R de Rieussec 2016
• Domaine: Château Rieussec
• Appellation: Bordeaux Blanc Sec (Dry White)
• Grape Varietals: 62% Sémillon, 38% Sauvignon blanc
• Origin: Left Bank, Bordeaux, France
• Importer: Laguna Cellar
Château Rieussec is considered one of the jewels of the Sauternes and Barsac appellation. The estate is well known for producing a stunning expression of Sauternes - golden nectar requires a team of vignerons who are highly knowledgeable, flexible, and able to easily pivot. Though Sauternes is more widely available from this property, Château Rieussec also produces a still white wine made from a mixture of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon called R de Rieussec. Finding such a limited available expression of white wine from this particular portion of Bordeaux is no easy task, as the still white wines of Sauternes are rarely sold in the United States. Yet with all that in mind, this crystalline dry white wine is well worth the purchase.
Château Rieussec has a long history that dates to the 18th Century when it belonged to an order of Carmelite Monks. During the French Revolution, the property was confiscated by the government. After it was sold as an object of National Heritage, the property changed hands many times until it was eventually purchased by the Gasqueton family, proud owners of the legendary property Château Calon Segur in Saint-Estèphe. Eventually the property was purchased in 1984 from Alain Vuillier by the Rothschilds and Albert Frere. Albert Frere was no stranger to the wine world, as he already owned a portion of the legendary property, Château Cheval Blanc in Saint-Émilion. The facilities were modernized after the Rothschilds were placed at the helm of the estate, and they almost doubled the vineyard holdings. The property now is a sprawling 85 hectares – something that is highly unusual in Sauternes.
The property has a mixture of Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle grapes that grow in the terroir of clay, gravel, sand and limestone soils. Château Rieussec has one of the highest elevations in Sauternes – just after Château d’Yquem. Highest points at the vineyard reach up to 78 meters. The vines are 25 years old on average, and the entire harvest process at this property is not without its challenges. With Sauternes, the grapes must be infected with the noble rot which raisinates them so they could produce that sweet, honeyed and delightful beverage. This process happens randomly, so the team at Château Rieussec must be very vigilant when overseeing their vineyard. Like all producers in Sauternes, the harvest is done in passes, so one can imagine how difficult it would be to do several passes on such a sprawling vineyard such as that of Château Rieussec.
The team at Château Rieussec has a bit of an easier time harvesting the mixture of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon for R de Rieussec and this beautiful wine is able to age for quite some time if stored properly. Though a portion of the vines that go into the Sauternes also provide fruit for R de Rieussac, the majority of the vines are harvested elsewhere. R de Rieussec is aged with just a kiss of French oak to help its ageing potential yet maintain its freshness.
CLIMATE AND HARVEST CONDITIONS
Climate: The winter of 2014-2015 started out mild and dry. But, as is often the case, February brought colder weather, to the extent that bud break was delayed. Spring was warm and fine, but too dry, almost exposing the vines to water stress. Fortunately there was some rain at the beginning of June, which created ideal conditions for flowering. The summer was very hot until mid-August.
Ripening and harvests: Towards the end of the summer the weather was milder, with cooler temperatures that were perfect for a slow ripening of the grapes. The harvests at R de Rieussec took place from 2 to 9 September, with each plot and grape variety being picked at the ideal date.
"The 2016 R de Rieussec has a strict and quite stony bouquet with dew-speckled green apples and a touch of freshly sliced pear. The palate is well balanced with touches of peach skin and nectarine, a crisp line of acidity with pleasant salinity towards the finish. Drink this dry white from the Rieussec team over the next five or six years." - Neal Martin, The Wine Advocate (4/28/2017), Rating: (88-90)
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