Best of the Best 2005: International White Wines

Château Suduiraut adjoins a more illustrious estate, Château d’Yquem, but its lineage is hardly less noble, its wines scarcely less distinguished. The château was rebuilt in the 17th century after the original structure burned to the ground, and the parkland surrounding the new edifice was designed by landscape architect André Le Nôtre, whose comprehensive résumé included work for Louis XIV at Versailles and at the Tuileries in Paris.

Mirroring the grandeur of the estate, Château Suduiraut’s wines appeal to our classical sensibilites in their delicate color, their seductive aroma, and their polished finesse. Suduiraut also produces one of the most age-worthy of Sauternes, tempting collectors to stock up (for their own sakes, as well as that of posterity) when a splendid vintage, such as the masterful 2001, emerges from the estate’s prestigious cellar.

The house takes its name from the Suduiraut family, who owned the estate until the mid-19th century. Today, Suduiraut constitutes a vital component of the important AXA Millésimes group (owner of Pichon Baron, among other properties in Bordeaux) and benefits from the no-expenses-spared management philosophy of that company’s savvy director, Christian Seely. The Suduiraut vineyards contain about 90 percent Semillon and 10 percent Sauvignon Blanc vines of an average age of 25 years. While some previous decades saw the château waver between fine and mediocre vintages, its wines have been consistently glorious since the AXA Millésimes group’s acquisition of the estate.

The Château Suduiraut 2001 is certainly one of the finest Suduirauts to appear in many decades. The burnished white-gold color, as lovely as it is to the eye, hardly presages the wine’s sumptuous complexity once it reaches the mouth, where  this astonishing nectar coats the  eager palate with lavish waves of tropical fruit, citrus, spice, and rich oak.

 

Château Suduiraut, www.suduiraut.com ($125)

New Zealand Great White

While other New Zealand wineries were scrambling to make Sauvignon Blanc, Craggy Range originally had its eye on Chardonnay. In 1997, the winery’s partners—oenologist Steve Smith and investor Terry Peabody—acquired their first parcel, the site of an abandoned gravel quarry project on the former Gimblett Ranch in Hawke’s Bay. Smith sensed the potential harmony between the gravel and Chardonnay vines and began planting a densely spaced vineyard with special trellising systems to take advantage of the stony soil’s reflective qualities. Les Beaux Cailloux (the beautiful stones) has consistently topped New Zealand’s list of outstanding Chardonnays. The elegant Craggy Range Chardonnay Les Beaux Cailloux Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay 2002 is no exception, with lovely texture, peachy fruit, and generous, complex flavors.

 

Craggy Range, www.craggyrange.com ($50)

Ripe Rhône

Michel Chapoutier is one of the most dynamic (and biodynamic) forces in the Rhône, although that region hardly seems large enough to contain his enthusiasm and talent: He is currently involved in projects in Provence and Australia, as well. Chapoutier assumed control of the family winery in 1991 at the tender young age of 26 (at which age many would-be winemakers are still working as cellar rats) and proceeded to shape the estate into one of the most respected producers in France. This searing M. Chapoutier Hermitage Blanc Chante-Alouette 2001, made from Marsanne, is packed with intertwined flavors of spice, minerals, and ripe fruit backed by penetrating acid structure.

 

Paterno Wines, 847.604.8900, ext. 3, www.paternowines.com ($75)

King of Corton-Charlemagne

Founded in 1731 by an entrepreneurial textile-manufacturing family, Bouchard was purchased by the Henriot family of Champagne a decade ago. The wines have taken major strides forward since the acquisition. As an indication of its new owners’ commitment, Bouchard is now in the process of building in Savigny-lès-Beaune a $12 million, 300,000-case gravity-flow winery (the first of its kind in the Côte d’Or), which should be coming online for this fall’s harvest. The extraordinarily rich, dense Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils 2003 Corton-Charlemagne shows lovely peach-pear fruit with subtle minerals and racy acidity. This forward, complex, and powerful wine should develop beautifully in the bottle for the next several years.

 

Bouchard Père & Fils, www.bouchardpere.com ($116)

 

Austrian Autumn

Close proximity to Austria’s Neusiedlersee results in early-morning autumn fog in the vineyards of Rust—conditions that the opportunistic botrytis fungus reads as an engraved invitation to pay the venerable vines a visit. Indeed, the vintners of Rust claim that theirs are the oldest documented botrytised wines on record anywhere, though the Hungarians would likely argue this point, having for centuries made a Carpathian sweet wine that Louis XV proclaimed “the wine of kings and the king of wines.”  But whatever the truth, the celebrated Ruster Ausbruch does indeed count among the world’s most revered sweet wines, and Feiler-Artinger creates one of the most delicious versions. Lush and dense, the Feiler-Artinger Ruster Ausbruch Pinot Cuvée Burgenland 2001 shows unctuously, with superb apricot fruit, while at the same time delivering a surprisingly fresh and non-cloying finish. 

 

 

VinDivino, 773.334.6700, www.vindivino.com ($42, 375 ml)

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