Chateau Rieussec

Chateau Rieussec

Producer profile

Listed Wines

Rieussec

Owner

Domaines Barons de Rothschild

President

Baron Eric de Rothschild

Annual Production (Grand Vin)

6,000 cases

Classification

Premier Cru (First Growths)

Appellation

Sauternes

Second Wine

Carmes de Rieussec

Interesting Fact

Rieussec is the only white Bordeaux produced by Domaines Barons de Rothschild, to the same exacting standards they use in creating the perhaps better known Lafite, Mouton and Duhart-Milon.

Chateau Rieussec   Rieussec

Brand

Though Albert Vuillier made crucial improvements to this estate, it is understandably Domaines de Baron Rothschild who today get most of the credit for Chateau Rieussec’s standing today. It occupies a lofty position in Sauternes, both geographically and in terms of prestige. In either sense, only Chateau d’Yquem stands taller.

As we would expect of any property managed by the Rothschild family, standards are the highest they could possibly be. Grapes are harvested by hand and yields have been pushed down to increase concentration and richness in the Grand Vin. This attention to detail and perfectionism has led to a spate of wonderful vintages over recent years and Rieussec is arguably experiencing a golden age. Despite this, prices remain relatively low. The reasons for this are difficult to ascertain fully. Possible reasons are that the Bordeaux buzz left Sauternes and Barsac relatively unaffected and that wines from these regions were not even legal for export to Hong Kong and China (the biggest emerging fine wine investment markets) until 2010. It could also be argued that outside the UK, where there has long been a dedicated and loyal following, these sweet white wines do not have as prominent an image outside France as do the red wines of Bordeaux.

All the wonderful techniques that DBR practices at its other First Growths, Lafite and Duhart-Milon are very much in evidence here and arguably quality never has been higher. And yet Rieussec is available at prices more befitting a Fourth-Growth than a Premier Cru, just over £50 over bottle on average. In certain years, Rieussec really seems to be treading on d’Yquem’s toes, as with its 2003 vintage, which was scored 96 RPJ points, one point above its rival. And yet there is still a massive price disparity between the two, even in this vintage where Rieussec was ostensibly the better wine (around £51 per bottle compared with £231 for the d’Yquem equivalent vintage).

Critic Appraisal

Of all the sweet wines of Sauternes, Rieussec is the sweetest. These are incredibly nuanced, complex and precious wines with fresh bouquets displaying honeysuckle, tropical fruit and apricot aromas. Richly perfumed and with a high natural residual sugar content in an average vintage, Rieussec is highly suited to ageing, gradually deepening in colour from light gold, to deeper caramel tones. And arguably, they have never been better, the 2001 (RPJ 99) and 2009 (RPJ 95-97) particular highlights. The 2003 is also astonishing; having beaten Chateau d’Yquem’s offering in what was a fantastic year for Sauternes. It was one of Decanter’s wines of the year and Robert Parker scored it 96 points. With 96/98 points with the Wine Advocate the 2017 might eclipse them all.

"Of all the sweet wines of Sauternes, Rieussec is the sweetest. These are incredibly nuanced, complex and precious wines with fresh bouquets displaying honeysuckle, tropical fruit and apricot aromas. Richly perfumed and with a high natural residual sugar content in an average vintage, Rieussec is highly suited to ageing, gradually deepening in colour from light gold, to deeper caramel tones. And arguably, they have never been better, the 2001 (RPJ 99) and 2009 (RPJ 95-97) particular highlights. The 2003 is also astonishing; having beaten Chateau d’Yquem’s offering in what was a fantastic year for Sauternes. It was one of Decanter’s wines of the year and Robert Parker scored it 96 points. With 96/98 points with the Wine Advocate the 2017 might eclipse them all."

Lisa Perrotti-Brown (96-98 points), Wine Advocate

History

Chateau Rieussec was sequestered following the French Revolution, as were many Bordeaux properties originally under ecclesiastical control, and was eventually auctioned off, thus coming to the Marheilhac family around the turn of the 19th century. Into this next century,  the chateau began to build up a strong reputation for extremely fine Sauternes. It passed hands a number of times, and in this way, developments at Rieussec was overseen by a great number of expert eyes. However, the constant flux of ownership also was to blame for a lack of long-term investment. This unsettled existence continued throughout the early 20th century, with phylloxera damaging the vines and the economic depression stifling investment opportunity further as well as lessening demand for this rich, sweet, celebration wine.

Enter, finally, Albert Vuillier, a supermarket magnate who came to Bordeaux and spotted the latent potential in Rieussec. He bought the property in 1971 and within a few years had begun extensive renovations to the vineyards and fermentation rooms. But the success Vuillier should have had as his reward was robbed by poor conditions through the 1970s which led to a number of disappointing vintages. Unable to find a return on his investments, he sold to Domaines de Barons Rothschild in 1984. Charles Chevallier was installed as winemaker and estate manager, followed in 1994 by Frederic Magniez. They improved standards and Rieussec is now going through somewhat of a golden age.

Their latest release, the 2017 could be the best to date with a barrel score of 96-98 from the Wine Advocate.

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Wine from this producer: Rieussec

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