The LCBO has quietly released a slew of 2012 Sauternes full and half bottles onto their shelves without any previous announcement or forewarning. They usually come in with quite a preceding bit of fanfare so this struck me as odd until a vague memory went off in my head and I Googled up a Sauternes vintages chart. Yep, that was the disaster vintage in which Yquem chose not to make any at all.
Now, however, I am seeing online reports from respected critics that say the vintage has been “underrated” and “misjudged” and is focused on “finesse not power.” Hmm. Sounds suspiciously like backtracking to me. The Coutet is available for a mere $35 CDN whereas it normally goes for double the price.
So what say you all? Should I skip and go right to the 2013 Sauternes vintage? Hoard every bargain bottle of a decent if not great vintage that people will be sorry they ignored later? Drop Sauternes altogether for more SGN and TBA? Stop buying sweet wine and buy dry? (Yeah, right )? What say you all? Oh paging Ashish Agraawal…
Tran, when I see a producer or a reviewer use the term “finesse” for a vintage, I run the other way. That’s usually their way of saying the intelligencia will understand the vintage and anyone who doesn’t like it just “doesn’t get it”. “Finesse” vintages tend to be the stuff to drink (if cheap enough) while good vintages age.
I adore Sauternes, but unlike red Bordeaux which has its virtues even in off vintages (most especially the more attractive pricing), there really doesn’t seem to be any point in buying Sauternes from weak vintages because the market is so soft, and the price difference between a weak vintage and an outstanding one is just not that huge. Given the glut of outstanding Sauternes vintages on the market, there is just not any reason to buy 2012. If d’Yquem had actually released a 2012 and it was attractively priced maybe, just for the sake of experiencing d’Yquem, but therein lies the point - they didn’t even bother.
Forgetting about price for the moment, I think there is more enjoyment to be gotten from a ‘mediocre’ Sauternes than a ‘mediocre’ dry red Bdx.
Sauternes has the capacity to delight even its not a peak vintage, or best effort from an estate. The same qualitative equal in dry reds would not give the same joy. And is usually not as memorable for parties/dinners.
Of course the world is awash with these right now, so one doesn’t have to compromise at all. But the 90’s were not so favorable; it seemed like a lot of things all seemed to keep conspiring against the region.
I agree actually. Taking the price differential out of the equation, the very process by which Sauternes is produced ensures that you are getting a quality wine, even if the raw materials weren’t very good, and I’ve been a fan of some lesser Sauternes vintages (the 98s are really wonderful actually, unjustly overlooked).
Allow me to contradict myself and say that the sweet spot (pun intended!) for buying Sauternes may actually be the exceptional but not outstanding vintages that got overlooked, for example the aforementioned 98s. Vintages like that languish on the market at ridiculous prices (I recently picked up Lafarge-Peyraguey for $33 per full bottle!), and because Sauternes is just intrinsically a quality product (as mentioned above), the top estates in those vintages are definitely rewarding. I really need to try some more 2004s, as they seem to fit the bill.