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Sauternes & Barsac

More than any other wine style, that of Sauternes and Barsac - two contiguous, neighbouring villages - is unique both in terms of the style and quality of the wines produced.  Exceptionally long-lived (great bottles properly cellared can last for a century or more) it is no exaggeration to suggest that the world's greatest wines are Sauternes.sauternes.jpg

The wine is produced from a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, with some estates also including a small percentage of Muscadelle.  However it is the noble rot, botrytis cinerea, that forms on the berries given the right environmental conditions (essentially during the moist, foggy evenings and mornings and then increases during the warm days) which reduces the amount of water in the berries, thereby concentrating their flavour.

The production of Sauternes and Barsac (the two can be considered as one) is painstakingly laborious, with multiple picks occuring throughout the vineyard, and grapes literally harvested berry-by-berry in some vintages at some properties.  Despite this obvious expense, quantities are extremely low, generally less than 20% than that of a classified Medoc property.

Sauternes, like the Medoc, was classified in 1855, and one property stood above all others.  The illustrious Chateau d'Yquem had a category created solely for it, sitting above even the first growths of Latour, Lafite-Rothschild et al, that of Premier Cru Superiore (First Great Growth).  A further 11 Chateaux earned 'first growth' status with another 12 second growths.

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