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2001 Chateau Fayau Cadillac (375ml)
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- Cellar 8 - 10 years (2012-2014)
- ABV 13.5%
- Closure: Cork
The 2001 vintage in Sauternes has been acknowledged as one of the greatest ever, resulting in wines of immense power and concentration that are now mostly unaffordable. According to vintners who have both red and sweet white, 2001 could be the sweet white vintage of the century. Picking began in most parts (left bank: Sauternes, Cerons, Barsac; right bank: Saint-Croix-du-Mont, Loupiac, Cadillac) on the first of October and continued almost without interruption until October 19th. Botrytized wines are picked in several runs, selecting each time only those grapes which have reached the right stage of noble rot (botrytis). Exceptional weather conditions with hot sunny days and virtually no rain at harvest time meant that the grapes could be picked in as few as two or at most three tris (selections). The grapes needed to be gathered quickly because potential alcohol was very high, as much as 21-22° with barely an interruption between the tris. Noble rot was uniform and not spoilt by rain. In addition the favourable east wind dried out the grapes from the morning dew, dispersing the mist that bring the botrytis. The praise for the 2001 Sauternes continues. Patrick Jen of Domaine du Noble, President of the Loupiac Syndicat said, "It is as yet early to make a definitive appraisal but after tasting the wine already in fermentation I can say there is plenty of substance; full of richness and finesse. It is as good as, probably better than, the great 1990 vintage and could be similar to the mythical 1929 which I tasted recently."
However, Sauternes enthusiasts have long known that across the Garonne River they can procure what is arguably the greatest value wine in sweet white Bordeaux, which in exceptional years produces a wine equal to Sauternes which may sell at two or three times its price. This bizarre anomaly is the Chateau Fayau Cadillac, and although the wine cannot be labelled Sauternes as such, it is essentially identical in every way. Like the great wines of Sauternes, Fayau depends upon the formation of a special mould, Botrytis Cinera, (Latin for 'Ashy Cluster,' and in fact that is what the grapes look like on the vine), and like Sauternes only hand selected botrytis effected Semillon & Sauvignon Blanc grapes are picked, which necessitates harvesting over successive weeks.
The manner in which the Chateau Fayau Cadillac is produced, is almost as remarkable as its affordability. The Botrytis mould is a freak of nature and requires rare climatic conditions to be present for it to initially germinate, and then grow. In Sauternes a cool trout stream called the Ciron, whose origins are in the Lendes region, runs quickly into the Garonne river creating a new microclimate of humid mist during autumn. This mist is followed by a hot noon sun and the conditions are perfect for the creation of Sauternes. It has been found that for Botrytis spores to germinate, the humidity must be around 90% for about 24 hours. For the Botrytis to continue to grow, the humidity must then drop below 60% together with temperature in the range of 20-25ºC. By then, the spores are hard at work growing, both onto and into the skins of the grapes. As the spores envelop each grape, an enzyme is secreted which actually takes up the water from the pulp of the grape, leaving behind a concentrate of sugar. The berries begin to shrivel up and take on the appearance of dried-out mouldy raisins. One of the trade-offs in producing botrytis wines is to retain sufficient acidity to avoid the wine from becoming cloying on the back palate. That is, it is undesirable for a 'sticky' to be so sticky that it sticks. The 2001 Chateau Fayau Cadillac, like the greatest example of Sauternes, achieves this balance beautifully.
Chateau Fayau has been in the Medeville family since 1826. The estate consists of 10ha of vineyard, which is located close to the town of Cadillac on South facing slopes (equivalent to North facing slopes in the Southern Hemisphere). The soil is composed of clay and silica. The vines are 28 years old with 90% planted to Semillon and 10% to Sauvignon Blanc. Unlike many Sauternes vineyards there is no Muscadelle planted. In a good year, Chateau Fayau produces 4,500 cases which are snapped up quickly by wine merchants around the world. We had advance samples air freighted to us and must confess that this is indeed an exceptional wine and value for money wise, remains unchallenged. The critical aspect of making sweet white wines is to create a palate profile where by the sugars and acidity are perfectly balanced and yet generate a sense of complexity. Creating a complex flavour profile without botrytis is very difficult since the tongue's ability to perceive the sweet flavours is limited. At Fayau, once picked, the grapes are given a delicate pressing over a three hour period, followed by a 24 hour lapse in which the must settles prior to fermentation. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks at temperatures varying from 20-22 degrees. After a few weeks on yeast lees, the wine is then racked and aged in underground vats for 18 months prior to bottling.
For those uninitiated in Sauternes, let it be said that the versatility of these wines cannot be underestimated and the results can be some of the most exciting wine and food matching sensations one is likely to experience. Apart from desserts, cream caramel, fruit pies, soft fruits or freshly cracked walnuts, there are more adventurous alternatives for this sensational drink. For example, rough barbeque lamb chops marinated in Sauternes, Roquefort cheese, ewes milk cheese, a quiche or black pudding and apples (boudin aiy pomsies), pan fried trout and needless to say, the traditional combination of Sauternes and foie gras. However, perhaps the most surprising match, and a favourite of Comte Lur Saluces, owner of Château d'Yquem, is Crayfish and Sauternes. The combination is nothing short of sublime, and when one considers the price of the 2001 Chateau Fayau Cadillac, it is an indulgence that should not be out of the question! And then there is the classic dish of Sauternes and duck....need we tempt you further?
Tasting Notes: An exceptional wine from a great Sauternes vintage. Brilliant golden colour. Superb nose showing strong botrytis character. Aroma of honey, apricots and spice overlaid by super ripe peaches. The palate is still youthful and has the structure to live for many years. Over time the colour will deepen, the gold will eventually turn to a golden brown and the sweet fruit will change to display flavours of toffee and caramel. At present the palate is rich and luscious, displaying a degree of viscosity that is definitely classed growth Sauternes. Rich mouthfilling flavours of apricot, honey, ripe peaches and raisins fill the mouth. Outstanding length with a remarkable twist on the palate that is missing from the Australian stickies - the wine finishes with a classic dryness and then 'powers on' with an aftertaste of honey and apricot.
Cellar: 8-10 years plus (2012-2014)