Château Rieussec 1999
If I were to draw up a top forty countdown of producers based on the number of bottles in my cellar, there are a few obvious (to me, anyway) candidates. Beaucastel would be there, I am sure, and might even be top. I have been buying and drinking the wines for as long as I care to remember. Bellerive in the Loire would also have a place near the top, thanks to the presence of a considerable number of mature bottles from the 1980s. I suspect Huet would be there also, not to mention Léoville-Barton, Musar and others.
In fact it is very easy if one uses software such as www.cellartracker.com to draw up just such a hit list. My cellar had a few surprises for me; not only were there far more Germans than I would have thought (Loosen, J J Prüm, Maximin Grünhäuser, Dönnhoff and Fritz Haag all in the top twenty, in that order) but sneaking into second place, tucked right in behind Beaucastel (my thoughts on this were correct) was Château Rieussec. Now how did that happen?
Well, although I don't feel I have been particularly chasing Rieussec over the years, I am without question a great fan of Sauternes as a style, and there aren't many good vintages that go by without me picking up a few. The 2003 and 2001 vintages were certainly on my shopping list, as was the 1997. I even picked up for an absolute song a few years back the 1998 and 1999, both of which I regarded as lesser vintages at the time. I have changed my mind somewhat since then though. I recall tasting Suduiraut with Christian Seely a few years ago, and he made the assertion that there had been a run of good vintages for Sauternes, with 1997, 1999, 2001 and 2003 all comparable. I tasted his 1999 - it was much better than I expected. Having pulled a number of youthful vintages of Rieussec from the cellar (having discovered I have so many), would this 1999 stand up so well?
Following on from a taste of the 1998 vintage, the Château Rieussec 1999 does indeed pull no punches. Poured from a half bottle, it has a really quite deep, vibrant gold hue evident in the glass, and certainly has a little more depth and intensity than the preceding vintage. On the nose it first shows a little volatility, fleetingly reminiscent of the 2001 Suduiraut (although nowhere near as pungent), but what this wine really displays is a huge depth. There is a pile of nascent flavour here, especially in comparison to the 1998. On the palate it has richness and fat, carried in a well composed fashion. There is good fresh acidity, laced with a little volatility although this does all blow off with just a little time. It has a lifted, bright style, but is full of grip and is very firmly put together. A wine full of promise, showing power now, but with great potential for the future. This is indeed an excellent 1999, and is yet another example to support the assertion by Seely that this is a very good vintage for the region. Meanwhile I am going to crack on with the other vintages I have lined up to taste, specifically the 1997 and 2003 (I tasted the 2001 last year, so shan't open another of these just yet). I'll be adding my notes to my Rieussec profile soon, no doubt with a suitably extensive update to my write-up. 18+/20 (29/1/07)