The Sauternes region is a famous sweet wine area worldwide where you’ll find the village of Barsac.
But many don’t know this is a “sister” appellation to Sauternes; I didn’t until we moved to Bordeaux.
Barsac is, in fact, a smaller and separate appellation and one that can label its sweet wine “Barsac” or “Sauternes”- it’s that good.
This month our French Winophiles group steers away from dry style wines. We’re ending 2017 on a sweet note, one that can be just as big and structured, or dainty and elegant. Come with me to Château Doisy-Daëne in Barsac and let me indulge you in a favorite wine.
The Red Sands of Barsac
The “Bordelaise” know Barsac for its red sandy clay soils overlying limestone. This “cooler” type of soil absorbs and retains water from winter rains, slowly releasing it during the dry summer when the ground can become parched (especially in recent years). It produces rich, structured, and aromatic wines, that are generally fresher and lighter with higher acidity than wines from the other areas in the Sauternes region.
An Area Perfect for Botrytis
Tasting our way up the Mosel River in Germany years ago introduced us to noble rot. I’d heard of Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese wines, and that weird sounding fungus so important to their success. We sipped and discussed sweetly intense wines developing an appreciation for their time and place.
Barsac and most of the larger Sauternes area experience that same fungus and a similar unique microclimate. The interaction between the warm Garonne River and its cooler tributary the Ciron affect both areas— this is an advantage. In the fall, when the Ciron mixes with the Garonne, it creates foggy conditions important for noble rot (botrytis) development on the grapes used for sweet wines. Botrytis loves cool mornings and those warm, sunny, dry afternoons which keep the botrytis working but in check. Sounds pretty inviting to me… the weather part!
Mark spent time in and around Barsac with Domaines Dubourdieu doing internship work last year. And I got to know one winery and it’s sweet wine.
Château Doisy-Daëne began producing wine; they are ranked as Second Growth (Deuxième Cru) under the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. George Dubourdieu purchased the chateau in 1924, and in 1949 his son Pierre Dubourdieu took over.
In the 1950’s, Pierre’s son Denis Dubourdieu started working with him, refining and improving the Château Doisy-Daëne Sauternes style wine, a type of Vin Liquoreux.
Denis Dubourdieu is the famous winemaker and researcher who focused on the improvement of white wines in Bordeaux; he took white wine from how it was traditionally made- soft and slightly oxidized- to the modern minerally brisk style with minimal oak aging. Believing Bordeaux needed a top-notch research institute, he was instrumental in the creation of the Institute de Sciences de Vigne et du Vin (ISVV) in Bordeaux (and its director), and Decanter’s Man of the Year in 2016.
History repeated itself when Denis took over management and operation of Château Doisy-Daëne in 2000. Keeping it in the family, his two sons, Jean-Jacques and Fabrice assumed responsibility for running the château after his passing in 2016.
Two sweet and one dry white wine are made at the Château. I’m focusing on the mainstay, which in keeping with how Bordeaux wines are named, is simply called “Château Doisy-Daëne Barsac”.
Mark tasted a handful of Doisy-Daëne vintages during his internship… I was lucky to sip the 2010 at a recent event. What struck me was the wine’s freshness. With a pale gold hue, this particular vintage is refined yet focused: discrete tropical flower notes follow honeysuckle, peach and mango. A sip revealed faint vanilla, slight spice, and wonderful length with just enough acid to balance the sweetness. Definitely elegant!
I have to mention the second sweet wine, one we’ve not tried but is on our wish list. L’Extravagant, (in the middle of the above picture) is very exclusive with just a small amount produced in select years. Instead of making the traditional three passes through the vineyard to pick only botrytized grapes, they wait until the entire cluster is affected by the fungus. It has higher sugar levels with an unctuous mouth feel yet ample acidity for balance, according to Jean-Jacques. Hopefully one day!
Environmentally Friendly Viticulture
Doisy-Daëne does not use chemical herbicides. They don’t grow cover crops between vine rows either but instead employ both traditional and modern methods to keep the soil clear of weeds. And composting facility is on the family’s Clos Floridene property- it accepts prunings, pressed grape skins, and other organic waste from their vineyards and cellars throughout the year. The facility produces a whopping 60 tons of compost annually that’s used in the vineyards.
The Story Behind the Wine
We’re lucky we’ve tasted lots of sweet Bordeaux wine over the last two years. When reaching for a bottle we gravitate towards Barsac finding the slightly increased acidity level more to our liking. The Château Doisy-Daëne Barsac is one of them, full of family history and passion, not to mention it has a great quality-to-price ratio. We’re sharing a few bottles of it with family this Christmas, along with a great story (full of hard work… did I mention Mark lost 12 pounds during his internship?!?).
The French Winophiles share sweet adventures at the links below- hope you enjoy them! Our live twitter chat is Saturday, December 16 at 11:00 am ET / 5:00 p.m. in France using the hashtag #winophiles. Anyone is welcome to follow along and comment.
Our host, Jill at L’Occasion tucks into Dessert Wines from Southern France
Discovering Maury AOC with Susannah at Avvinare
Quince Crumble with Lillet Blanc Cordials created by Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla
2011 Châteu Grand-Jauga Sauternes presented by Amber at Napa Food and Vine
Revealing Roussillon’s Sweeter Side from Michelle at Rockin Red Blog
When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Sauternes with Jeff at FoodWineClick!
How to Pair Sauternes with Dessert served up by Jane at Always Ravenous
And here at Savor the Harvest I introduce you to The Sweet Secret of Barsac: Château Doisy-Daëne
Thank you to all who’ve supported Mark and I, and Savor the Harvest. We wish you happy holidays!