michael for sharing this treat!
Now, this is a VERY unique & interesting wine, which is remarkably still under the radar screen for most wine aficionados. The appellation is Anjou in France’s Loire Valley & is actually located in the heart of the Coteaux du Layon, which is famous for their late harvest Chenin Blanc based whites. This 145 acre estate has been in the Touchais family for 8 generations (1787). My first experience was a 1947, which I tasted in the mid 80’s. I was blown away how unique & interesting this wine was. These wines are reputed to live as long as 100 years & the 1947 tasted so surprisingly youthful. I suspected this 1975 would therefore be an infant, but was still anxious to try it. The soils are schist, clay & limestone. The most curious aspect of the Moulin Touchais wines is how they are produced. (It wasn’t that long ago, no one was allowed in the cellar, & people therefore questioned the authenticity of its longevity). They say, 20% of the grapes are harvested only 80 days after flowering, when the grapes are essentially unripe with high acid levels. The other 80% is then harvested 120 days after flowering (dehydrating on the vine). (Botrytis is rare in this neck of the woods, which at least partially explains the nose, taste & color of the resulting wines). The wine is fermented in stainless & aged at least 10 years before release. The 1975 has a surprising freshness with baked apple, quince, mint, apricot, honey nuances. It was amazingly precise, fine, refined, intrguingly minerally with balanced acidity. Because of the bottle age, the wine’s once apparent sweetness had changed considerably to a much more tactile sensation. It was fabulous!!!! AND so interesting! Thank you Brent, for sharing.
The records show this estate has been around since 1561. Most of their vineyard holdings have red slate soils–Nierstein (Hipping, Pettenthal & their monopole Brudersberg) & a little in Nackenheim Rothenberg. This wine was the most gracious of the 3 “stickies” tasted tonight.. NO hard edges whatsoever AND had the most finesse. I had always previously thought Oelberg was a grosslagen (large collective site), but on a recent map, I noticed it was a single vineyard, past Hipping, down the hillside some. This wine was rich, lush with tropical fruit character, some botrytis & a distinct stoniness. One could also see that the once apparent sweetness is changing to a more tactile creaminess on the palate.