2016 Sauternes Vintage -- Good or Bad?


Got a question. So is 2016 Sauternes any good? I have read nothing but horrible reviews on the vintage. It was a terrible growing season, botrytis came too late, grapes were already picked when it did, unexciting, nobody will be clamoring for them. Fellow board member Mike Grammer confirmed this opinion to me saying he was unimpressed with what he tasted at the annual UOGC tasting held here in Toronto, Canada. When they did finally come in to the shelves here in the LCBO last early October, something happened that I’ve never seen before with Sauternes – they stayed on the shelves and never moved.

Usually, I have to rush home to find something to trade in for them, send Mike a text telling him to grab some too, and then just barely get one of the last bottles on the shelves. He usually gets the actual very last ones. That’s been the pattern for the last two vintages. Yet here we are in January 2020 and the same bottles are still on the shelves. Like I said, I’ve never seen that before and obviously word has gotten around to wine collectors that 16 Sauternes is to be avoided.

But yesterday, they happened to have some 16 Lafaurie Peyraguey at the Summerhill tasting bar so I thought what the hell, may as well try. To my surprise, it was tropical and definitely had botrytis in it. Sure it was light in body, but LF is always lighter and more floral. It was basically exactly what I was expecting it to be. I actually wondered why everyone was ragging so badly on the vintage after that. So I cautiously traded in today at lunch for halfsies of 16 Rieussec, La Tour Blance and Clos Haut-Peyraguey. I avoided the Suiduiraut and Doisy-Vedrines but may trade in for the Lafaurie-Peyraguey. But that’s it.

The way I see it, if I am right I am getting a heck of a deal. If I am wrong, then I haven’t really lost anything and I can always trade the bottles back in for something else later on. With this said, I am still quite perplexed at the hate directed at the 16 vintage now. Am I right? Am I wrong? Is the 2016 Sauternes vintage actually any good? Or am I fooling myself and will find out so in a few short years? What experience are all of you out there having with it? I have to admit after that tasting I’m really perplexed at the attitude towards 16 Sauternes myself but am putting it out to the whole board now for your input.

Ive only bought Rieussec and Suduiraut. Did Yquem make a sauternes in 2016?

Interwebby says they did, doing four pickings including both before and after the actual botrytis waves hit and it seems very well reviewed overall.

It’s interesting to see how sauternes vintages compare to bourdeaux vintages of the same year. Clearly 2009 was good for both, and 2001 was great for sauternes, but not so much for bdx. 15 seemed good for both, so it’d be interesting if 16 was that bad. I heard 17 was pretty good for Sauternes, though.

Have you tried any yet? Those are the two producers I considered, but due to dissuading comments, I ended up with Prum Auslese.

Not yet. I didn’t get that much. Just one 375 of suduiraut and 3-4 of rieussec with a few 750s. With the wine.com coupon they were really cheap.

I’m intrigued by the OP’s comment that Sauternes is flying off the shelves in Toronto. Retailers in the US seem to be having a hard time moving them…

Yeah it’s nice actually; the price of 2001 rieussec is lower than it was shortly after release. Not so much for 2001 burgs haha

Yes they did. It may be lighter weight than “bigger” vintages (perhaps due to the youth), but it has great intensity.

2001 was a very good vintage for Bordeaux (if not great), just came on the heels of “vintage of the century” 2000.

To place this in context for you, all the LCBO futures are usually bought up early and just a very few bottles manage to show up every year on the shelves afterwards. And I mean VERY FEW. Below are some pics of actual store shelves I’ve taken in 2019 that I snapped and texted to Mike followed by the actual text of the messages I sent him:

August 17, 2019 – Text to Mike: “Exactly 1 bottle each at Laird” Text to Tran “You’re a prince. I’ll stop in on my way to visit Mary.”

Jan 1, 2019 – Text to Mike: “FYI Exactly 1 bottle each at Summerhill”

Mar 1, 2019 – Text to Mike: “You have these yet?” Text to Tran “I have a Climens, may go and get a Rieussec tmr. Thanks”

You get the idea. It’s like a lottery win. A few magical bottles show up, I trade, Mike grabs and then they’re gone.

