Even though Bordeaux remains the Old World wine of choice for many with new money to burn, their tastes are no-doubt changing.
When people think of Bordeaux, sweet wine is more than likely the LAST thing on their mind!
Sauternes and Barsac, in the Bordeaux region of France, make a very different kind of wine than people have come to know Bordeaux for; namely, sweet and white. But growers in the region have slowly started to move away from producing sweet whites, after they’ve seen it fall out of fashion with the general public.
“It’s sad because Sauternes has never been better,” said Andreas Larsson, a Swede who won the “Best Sommelier in the World” competition in 2007. “But that’s the way the world is going. There’s no market for sweet wine.”
Adding to the woes of Sauternes was a disastrous 2010 vintage, in which some of the top properties, including D’Yquem, decided not to make any sweet wine at all, saying the grapes lacked the necessary concentration.
What is different now is that some chateaus are giving up entirely on sweet wine, and outsiders are moving in, looking to make dry wines in the area.
Olivier Bernard of Domaine de Chevalier, which produces some of the greatest dry red and white wines in Bordeaux, from the Pessac-Léognan appellation, said “Sauternes is one of the greatest white wine terroirs in the world, for sweet or dry wine, but what the market wants now is dry wine.”
I always have the hardest time selling/tasting people on sweet dessert wines…actually…let me rephrase that: Wines in the “dessert wine” category are no problem to sell, it’s more their levels of sweetness within that category.
Not all dessert wines are created equal, and people have a hard time coming to grips with the fact that Moscato and Sauternes are in the same category, since they have very different levels of sweetness.
I guess what bugs me is that I keep reading these articles from numerous “well-respected authors/sources” saying that tastes are changing and people are gradually moving into drier styles of wine. I don’t know where they’re getting their information, but I couldn’t disagree more! The recent Moscato craze should help to – at least partially – backup my theory.
As with most of these “issues of taste” in the wine industry, I put it down to educating the consumer i.e. no-one knows what to do with Sauternes! Do you drink it like table wine? Do you sip it like brandy? Do you pour it over your ice-cream? What do you do with it?!?!
Those, at least, are the problems I personally see from my time spent “in the trenches” (and by ‘”trenches,” I mean running a wine bar…)
I hate to say it, but this story is just another example of French wine producers wailing “Woe, is me!” after they have rested on their laurels, struggled to move with the times and failed to continue to educate wine drinkers on their product.
Wine consumption is at an all time high. There should be no excuse for slow sales of ANY wine category. Problem is, now that Sauternes producers have dug themselves into a hole, digging their way out is going to be quite the struggle. On second thoughts, maybe they can convince a rapper to write a song about it! Hmmmmm….now let me think….what rhymes with Sauternes….???