Château Guiraud 1er Grand Cru Classé Sauternes March 2012

A report on one of the many Châteaux that we visited on the recent first year MW wine trip to Bordeaux.

First night in Bordeaux (ever) and it’s shaping up pretty well! I’m in Sauternes with my fellow first year MW classmates on a study trip that’s looking rather promising! Caroline Degremont in charge of communications and PR at Château Guiraud is there to greet us when we arrive.

There are 100ha of vines under the Guiraud name producing 100,000 bottles a year with yields of 12hl/ha. Since 1996 these vineyards have been farmed organically, an immediate reaction to the death of their cellar master attributed to chemicals used in the vineyards. 2011 will be the first vintage that their wine will carry the Agriculture Biologique farming logo. Sustainability features highly in their plans with a natural water treatment system (pond!) using reeds to clean the water one of the major steps forward.

When quizzed on the effect organic farming has on the Château. Caroline said that apart from the improvement in their wines botrytis now hits their vineyards first – in direct response to the lack of chemicals used in everyday vineyard practises. They are reasonably isolated from other non-organic vineyards being bordered by forest, road and village which helps ensure the viability of running one of the few organic vineyards in Sauternes.

At harvest a minimum of 4 tris through the vineyard select the nobly rotten grapes. 2011 saw 5 tris with 6 the year before. The juice spends 1-2 days at 5-6°C clarifying. Fermentation is initiated with organic yeasts and lasts 3-4 weeks.  Once the wine has achieved the perfect balance of acid and sugar fermentation is arrested with the addition of Sulphur Dioxide. The wine is then aged in oak barrels for 18-24 months. (8-10 for the Le Petit Guiraud). To ensure freshness and avoid reductive notes they rack every 3 months fining with bentonite before bottling to clear the wine.

The vines for the Grand Vin average 35-40 years which seems a benchmark for quality Bordeaux. The second wine Le Petit Guiraud comes from the younger vines of 5-10years.

Five wines were lined up for the tasting:

Le G de Château Guiraud

  • a dry white, vinified in the barrels that produce Sauternes giving it distinct caramel notes.
  • 80% Sauvignon Blanc grown on the 15ha of sandy soil outside the Sauternes appellation.
  • A complex wine with rich almost tropical notes on the nose, carried through to the more mineral driven palate. The long elegant length displays an almost salty finish a characteristic evolved from the second use barrels.

Petit Guiraud 2010

  • Green tints on the colour with lush lime marmalade aromas leading to delicate stone fruits holding apart from the rich 90g/L of sugar. More poised than expected with its 13.5% abv.

Château Guiraud 2009

  • Rush of oak on the nose, sweet concentration of fruit. Tight ‘peeley’ fruit on the palate with a long luscious length leading to a very enjoyable ‘bitter’ marmalade finish.
  • 125g/l sugar. 13.5%abv

Château Guiraud 2010 (still in barrel)

  • Rich textured with dark marmalade notes this wine is more condensed with a richer finish than the ’09. Very young and very powerful.
  • 120g/l sugar. 13.5%abv

Château Guiraud 2011(still in barrel)

  • All the attributes of a wine in evolution. Hazy, SO2 on the nose. Green lime and mango notes on the palate shifting to marmalade with a lemon fizz on the finish.

The Château Guiraud blend is normally 65% Semillon, 35% Sauvignon. 2000 however is the exception. 3 weeks of rain meant some of the Semillon was not picked and the percentages were reversed to 70% Sauvignon and 30% Semillon. They prevent malolactic fermentation to retain the balance of acid and sugar in the wines.

Full of the joys of Sauternes we went through to dinner where the most delicious food awaited. As you can see from the menu below it is possible to really enjoy the golden juice of Sauternes with many a course and still come out smiling!!

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