Wine Note

2016 Chateau Roumieu Sauternes (Co-op £10.50 per half bottle)

Bordeaux produces great red and dry white wines. Its magnificent sweet white wines, however, tend to be overlooked. Such wines have become unfashionable as low alcohol, dry wines are better aligned with health conscious times. Perhaps also dessert wines lack an obvious place in our fast food/quick meal culture.

Now that summer approaches and long lunches can culminate in fruit desserts, sweet wines can have their moment, their place in the sun. The greatest come from Sauternes, south-east of Bordeaux. The key to their richness and sweetness is Botrytis (‘noble rot’), a fungus which shrivels the grapes and concentrates the sugar.

The result is a golden wine with aromas of orange and lime marmalade. Flavours of honey and peaches. Good ones balance all that richness with acidity so that the wine is never cloying. This example is pale gold with intense honeyed character and just enough acidity. Drink it soon.

Yes, the price means that you’ll pay the equivalent of £21 a bottle. However, it’s so intense that you don’t need much in your glass. When you consider the risk the producer is running – botrytis may not occur, grey rot might – the price seems very reasonable. Also, shrivelled grapes produce much smaller yields of juice than ‘normal’ grapes and therefore smaller volumes of wine for the grower to sell.

The Co-op has the 2016 at just £10.50 (it was recently on offer at £5). The 2019 is £16.80 at a local wine merchant. This wine is excellent value for money. Please buy it so that the vignerons of Sauternes don’t turn to producing just dry wines. The world must not let one of its greatest wines disappear.

John Freeland (u3a Wine Tasting Group)