‘My surprise wine of the vintage’ – James Suckling

Today marks the physical release of Chateau Guiraud’s 2011 vintage, which James Suckling rescored 99 points when tasting from the bottle in January. 2011 was an unremarkable vintage for claret but an exceptional vintage in Sauternes, shaping up to be better than 2010 and potentially an all-time classic. The Guiraud 2011 offers exceptional value for money at £230 per case of 6 bottles, outscoring the legendary Yquem (98 points) and Climens (96 points) which cost £1,300 and £375 a six pack respectively.

We tasted Guiraud’s 2011 last year and it is incredibly rich, concentrated, aromatic and expressive, displaying apricot, papaya, mango in an exotic style: the level of botrytris character is startling and the finish is controlled, elegant with hints of toasted hazelnut. James Suckling calls it ‘his surprise wine of the vintage‘, testifying that while it will drink best from 2017, due to the tropical flavours and ripeness of fruit it is incredibly pleasurable now, we agree. If you love Sauternes or desert wine the 99 point scoring 2011 Guiraud offers immense value for £40 a bottle, or £20 a half bottle in bond.

Comparative leading 2011 Sauternes, 6×75 cases
Guiraud, 99pts – £230
Yquem, 98pts – £1,300
Climens, 96pts – £375
Suduiraut, 96pts – £250

Chateau Guiraud
Chateau Guiraud and d’Yquem are the only 1er Cru Classé properties that are located in the commune of Sauternes. However, the estate endured a pedestrian passé under the Maxwell family, despite heavy investment during their tenure. In 1981 the Canadian Hamilton Narby and a Bordeaux negociant purchased the estate and working alongside his wife, Narby has elevated Guiraud to be one of the greatest Sauternes properties.

Guiraud has 100 hectares under vine and the vineyard is planted with 65% Semillon ad 35% Sauvignon Blanc. The terroir is simply splendid combining gravel, clay, limestone and sandy soils and the vines have an average age of 40 years, producing perennially concentrated fruit. On average the vineyard produces 100,000 bottles per vintage, however a hailstorm on Easter Monday (25th April) led to an estimated 40% reduction in crop with the final production at a mere 48,000 bottles or 4,000 cases. It is axiomatic of Sauternes that the yield was miniscule rendering 9 hl/ha, which is equivalent to just over a bottle for every vine. The wine is aged in 90% new oak for two years. Moreover, 2011 marks the first vintage certified as organic from Guiraud.

The Bordeaux commune of Sauternes is responsible for the most famous and extraodinary sweet wines in the world. It has an incredible mesoclimate which requires different conditions than the rest of Bordeaux. Sauternes is located an hour’s drive South-east of Bordeaux city centre and reaches its viticultaural apex in the vineyards adjoining where the broad Garonne river is met by a small tributary, the Ciron. In good vintages such as 2011 in the autumn the cool water of the Ciron flows into the tidal Garonne, creating evening mists that linger until morning and cover the vineyards until the sun scorches the mist away. It is this moisture that encourages Botrytis Cinerea, a fungus that causes the grapes to shrivel and rot. This process is fundamental to the evolution of the grapes and the benevolent rot concentrates the tartaric acid and sugar in the grapes, stimulating the production of glycerol, fashioning incredible viscocity and greatly enhancing the aroma and flavour of the wine.

James Suckling 99 points, tasted Jan 28th, 2014
This wine has exceptional clarity, balance and freshness, with lots of spicy botrytis character. Full body, medium-sweet and a crisp finish. It’s racy and refined. What’s impressive is the intensity of noble rot that makes the wine feel almost dry. This is the greatest wine ever made here. Made from organic grapes. Try in 2017, but already delicious to drink.

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