Now compare this to the pic taken below just last weekend:

The first shock is that there’s so much of the stuff. The second shock is that none of it is moving. Notice the La Tour Blanche is not there. That’s because they just did something they never had to do before – they moved a few different Sauternes to different stores to make it seem like they are moving at Summerhill’s flagship store and are rare at the other stores. That La Tour Blanche I traded for? It was at the Eaton Centre store downtown. You know who shops at the LCBO Eaton Centre? Teenagers who have to be carded like the one in line ahead of me today when I did the trade.

Tran is so sweet. grouphug in more ways than one! [grin.gif]

Was I “unimpressed” with 16s. That may be too harsh. But at best I was ambivalent. Now, that is only off of one tasting at the UGC event a year ago. But, FWIW, my notes. To go with fair is fair, some of the reps agreed that it was not a vintage to put among the stars:

"2016 Chateau Suduiraut

As is usual for me, about 2/3 or so of the way through, I switch over to shock my nose and palate and run the Sauternes and Barsacs all at once. It was a pleasure to chat with Pierre Montegut again and ask after Jessica, who took such care of us at the Chateau a few years ago. This is sooo lifted and light. Touches of their signature orange (Pierre and I discussed the distinctiveness of the house style) but a lot more fresh melon. Very accessible dans la bouche and very flavourful, but missing complexity and depth. 06, 04 and 02 are his vintage comparisons.

2016 Chateau Clos-Haut Peyraguey

Also that lighter aroma. Pleasant, with pineapple and pear, but nothing really to see here.

2016 Chateau Guiraud

More cinnamon-apple spice on this aroma. To taste, that’s actually pretty good—they’ve taken the vintage and maxed out what they have without trying to be something it’s not. Spiced pineapple and the sweet white tofu/bean curd you sometimes get at Chinese restaurants—some of that—and it has some vibrancy.

2016 Chateau De Fargues

Has the most botrytis presence—almost to a truffle oil level. Coconut aplenty. Quite concentrated for this vintage, with quince, kiwi and vanilla, but still short on levels and complexity and length.

2016 Chateau La Tour Blanche

The wine I call the “fairy princess” does have some aromatic sparkle. Pretty to put on the tongue too, with an initial yellow fruit presence that mists away, it’s another that is not trying to be anything it’s not. Still, short-ish finish."

For Sauternes, since 1988, I think the only good non-odd-year vintage was 2014? Happy to be corrected on that.

And yes, although the 2 halfsies of 01 Rieussec I just picked up have gone up in price, they were still great value given the quality of the wine.

BTW, I agree with Alex—I’ve had some 01 Bordeaux I have been quite happy with.

haera ra


I feel like the price of 01 rieussec is as low as 50% of what it was right after release when it was ws woty. I’ve bought full bottles for 100 lately which is absurd imo.

I agree. I picked up some 375s last year for $60 per.

Thanks for this; the ease of backfilling Sauternes makes me want to be really choosy about vintages and it’s simpler to avoid merely ok vintages like this

FWIW I like 2008 for its richness and exoticism, but it was more successful higher up the hierarchy of producers

Some might say 1990, but I think it’s overrated

Mich@el Ch@ng wrote:
I feel like the price of 01 rieussec is as low as 50% of what it was right after release when it was ws woty. I’ve bought full bottles for 100 lately which is absurd imo.

The 2001 Rieussec was much lower in price before the WOTY designation came out. They were available at Costco for $45 when they first came out. I was only able to grab a few.


Tran, what I find most interesting about this thread is your mention of trading in bottles. Is that something the LCBO does routinely, for anybody? Is there a time or volume limit?

The general policy is that if you have the original receipt and the bottle is in sellable condition, they will take it back for exchange or refund within the allotted 60 days. If no original receipt or past the time limit and the bottle is in sellable condition, they will take it back for equal exchange only provided there isn’t a new sellable vintage of the same product currently in stock. Regardless of all of the above, the SKU must scan and register at a cash register in any store. If the item is delisted, they will not take it back.

If there are special circumstances, such as the sale or return of a collection from someone who has passed away, they will arrange for inspection, pickup and transportation to the store in exchange for fair market value. I once walked into the Queen’s Quay flagship store as a collection of 300 bottles from a collector who had recently passed were being put on the shelf.

Not quite—I did get my fulls at release for $80 each, but $100 is an excellent price—I paid almost that for halfsies.

I guess the US market is quite different from yours, but its hard to see the urgency if buying any Sauternes. I love the stuff but find them to be pretty fungible. I’ve got an 03 Coutet open in my fridge at the moment, and wouldn’t care much if it was 05, 07, or whatever.