“A Pit Stop at Chateau d’Yquem”
We drove threw the commune of Sauternes which is home to the rich dessert wines, most famously, those of Chateau d’ Yquem. The entire weekend in Bordeaux had been blessed with beautiful clear blue skies, sunny days and mild temperatures. There couldn’t have been more perfect weather.
I asked Michel about the 2002 vintage in Bordeaux. From a Parisian standpoint it looked like it was setting up to be a pretty good year; a mild winter and warm, sunny summer. If this weather holds out until harvest, the Bordeaulais winemakers will be very happy, I suggested.
” Quite the contrary,” Michel remarked, “unlike Paris, there has been quite a bit of rain here in Bordeaux. There has been some problems with rot. Some producers might need to hand sort grapes. Yields will be lower. But the next few weeks might help out if the weather stays good like this.”
I pondered the hand sorting through the rotten grapes. “Will that in any way affect prices?”
” No,” he said with a chuckle, “Your Mr. Parker sets our prices.” [Robert Parker, controversial American wine critic & author of The Wine Advocate.]
Sauternes is made from the juice of botrytised grapes – grapes are left on the vine much longer than they normally would be. The grapes shrivel and dry. A moldy rot forms. The result is like raisins or sun-dried tomatoes – concentrated flavors and higher than normal sugars.
We stopped by Yquem and got out to look at the grapes:
” You see,” Michel pointed out, “these grapes are rotting alright – but MUCH too early; this isn’t botrytis – it’s plain old rot.”