Winewyse Press Articles

Fall Back in Love With Sauternes

Richard Esling - Friday, August 02, 2019
Fall Back in Love With Sauternes

And if there is one place to do it, this is it. Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey in the tiny village of Bommes south of Bordeaux, not only produces one of the best sweet wines in the world, classified as Premier Grand Cru Classé, but since last year has now become a luxury five-star hotel and restaurant. Owned by another world-class company - Lalique Crystal- the list of attributes goes on.

The restaurant, set overlooking the vines, is run by chef Jerome Schilling and has already been awarded one-star Michelin. Coming from his native Alsace where he worked in a 2-star establishment, Jerome is undoubtedly a rising star of the culinary world, producing exquisite dishes with flair and passion.

Not so long ago, Sauternes was the ‘go to’ sweet white wine, often served with dessert and sometimes served as an aperitif. But times change and fashion changes with it, sweet wines went out of vogue and health consciousness kicked in with a vengeance. And so the Sauternes wine region and wines have adapted to the demands of the modern wine-drinker. With falling sales, many producers could not survive, and their number sadly has reduced by 50% in the last 30 years.

Happily, the best have survived, with the style of the wines subtly different to those of 30 or 40 years ago. Though still retaining a high level of natural grape sugar, the perception of sweetness is far less than those sticky, heavy, somewhat cloying wines of yesteryear. Well-made Sauternes now has a freshness, with greater fruit flavours and more balancing acidity, leaving the palate fresh, yet with long, lingering flavours of honey, peach, dried fruits and a little spice.

Staying in a wine region to experience the land, the people and the ways in which the wines are made is an unforgettable experience. This is wine tourism at its best and Chateau Lafaurie- Peyraguey has grabbed it by both horns. The Hotel Restaurant opened its doors as recently as June 2018 in celebration of the wine chateau’s 400th anniversary. Since then, the Hotel has been awarded 5 stars by the luxury hotel group Relais et Chateaux, and the restaurant under Jerome Schilling has already gained one-star Michelin – the only one in this region to have been awarded this accolade.

A luxurious oasis of calm, amongst some of the top vines of the world, attention to detail is incomparable, with an extra dimension of sumptuous lifestyle added by the ownership of Lalique Crystal. Whether in the restaurant, the bar, library or beautifully appointed bedrooms, wonderful pieces of crystal are woven into the fabric of the place. Contemporary chandeliers, lampshades, door handles, armchair finials, are all wonderfully designed pieces of crystal, off-set by larger display items and crystal wall-panels, yet all subtly integrated.

The thirteen rooms and suites are all individual in nature, each punctuated with touches of colour reminiscent of the multi-coloured nature of wine. The elegant bathrooms are of Italian beige marble and the taps, of course, are of Lalique crystal, with specially designed golden grape cabuchons surmounting each of them.

The large yet cosy bar , interspersed with superb flower arrangements, exudes elegant luxury. The ideal place to relax and enjoy a unique pre-dinner cocktail called SweetZ. Simply prepared by pouring a little young Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey Sauternes over ice and adding some orange zest, it is surprisingly refreshing, with delicious ripe fruit aromas and flavours.

For any wine lover, a meal in the contemporary conservatory area of the restaurant, surrounded by vines, is a reverential experience. Beneath a ceiling decorated with gleaming gold crystal vine leaves, sampling the exquisite dishes prepared by chef Jerome Schilling and drinking Premier Grand Cru Classé Sauternes, you could well believe that you have just been transported to paradise. When the most fabulous appetisers appear, followed by langoustines and roast brill aux petits pois, menthe basilic, with even the butter in the shape of a bunch of grapes, you know you’ve arrived in heaven.

Both the restaurant and the hotel exude style and sophistication, integrating the centuries of wine production, ancient buildings which have a sense of both purpose and permanence, with contemporary design and sensitivity.

In the production cellars, long lines of oak barrels filled with the amber nectar mature in peace and tranquility, whilst the restaurant cellar is filled with treasures most only dream of. The list comprises several thousand different wines, with such gems as Petrus, Cheval Blanc, Lafite and Margaux, not to mention sixty vintages of Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey.

The brilliantly conceived vinothèque, or wine boutique, sells both Lalique Crystal and wines, with vintages on sale ranging from 1985 at €180 a bottle, to 2016 at €55. La Chapelle 2014, the second wine of the Chateau, is a more affordable €22 and the excellent dry white is priced at €35.Whilst contemplating your purchases, you can watch a short film explaining the secrets of the Sauternes region and its wines.

Rubbing shoulders with the other greats of Sauternes, such as Chateau d’Yquem, Chateau d’Arche and Rayne Vigneau, this is the ideal centre to rest awhile, drink in the atmosphere, along with the wines and make forays into the surrounding vineyards to discover all that the Sauternes region has to offer. In the words of Silvio Denz, owner of the Chateau and Chairman/CEO of Lalique Crystal “The art of living does not explain itself; it proves itself at Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey.”