It took nerves of steel to make great Sauternes and Barsac in 2022. The growing season’s hot, dry weather prevented Botrytis cinerea—“noble rot”—from developing until the absolute end of the growing season (noble rot needs fog, rain or general dampness to develop).
Botrytis cinerea turns yellow berries purple and black with webby mold. It also concentrates their natural sugars and acids. The bumping up of acids along with the loss of water in the grapes simultaneously delivers concentration and balance. The distinctive (and heavenly!) results yield apricot, honey and marzipan flavors, the backbone of Bordeaux’s sweet wine styles.
Alas, the 2022 vintage produced few wines that fit this classic flavor profile.
Instead, much Sauternes and Barsac was made from grapes that were simply (or mostly) grillé, or grilled, by the sun. These grapes look like healthy golden raisins. But without noble rot concentrating acids, the high alcohols and residual sugar levels can feel heavy.
The best sweeties of this vintage, like the dry wines, have an incredible, if inexplicable, brightness to them. These will be fascinating to observe over time. The bulk of these wines will be most charming in their earlier days, yet the best of class will be magnificent 20 and 30 years down the road, too.
This year’s Suduiraut is utterly sublime, as is the L’Extravagant de Doisy-Daëne. Coutet, Fargues and Guiraud offer gentler pricing and deliver classy and classic wines.
The vast majority of these will not be sold En Primeur. So as you see them roll onto the market, treat yourself to a few, especially where the accompanying tasting notes emphasize “freshness” and “brightness.” Besides, most of these wines come in half bottles—perfect for sampling.