I had a decaffeinated coffee (me) and a bottle of coke (him) this week with Guillaume Fourcade of Chateau Broustet. Heís part of the new generation of Sauternes who have inherited family properties (he works alongside his uncle Didier Laulan) and who is having to quickly come up with strategies to make this appellation appealing again to consumers.
This is an appellation that I love, and it was a Sauternes that first got me really excited about the possibilities of writing about wine, but itís not exactly a well kept secret that the region has suffered for some years from a slide in notoriety. Sauternes (and Barsac) was considered famous and sought after enough in the 19th century to be the only other region of Bordeaux to be recognised in the 1855 classification, and at the time almost all reached the same prices, or more, than the Medoc chateaux. Yquem, famously, was the most expensive wine of all Bordeaux and given its own category of Superior First Growth. But tastes have inexorably swung away from sweet styles ever since, and today just 3% of Bordeauxís overall output is sweet wine, and of that, around 75-80% is drunk in France.
At the same time, they are expensive, time-consuming wines to make, with low yields and an uncertain harvest. All of which makes it a bit of a daunting prospect for the younger generation to take on.
I have mentioned a few recent initiatives in Sauternes that I think might go some way to easing the situation. These are led by Sweet Bordeaux www.sweetbordeaux.com, that I have written about before, a marketing group that runs regular cocktail evenings in bars that are clearly aimed at younger drinkers (although so far only in Bordeaux, and one in Paris), and has mastered social media in terms of blogs, facebook, flickr and twitter.
The difficulty is that Ė as ever Ė there are serious disagreements over the best way to move the appellation forward. The classified growths donít support initiatives such as Sweet Bordeaux, and a well-placed commentator told me the other day, ĎThere is just as much competition between neighbours in Sauternes as in the Medoc. But the big difference is that in the Medoc, that competition seems to encourage everyone to do better, while in Sauternes, they pull each other down and in the end no one does well.í
I canít claim to know enough about the local politics to state whether that is true or not, but I sincerely hope not, because they need to take on new ideas or they will never break out of the impasse (Iím resisting the overly trite temptation to draw a parallel with Cameron and Clegg!!). A brilliant quality year like 2009 will help, of course, but Ė as I said at the time Ė these are rich, luxurious and highly complex wines, and not necessarily the best at encouraging a new generation of drinkers. And the prices so far are also only going to speak to Sauternes stalwarts.
So they need some other ideas Ė and Guillaume seems to offer a good number of them.
Firstly, he is working with Sweet Bordeaux, but has also done plenty to develop his own marketing. He has launched Sweet Broustet, a non-vintage Sauternes in a glass tube, and offers it in a gift box with two other tubes, one of the main wine, and one of the dry white.
More and more Sauternes properties are doing dry whites of course (why not B de Broustet Guillaume?), but itís a trend that they should all get on board I would think. Review of his is below... He has also done partnerships with Vogue magazine (during Paris Fashion Week) and with Mercedes Benz. And now plans to launch a highly concentrated special bottling of his wine from the 2009 vintage (300 grams per litre plus of residual sugar, in the style of LíExtravagance de Doisy Daene).
I gave the dry white a brief review the other day, but have tasted it again now, and here is a fuller review. This is just the second vintage that it has been made.
Blanc Sec de Chateau Broustet 2009
Full golden colour, probably because the grapes for this wine are picked when at full maturity, just tipping towards over-ripeness. Besides the colour, this comes across in the lovely full palate, and exotic fruits of apricot and mango, but with (just) enough acidity to keep the mouthfeel fresh rather than heavy. The blend is 50/50 Sauvignon Semillon, with the grapes undergoing a cold soak before fermentation, and then vinified half in barrel (100% new oak) and half in stainless steel. Itís has a slightly abrupt finish, but there is plenty of acidity along the way, and that lovely sour crispness that I often find in the dry whites of Sauternes, in an almost fino sherry way. 90.