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Sauternes producers need to adapt to survive

Sweet wine makers in Sauternes and Barsac need to expand their offerings to include dry and off-dry wines in order to survive according to one local producer.

Romain Garcia of Chateau de Rolland checks on his Semillon grapes
Romain Garcia of Chateau de Rolland checks on his Semillon grapes

Speaking to the drinks business during a recent visit to Bordeaux, Romain Garcia, winemaker at Château de Rolland in Barsac said: “Palates are getting drier in France and around the world. In order to attract young consumers to the category we need to made dry and off-dry expressions.

“Sadly not everyone likes sweet wine – it’s very trendy to make dry wine in Sauternes and Barsac now as you can make more of it and sell it for less. There’s a movement in the region towards fresher styles of wine, people are using more Sauvignon in the blend now.”

new off-dry blend Ideal aimed at younger consumers
new off-dry blend Ideal aimed at younger consumers

But despite this new trend for dry Sauternes, Garcia thinks it may damage the reputation of the top estates if they produce too high a quantity of dry wine. “It’s not a good way forward to the classed growths,” he warned.

Responding to current consumer tastes, Château de Rolland recently released an off-dry wine called Ideal with 60g/l of sugar, half the amount found in the 2011 vintage of its sweet wine.

Formed of 80% Muscatel and 20% Sauvignon Blanc, just 2,000 bottles of the inaugural 2013 vintage were made, which will be solely sold in France.

In addition to sweet wines, Garcia produces two dry wines from Graves, one of which is made from 100% Sauvignon Gris.

Of the 2015 vintage, Garcia admitted that he was hoping for very different weather conditions to Bordeaux’s red wine producers, singling out “humidity” in the morning as a priority.

With regards to the proposed €8 billion high speed railway line connecting Toulouse, Bordeaux and Dax, Garcia believes it would be disastrous for the region as it will disturb and change the microclimates that exist in Sauternes and Barsac.

“It’s a big risk for the region, we don’t know what’s going to happen at the moment – we’re waiting for the outcome,” he said.

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