Sunday, March 05, 2006

Chateau Filhot 1996 Sauternes Review (billy)

I picked up this bottle in England on a recent business trip. I opened it up last night and WOW. This was something else. Now, I should be up front and say that this was the first Sauternes that I have tasted. Consequently, as my first experience of this wine, the review may be a bit choppy.

I paid 17 pounds for it in London which translates to about $30 US.

Intense is the best word for this medium sweet white wine from France.

Eyes: Brilliant honey gold in the glass with a noticable thickness that translates into character.
Nose: Immediately after opening there was a strong acetate smell but after time and air, this blew off. The remaining aromas were layered with toasted butter, musky melon, light herb and a bit of a musty rocks smell.
Palate: Massive layers to this thick wine. There is a viscosity that puts this strongly into the sweet and dessert wine category though it is not a delicate wine and could easily stand up to an appropriately paired main course. While being strong, it is still soft and nicely balanced. There are more musty minerals, roasted honey, butterscotch, and melon rind. These are all underneath an obvious apricot (peach?) marmalade flavor. Overall, the palate has a thick heavy feel that I have found to be the norm in other sweet dessert wines. I suspect the same is true of most Sauternes, however, this being my first, I will defer to later judgement.
Finish: More lingering apricot marmalade and melon with a slight hinting emergence of a limon-y suggestion as it melts away in your mouth.

Overall, I found this was a large wine and quite in a class unto itself. As I said before, I really have not a whole lot to compare this with in order to make a sound judgement. I know that Chateau Filhot is well a well regarded Second Cru Classificaion. I thoroughly enjoyed the layers and the new flavor profile (for me). The acetate smell upon opening was very strong and not pleasing, but as mentioned, it blew off after some air time. The must rocks / paper bag smell - taste did not completely go away though it lessened after time. This was not nice but I am not sure if it is part and parcel to the wine or if I got a slightly bad bottle. I'll have to have another to find out.

Nevertheless, the experience of my first Sauternes was something to be remembered and quite enjoyable.

To new wine experiences,
Raise a Glass!

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