you like them young or old?

I am on a Sauternes kick and can’t get enough of them. Over the past few years, I’ve been fortunate to have some really great ones and others that really don’t do it for me. What I find is that although I prefer most other wines (if not all) with some age…I’m not enjoying older sauternes as much as the younger ones. I love the honey, tropical sweet fruit and the viscosity more than the “liquor” like qualities that develop on time.

Over the past several months, I’ve had 61, 76 and 83 yquem and didn’t enjoy them nearly as much as the 89, 97, 98 or 03’s (the 01 was on another level all together). I’ve also had a handful of misc sauternes from various producers from 83-86, none of which I would seek out again.

Curious what you’re palate prefers?


I’ve never had “really old” Sauternes. 20 years is the sweet spot (forgive the pun) for me. Had a 1990 Doisey Daene a couple of years back , and it was just a beautiful wine. Not exactly at the high-end of the spectrum, but it was awesome


Young. I’ve had more Tokaji-aszu than Sauternes, but I like those young too. And all botrytized wines actually, and even the non-botrytized Rieslings from Germany and Austria. The fresh fruit and the botrytis underscored by the bright acidity is what makes those wines so good IMO. That’s lost when you get the oxidized and caramel and metallic edge that comes from age.

Different story with non-botrytized wines however, like the wines from Rivesaltes or environs, or the straw wines from the Rhone or Italy, or sherries or some of the fortified Moscatels from Spain and Portugal.

In the latter cases, the wines don’t have nearly the same complexity to start with so the additional notes, rather than overpowering the initial finesse, actually add a lot of interest.

If you taste the same wines side by side, you’ll see what I mean. I’ve taken a few to dinners where someone else would bring a Port or a sherry or a sticky from Australia, and they’re just not compatible.

By way of analogy, I was at the greenmarket earlier in the summer and I heard something unusual and beautiful. A girl was playing the harp. She had a little wicker basked set out where people placed coins or the occasional bill. Her father was standing watch nearby and the crowd was smiling to the last person. Suddenly some loud horrific caterwauling started. Completely ignoring her, a group of 4 people had pulled out some banjos and started braying some bluegrass. Whether you like the stuff or not, by comparison with the delicacy of the Scarlatti that was coming from the harp, it was crude, simple, and boorish.

To me, the best of the younger Sauternes, and even better, the best of the wines from Tokaj, are akin to the harp - refined, precise, and delicate.

For me, it depends on the context. I used to really enjoy sauternes when very young, but the more that I try the more I realize that at under 10 years of age they all seem the same (almost all of them are good…). Now I’ve started trying to wait until 10 years of age before opening the higher echelon bottles (Rieussec, Fargues, etc) because I think they really develop flavors that speak to their quality and heritage (and sometimes they need a few years to integrate the oak well).

I also sometimes enjoy older sauternes. I’ve had many back to the 80s and a handful back to the 70s with one fantastic exception into the 40s and 20s each. I agree that the character is entirely different, and because of that I think the uses change as well.

I tend to open the younger sauternes (10-20 years old) as a stand-alone dessert. The older sauternes (20+ years) I tend to use sometimes as an aperitif with a bit of cheese or as a pairing with food. The older sauternes are also great as an after-dinner wine to sit with and sip on.

In short, I love all sauternes for different reasons.

Again, YES!

Do like them both young & old.

I will say to get the absolute best of a good or great one, a hint (but just a hint) of age-related maderization definitely adds complexity & character, while not yet obscuring the wine in any way.
For well stored bottles of good Sauternes you’ll need at least ~ 10 - 12 years, & for Yquem, more like ~ 12 - 15+.

That being said - just a note - Not sure if the Pierre Lurton wines will age quite as well as past Yquem’s. The new regimes wines feature more Sauvignon Blanc, bigger crop sizes, higher acidity, & (seemingly) less botrytis. Ahhhhh - a brief sigh for the good old days . . .


Sauternes…do you like them young or old?

Yes!! [winner.gif]

According to the world’s foremost nonauthority on the subject, there are 4 stages of Sauternes development. I think I have posted on this before. I like Sauternes in all of the Stages except possible for Stage II, but even then they can be enjoyable with a two weeks of decanting.

