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April 15, 2015

Chateau Coutet 2014 – En Primeur

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There is no question 2014 is a wonderful vintage for the wines of Barsac and Sauternes. Throughout the en primeur week we found ourselves continuously seeking out the leading sweet wines. In fact, we tasted Chateau Coutet on six different occasions, not because we struggled to make up our minds – the first occasion confirmed its splendor - but solely for the auspices of hedonism and personal satisfaction.

Chateau Coutet have released this morning at the same price as last year, a generous move considering it is one of the wines of the vintage, receiving 95-98 points from the Wine Spectator. At £19 a bottle this makes Coutet phenomenally priced, particularly when compared to Chateau d’Yquem whose last release was £230 pounds a bottle for the 2011 vintage. In fact, Coutet was owned, until 1923, by the Lur Saluces family, who were the owners of d’Yquem. The similarities continue with the architecture, where the oldest part of the Chateau is identical to Chateau d’Yquem and the well in its courtyard is an exact duplicate. It is worth mentioning here that Chateau d’Yquem is prodigious in 2014, a breath-taking wine which has been awarded 96-99, truly a great vintage for the Sweet wines of Bordeaux. Coutet comes a close second, yet at a fraction of the price.

It is extremely interesting to view the last seven years of Coutet releases, as today’s price is the lowest relative release going back to 2004. This is particularly instructive as the 2014 is one of their greatest ever wines. In 2011 for example the Estate ordained to release at £450 per case of 12, a heady price, following on from similar releases in 2009 and 2010. Yet, while these were aggressive release prices, the vintages are now happily trading around £400 a case of 12. As such, the 2014 looks like a must buy at £115 per case of six or £230 a case of 12!

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Chateau Coutet is one of the oldest Sauternes producing vineyards and classified as Premier Cru (First Growth). Behind d’Yquem it is my favourite sweet wine, possessing incredible complexity and balance; Thomas Jefferson noted it was the best Sauternes originating from Barsac. It is cited perfectly between the Garonne and Ciron Rivers, thereby benefiting from a wonderful micro-climate creating autumn mists that spread Botrytis cinerea. The 38 hectare vineyard is planted with 75% Semillon, 23% Sauvignon Blanc and 2% Muscadelle. Coutet has the largest winery in Sauternes, with a 110 metre long cellar, which houses more than 800 barrels. In good years the Estate produces around 4,500 cases of the Grand vin.

In 2014 Sauternes are utterly superb, the Indian summer creating grapes that are ripe and balanced with fresh acidity. All this provided almost perfect conditions for botrytic development, Sauternes and Barsac experienced an August in October, with afternoon sun ensuring noble rot, fundamental for botrytis. These late conditions were similar to the great 2001 vintage in Sauternes. However, while the 2001s were very ripe, the 2014s possess a superb balance of acidity and fruit ripeness, combined with incredible botrytic characteristics - “We basically had August in October.” said Aline Baly of Château Coutet.

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