Chanel might own two vineyards in Bordeaux, Château Rauzan Segla in Margaux and Château Canon in Saint Emilion, but it is in Sauternes that you can find a wine called No 5. Those following me will know that Sauternes was my first love in Bordeaux – in so many ways. These Sweet Bordeaux wines may have an international reputation for excellence but that doesn’t mean they are always an easy sell. Why not? One reason is an image of being wines reserved for ‘special occasions’, as being expensive, and of not knowing exactly when and with what to serve them. Producers are trying very hard to make this easier for consumers.
On trend, she then introduced a dry white wine Le Demoiselle de Sigalas, a Semillon/ Sauvignon Blanc blend, since the terroir of Sauternes has become renowned for the quality of its dry whites. La Semillante was introduced to the range in 2013, having the unique signature of 100% dry Semillon and, although a small production, has already gained a reputation for its elegance.
Behind the scenes, Laure continued to experiment with sweet white production, looking to perfect the quality, year on year, but also to respond to a demand for an ‘easier drinking’ sweet Bordeaux.
The question she asked herself was how to make a ‘natural sweet wine’. Natural? To ensure the right balance between alcohol and sweetness wine makers typically introduce sulphur to arrest fermentation when they feel enough natural sugar in the must has been transformed through fermentation into alcohol, leaving the residual sugar that gives the characteristic botrytised sweetness to the wines. The use of sulphur also protects the wine against oxidation and ensures that there is no refermentation of the residual sugar.
A natural wine (i.e. without sulphur) means this fermentation will stop naturally, when it find its own equilibrium rather than being dictated by the wine maker. This means that the selection of a precise ripeness (sugar levels) of the berries is all-important. The wine still requires protection against oxygen to preserve the elegant fruit and flower aromas from the berries and the fresh acidity, which is such a perfect foil for the sweetness, but without the use of sulphur.
To pull this off, vigilance is needed from grape picking, during fermentation and right up to the point of bottling. Investment in cooling equipment insures this signature freshness is preserved and it is reinforced by a very slight sparkle. It’s taken Laure and her team a lot of time, trials and errors, and a lot of friends over for tastings, to create a wine they are happy with. The 2016 vintage sees the launch of the fifth wine produced by the family, what better name than No 5, especially as I find that Laure has more than a passing resemblance to Audrey Tatou in the film Coco.
At 12.5% alcohol it is below the level of a classic Sauternes and with just 60g of residual sugar per litre (about half the sugar levels of the grand vin) it is labelled under the Bordeaux Supérieur Appellation rather than Sauternes: light, bright, sweet and affordable. The perfect tipple for happy hour.