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Château Sigalas-Rabaud 2001

The weekend just past was one during which I was reminded of the pain of cork taint. In the past few years losing wines to fungal contamination of the cork has become a less frequent occurrence for me. I don't keep a record of such bottles any more, but I feel that if I did the percentage loss would be much lower than the 3% that I measured when I did keep an accurate log, over a 24 month period, perhaps six or seven years ago.

The pain was not so much the individual bottle; it wasn't a fifty-year old bottle of first growth Bordeaux of anything so exalted. It was more the fact that, as I spent the weekend away with my family, and we were staying in self-catering accommodation, the loss of the bottle in question meant no wine to drink on my final evening. I guess it's a lesson learned; once I would have always had a back-up. Having relaxed somewhat about cork taint, and packing in something of a hurry last Friday, it never crossed my mind to take one or two back-up bottles.

Happily, one bottle that did show rather well was this 2001 Sauternes from Château Sigalas-Rabaud. This vintage still remains the greatest so far this century I think, although the very recent trio of 2009, 2010 and 2011 are not to be under-estimated. And somehow it was suitable drinking for the weekend, as Sauternes seemed to be on my mind. First, I learnt through Twitter of the sale of Clos Haut-Peyraguey to Bernard Magrez. a surprise as this family-owned property has been on a roll recently. Secondly, of course, I have been trying to keep tabs on the Sauternes 2012 harvest.

Château Sigalas-Rabaud 2001

The latter doesn't sound too hopeful; although there has been a little botrytis and a little picking, no really richly botrytised fruit has been picked. And the pattern of weather required - humidity in the vineyard from autumn showers followed by dry, warm or breezy weather to dry out the noble rot that ensues - hasn't been seen. In fact it has rained in Sauternes most of the weekend, I'm told, and unless it dries up there will be a lot of rot of the wrong kind. Fortunately there is some dry weather forecast, but it doesn't look as though 2012 will be a vintage to challenge 2011, 2010 or 2009. Or, for that matter, 2001.

And so to this week's wine, the 2001 from Château Sigalas-Rabaud. It is another two years on since I last took a look at this. The colour is rich, with a honeyed orange-gold hue, suggesting some development compared to my last taste perhaps. The nose is rich, expressive, with a gentle seam of apricot and orange botrytis coming in alongside some more citrus-toned fruits, lemon especially, perhaps a touch of barley sugar too. There is certainly a sweetness to it and although rich I don't get any of the caramelly nuances I have previously noted. The palate is quite classic in terms of flavour, being full of toffee-tinged apricot and orange fruit, with a rich and creamy substance and sweetness, the overall impact lively and defined and with a good underpinning of grip through the middle, albeit with a rather subtle acidity. It finishes in a rich style, not so well defined here perhaps, but full of substance and length. Overall, a very good and convincing wine, although not one of the greatest wines of the vintage. 17.5/20 (22/10/12)

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