Our recent trip to Bordeaux to taste the 2016 vintage out of barrel confirms that there is a trilogy of superb vintages, 2014, 2015 and 2016, with the latter reaching new heights in St. Julien, Pauillac and St. Estephe. Please click here to read our 2016 en primeur report. Prevailing market conditions and the ascending quality of these vintages means that release prices are rising. This price rise however cannot be justified for Sauternes, as 2014 was a magnificent vintage there, easily surpassing 2015 and 2016.
The Indian summer in 2014 created 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. 2014 therefore is considered as the best vintage since 2001, it is head and shoulders above 2015 and 2016. However, the Sauternes in 2015 and 2016 will be move in lock step with increasing release prices of the reds. This leaves a good opportunity to take advantage of the mispricing.
Chateau Coutet 2014 was our Sauternes pick of the vintage in terms of quality and exceptional value. It was awarded 96 points from the Wine Spectator, 97 points from the Wine Enthusiast and 18/20 from Jancis Robinson. Since then is has received 93-95+ from Neal Martin who says. ‘It possesses and almost clinical precision with long persistence on the finish. This is a divine Coutet that may warrant a higher score subject to how it evolves in barrel.’ As such its score places it closely behind Yquem for the 2014 vintage which scored 96-98 points form Neal Martin, 19 points from Jancis Robinson and 98 points from the Wine Enthusiast. Yquem 2014 costs £1,500 per case of six, today Coutet 2014 costs just £115 per case of six.
At £19 a bottle this makes Coutet phenomenally priced. 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. The 2014 is a prodigious Coutet, perhaps their finest ever vintage. As the price comparison below suggest this is the vintage to buy, with the lowest Price Over Points Score (POP) and an obvious discount to other vintages.
Chateau Coutet is one of the oldest Sauternes producing vineyards and classified as Premier Cru (First Growth). 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.
Coutet 2014 offers incredible value, for what is an exceptional Sauternes. While Yquem stands alone in Sauternes, Coutet offers a brilliant alternative, you can get a 12 bottle case of Coutet 2014, for less than a single bottle of Yquem 2014. In reality the quality is very close indeed.
Chateau Coutet 2014, 12×75 – £230 IB or 6×75 – £115 IB
93-95+ Points, Neal Martin, The Wine Advocate
The Château Coutet 2014 is a blend of 75% Sémillon, 23% Sauvignon Blanc and 2% Muscadelle and delivers…cue the drumroll…a whopping 162 grams per liter of residual sugar, the highest level of any Sauternes that I have data for. As you would expect, the total acidity is slightly, but not dramatically lower than its peers at 3.9 grams per liter (compared to say, 4.3 grams per liter at Doisy-Daëne.) This Coutet ’14 has a complex bouquet with razor-sharp, minerally, citrus fruit mixed with wild honey and a touch of Riesling-like petrol. The palate is totally convincing. There is a great thrust of rich botrytized fruit sliced through with Coutet’s trademark acidity, despite the spoonfuls of sugar, that lends this such vibrancy and tension. It possesses and almost clinical precision with long persistence on the finish. This is a divine Coutet that may warrant a higher score subject to how it evolves in barrel.
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