2008 Sauternes and Barsacs

The 2008 Sauternes, sandwiched between two richer vintages that have garnered much more attention in the marketplace, offer an interesting buying opportunity, especially for those collectors who gravitate toward vibrant, minerally, sharply delineated wines.  And they're also considerably less expensive than the 2009s and subsequent vintages.

This short crop of elegant, fresh wines will make for delicious drinking while you wait for your 2007s and 2009s to approach their peaks.  As IWC readers know, I'm a big fan of many of France's dry white wines in '08, particularly those from Alsace and Burgundy but also from Bordeaux and the Loire Valley.  This vintage generally produced well-defined white wines with strong mineral character and excellent verve.  These characteristics also apply to the sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac.  The 2008s rarely show the depth of a great year but they offer considerable early appeal.

The potential crop size in 2008 was sharply reduced by a severe frost in early April, and the summer was mostly mediocre.  Some well-timed September rain enabled producers to do a first trie with decent levels of fresh botrytis.  Another period of rain in early October set up another wave of picking but the botrytis rarely reached the roasted (roti) stage that's normally necessary to make opulent, flamboyantly rich and honeyed sweet wines.  Rather, the 2008s tend to have medium body, moderate levels of sweetness and botrytis, and sound acidity.  They are also refreshing and easy to drink, and should be very flexible at the dinner table.

At the bottom of the hierarchy, the 2008s can be on the lean side and lacking in real intensity.  Yet in some cases I still preferred that style to the blurriness that wines from many of the region's lesser producers often show in the richer vintages.  The top wines of 2008, however, are bracing and intense, and capable of mid-term aging.  A number of these are among the top Sauternes values in the market today.

Also recommended:  2008 Bastor-Lamontagne (85), 2008 Les Justices (85).