I was at a tasting last month where we had a flight with 2001 Suduiraut, 1988 Climens, 1976 Gilette, and 1962 D’Yquem. I think most people thought the Suduiraut was the best wine, and it was great, but for me the Climens was a runaway winner. I really love good Sauternes in that 15-25 year zone. I expect I will also like the Suduiraut more in 10-15 years (or more). The Gilette seemed pretty tired and weak compared to the others; not sure if that was a poor bottle or if it’s representative. The D’Yquem was a great experience and very enjoyable, and showed how it can age gracefully and transform into a very different thing - quite dark with a flowery butterscotch and caramel character, but very elegant. I couldn’t argue with anyone choosing it as their favorite (and a few people did). There was also a 2007 in this flight, maybe Doisy-Vedrines. It came off as very simple compared to the others, but it’s probably difficult for young-ish Sauternes to show well against the Suduiraut.


You do sound like a true Sauternes Lover!

Just curious as to what the wines from the '40’s & the '20’s were . . . ???

The only Sauternes from the '20’s I’ve tasted was a '29 Clos Haut Peyraguey (in the mid 80’s) - quite nice, sweet, but overly oxidized, & over the hill.
Always an adventure (& sometimes nice!) cracking a 50+ year old wine.

Big Cheers! to the Great Sweeties!



Wines from the '20’s to the '50’s is my preference in Sauternes if I am going to drink them…

The wines were a 1949 and a 1926 Chateau Coutet. They were very generously shared with me by fellow forum-member Fred Daniels at the Wine House’s Chateau Coutet wine dinner about 6 months ago. I was very appreciative not only because of the unique experience of tasting these rare wines, but also because I got to finally meet Fred in person and spend an entire dinner picking his brain about sauternes. He is a true sauternes expert and I am only a pretender! [worship.gif]

I would say that these two wines had the appropriate amount of oxidation for their age and still had remarkable structure and acidity. The sweetness had faded quite a bit with age which made it a wonderful pairing with food. They were very much alive and well.

Older for me, rarely drink a 750 under the age of 21.

I think this question relates to all sweet wines in general in that they all go through the same 4 stages that Mr. Hudak ascribes to them, but depending on which style of wine it is take very different time periods to reach it. Sauternes, TBAs and Port, for example, will literally take decades to reach the perfect mature stage whereas icewines will take a mere 5 years.

It is not so much to me a question of whether I like Sauternes – and all my sweet wines, for that matter – young or old. but whether I enjoy them in the early release or maturation stage. The answer is, again… YES!

While I don’t personally feel I must have a post-mature sweet wine experience to make my life complete, it would be very interesting to try a wine before I was born.

Thanks Ashish,

Coutet has always been one of my favorites. The oldest I can remember were a '71 & '75 a few years back - good, but past their best unfortunately.

I think I love the idea of drinking old Sauternes more than the actual event. Drinking old wines can have their own magic, even when not at their best.




Link? Curious as to these alleged stages . . . ?


Thanks & Cheers!


I am actually not a big fan of Sauternes. I generally prefer the sweet wines of Austria, Germany and the rest of Eastern Europe. To a lesser extent I enjoy the sweet white wines of the rest of France, Italy and Australia. I do like Port and other red dessert/fortified wines, though I often find little time for them these days- especially since I have gone overboard with my Scotch, Bourbon and Cognac purchasing/drinking.

Despite trying many different producers and vintages back to the early part of the 1900s I rarely find Sauternes incredibly interesting. I know its me, and not the wines. When I am at tasting where the wines are served I routinely watch as others swoon over them. Its okay, more for everyone else.

I’ve always loved Sauternes. For years I =tried= to keep them for several years. Only recently did I fall into situations where I tasted them young. I felt like I had been missing something, I am glad to know that they can be so delicious when they are young.

FWIW ditto on vintage Port. I was scared that young Port would be harsh and nasty. But the 20 year old Ports I was drinking sometimes were thin, attenuated. In the last couple of years I have been opening young Vintage Ports and loving the hell out of them. Rich, fruity, beautiful, just like young Sauternes.

Sometimes we need to carefully take the conventional wisdom, and throw it out the window.

Bob - I remember that thread - really liked it!! I do like sauternes young and then old - no so much in-between… I don’t drink these all that much so I’ll continue to fine tune my likes :O). CHEERS

I like em both ways. It just kills me that older stickies cost so freaking much so I spend quite a bit with the younger stickies. It’s a treat either way.