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2008 Chateau Ducasse, Bordeaux Blanc; and why?

March 11, 2010

Yellow gold color. Lemons with hints of figs and beeswax. There is also this impossible earthy quality that reminds me of laying around in a sunny meadow.  Medium plus acidity with a full minerally texture and a long lemony finish that doesn’t neglect the heavier flavors in the wine. An uncanny marriage of grit and elegance. Yum. I’m thinking bluefish, mussels, scallops or some other flavorful seafaring creature. I’m also thinking it will be better in a year or 2, 3, 5 who knows.

This wine is from Barsac and if made in a sweet style could bear the name of Barsac (or alternatively Sauternes, a sweet Barsac wine has that choice) and cost twice as much. The owner of the property, Herve Dubourdieu, is of the opinion that although his vineyards are in Barsac they do not make great sweet wines. This is entirely conceivable because to make a good Sauternes or Barsac vineyards must not only be located within certain communes’ boundaries but also be perfectly situated in relation to the Ciron river and the streams that feed into it. The mist generated by these waters is the catalyst of the fungus, Botrytis cinerea, that shrivels grapes to a consummate concentration. Certain vineyards are affected more or less by the mists of the area and thus have more or less fungus on their grapes. A Sauternes or Barsac made without these specially shriveled grapes will not display the characteristics (an acidity undaunted by very sweet fruitiness and luscious spiciness) that have made these commune’s wines famous and long-lived. It is all well and good to make a sweet wine from grapes that aren’t affected by the “noble rot” of Botrytis but it may be better to produce a dry wine if it be as good as that from Chateau Ducasse.

There is always the question of economics and in The World Atlas of Wine (if you’re only gonna have one wine book this is the one to have, if only for the maps) Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson have this to say: “The economics of Sauternes have always been knife-edge.” It is very expensive to produce wine from grapes affected by “noble rot”. Picking times must be well judged lest there be a lack of rot or a crop ruined by a rot gone too far and keeping skilled pickers on call will cost you. Even when a crop is good the yields can be minuscule and liters of wine produced  proportionally few. Interest in sweet wine is growing but dry wine reigns supreme at the table and this dry wine has the balance to appeal to a wide audience. Maybe Herve Dubourdieu makes a dry wine in order to save some money but methinks not. When wine is this good it is usually the product of a conscientious wine-maker who wants to make the best wine possible. Thanks Herve.

N.B.: There is a sweet wine produced by Herve called Roumieu-Lacoste. I haven’t tasted it.

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