Castelnau de Suduiraut / S de Suduiraut
While we think of Sauternes as a predominantly white appellation, expansion during the 19th saw the estate take on a number of red vines, which were quite common in the region at the time.
Corporate involvement in a vineyard can sometimes deter wine lovers; the expectation being that profit surpasses passion. However, it’s fair to say that AXA Millesimes is one of the more oenophilic insurance companies, having poured a great deal of love and care into Chateau Pichon-Baron in Pauillac and Petit Village in Pomerol, and subsequently doing the same with Suduiraut.
The estate has been criticised for inconsistent vintages during the 1970s and 80s, but it was the new millennium that marked a step change for the estate, with its vintages all scoring comfortably with critics and once again piquing the interest of those who had let the property float off their radars. In addition to the awards hard-earned in the 19th century, the estate now boasts a handful of stars from the Guide Hachette des Vins, and a double gold award from the Indy International Wine Competition for the 2000 vintage.
As the estate’s great wines of the late 19th century are more or less unobtainable now, connoisseurs should look to more recent vintages for Suduiraut’s best work – particularly those post-2000. The 2009 vintage is its highest scorer to date, earning 98 points from Robert Parker, who called it “one of the greatest wines ever produced from the estate”. Subsequent vintages have also performed well, with the 2015 scoring 95-97 points with Neal Martin; noting it wasn’t too far off of the 2009.
One of the oldest estates in Sauternes, Suduiraut – like many Bordeaux properties – has a long but unclear history, which can be dated with reasonable certainty back to the 16th century, when it belonged to the affluent Suduiraut family.
The construction of the fine chateau came about after the Suduirauts fell out with the local governor, who responded to their disagreement by destroying the family’ existing property. Forced to rebuild and redesign, the family created one of the most elegant properties in all of Bordeaux, surrounded by pristine gardens designed by Andre Le Notre, who was also responsible for the Sun King’s garden at the Palace of Versailles.
During the 19th century, the property was owned by the du Roy family – and was for a brief time known under that name – and then by Nicolas Edme Guillot, who was responsible for absorbing the neighbouring Castelnau into the holdings, thereby considerably expanding the estate.
Suduiraut then passed into the hands of the de Forest family in 1893, where it enjoyed considerable acclaim, winning a number of awards including a Ministerial Gold Medal in 1867, and in 1897 a gold medal from the ‘Regional Competition Committee’ for its worthy efforts in rehabilitating the vineyard using American rootstock following the phylloxera epidemic which had proved fatal for many other estates.
However, a combination of neglect and a trend away from sweet wine meant that by the 1920s the estate had lost some of its gloss, and failed to make the most of the great vintages of the period. It wasn’t until 1940 that the tides of fortune turned, and the estate was purchased by Leopold Fonquernie, who used his considerable wealth to implement an ambitious restoration programme. By the 1950s the estate was once again producing wines worthy of its reputation, and in 1992 Suduiraut was purchased by insurance company AXA Millesimes, which had had great success in resurrecting the downtrodden Chateau Pichon-Baron in the mid-80s.
Thanks to considerable investment and the hard work of managing director Christian Seely, Suduiraut’s future is now as golden as its wines.