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Château Raymond-Lafon
by
Terry Sullivan

Chateau Raymond LafonSummary: A wonderful Sauterne vineyard once fell into a state of neglect until Pierre Meslier, manager of Yquem bought it in 1972. Now, wine enthusiasts can view prolific, manicured vines and taste Sauternes. Each vine produces only one glass of this golden sweet wine.

The estate was established in the mid-1800s by Monsieur Raymond-Lafon. Winemakers at this vineyard next to Château d’Yquem attempted to make a Sauterne that could rival the neighboring vineyard. They have come close at times. But over the ages, the vineyard fell into neglect. In the early 1970s, Pierre Meslier, the manager of Yquem realized the potential in the neighboring vineyard and acquired the estate in 1972. Over the years, Francine and Pierre Meslier worked at restoring the health of the vineyards. During the 1990s the second generation took over the duties of the estate and vineyards. Marie-Françoise, Charles-Henri, and Jean-Pierre have continued to strive to produce that perfect Sauterne.

Chateau Raymond LafonVineyard

Jean-Pierre Meslier met us and showed us the vineyard. The 18- hectare property consists of 16 hectares (40 acres) of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. The Semillon is the predominant grape growing in the vineyard, covering 80 percent of the land. The vineyard soil is a mixture of gravel, sand and clay. Harvest usually begins in September; however, at the time of our July 2013 visit, the vineyard was about two weeks behind the average for this time of year. Jean-Pierre was not worried about this.

Harvest is a labor of love. Each grape is individually picked. The Sauterne area of Bordeaux has favorable conditions in which the grapes become affected by Botrytis. Not all grapes in a cluster become affected by this fungus at the same time. Eventually the grapes will lose much of their water content and shrivel up like raisins. The resulting juice is high in sugar content, aromas and tastes. During harvest, vineyard workers have to pick the individual botrytized grapes. A single vine needs three to ten passes by the pickers over several weeks to collect the grapes. Since much of the water has evaporated, the yield of juice per vine is greatly reduced. A single vine will only produce one glass of wine.

Chateau Raymond LafonWinemaking

The juice is fermented in stainless steel tanks. Although the high sugar content in the grapes could produce wine with a potential alcohol of nearly 20 percent, fermentation stops at 13.5 percent alcohol due to the botryticine as a result of the botrytis. The wine ages for three years in new barrels. Annual average production is around 20,000 bottles.

Chateau Raymond LafonWine

Jean-Pierre led us to a formal looking room for a wine tasting. We tasted the 2005 Château Raymond-Lafon Famille Meslier. The wine was made entirely of Semillon and was a dark yellow color. The aroma offered floral notes and dried fruits. The taste included apricots, pineapple and honeysuckle. The finish was crisp with a long dried fruit aftertaste. Jean-Pierre said not to pair the wine with dessert, instead use the wine as dessert. The wine would also pair nicely with a dinner that includes spicy foods. One can also match the wine with blue cheese or seafood such as oysters and lobster.

Visit a small producer among the giants. Château Raymond-Lafon is a family owned and operated vineyard producing small quantities of Sauternes.

Château Raymond-Lafon
4 au puits
33210 Sauternes, France
33 5 56 63 21 02

 


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